Mumbai: As the curtains went up on the eighth edition of Ficci Frames, the annual convention on the media and entertainment industry organized by industry lobby, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, seasoned participants say it is not necessarily getting better with age.
“Frames needs to reinvent itself,” says Sunil Lulla, group CEO, Alva Brothers, the company behind television production house Miditech. “It’s becoming quite boring.”
The most conspicuous absentee at the opening was Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, India’s information and broadcasting minister. The event was typically inaugurated by the I&B minister, who will show up this year as closing speaker. I&B secretary Asha Swarup opened the conference.
In a year when India continues to attract investment from global media firms, there are no representatives from the likes of Viacom Inc., Walt Disney Co. and NBC Universal Inc.
“We have Ringo Chan, who is vice-president, wireless and interactive content, development and distribution, for Asia-Pacific speaking in a session tomorrow. But yes, earlier our delegation used to be more high profile,” admits an executive from Turner International who didn’t want to be named. Turner’s Asia-Pacific president Steve Marcopoto came to attend the event two years ago with a top-level delegation.
Also missing are most of the big-name CEOs from Indian media industry: Star India Pvt Ltd’s Uday Shankar, Network 18’s Raghav Bahl, Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd’s Ravi Dhariwal, UTV Software Communication Ltd’s Ronnie Screwvala, and Essel Group’s Subhash Chandra. Said one Star India executive: “Our (Star) CEO Paul Aeillo decided against coming because there is nothing new in the event.”
A relatively low-key international delegation is headlined by Viviane Reding, the European Commisioner for Information Society and Media.
Even star power seems to be waning. Amitabh Bachchan was supposed to address one of the sessions but changed his mind. While past Frames saw the A-list—Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Aamir Khan, this year participants have to make do with has-been Rishi Kapoor and starlet Sonam Kapoor.
To be sure, Frames remains the largest event of its kind in India and even this year there are at least 2,000 delegates from some 14 countries. “This is the biggest Frames I have attended. Anecdotally, I see less number of foreigners this year, but the truth is that the Mumbai film industry meets itself at Frames,” says N.Vidyasagar, editor of Pickle, a monthly industry publication.
“We had to get marquee names early on to attract people,” says Ficci’s secretary general Amit Mitra. “Now, we don’t need to do that. We had to stop registration this time and turn down delegates. We don’t like to recycle people just because they are big names. Besides, all the big names have been here at Frames. Now the focus is on people who may not be the figure heads but knows their field well. Frames is a place for the meeting of ideas and mapping the evolution of the industry.”
Some senior industry executives aren’t buying the cutting-edge theory. “There is no serious debate on burning issues such as audience measurement, content code, FDI (foreign direct investment) and pricing regulation,” says a senior executive of an audit and consulting firm who didn’t want to be identified. “But, maybe that’s because the industry itself doesn’t like to discuss serious issues on a public forum like this.”
Peter Mukerjea, chairman, INX Media, said it is time for media issues to be segregated from entertainment. “Media has become a huge industry,” he notes. “It has its own sets of issues and challenges that need full attention. It can’t be mixed up with other industries such as films. They should have a dedicated event for broadcast industry. They (Frames organizers) need to revisit their structuring.”