New Delhi: India’s Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, is undergoing a makeover that would encourage foreign publications and Indian editions of foreign newspapers besides putting an end to entities squatting on titles.
“The amendment process will be complete before the end of this financial year,” information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit in Delhi on Monday. The three-day meet ends on Tuesday.
Soni had commented on the matter a few days ago at the Indian Magazine Congress as well.
Makeover ahead: Information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
Speaking at a session on “The Future of Media and Entertainment Industry” at the summit on Monday, Soni said: “The government has been proactive on the FDI (foreign direct investment) policy in print.”
Soni also said the bar on overseas investment in privately held radio stations will soon be raised to 26% from the current 20%. The proposal is currently with the home ministry.
“The number may not seem large, but it is a big step for the FM (frequency modulation) radio industry in the Indian context,” she said. Despite a growth in advertising revenue, India’s private FM radio industry with over 300 stations is still making losses, she said.
The government will soon hold a third auction for radio frequencies, the minister said.
Among other things, the ministry is also focusing on encouraging foreign film-makers to shoot movies in India. In the past three years, the government has cleared almost 90 foreign film proposals.
“Foreign countries give a lot of incentives to filmmakers to go and make films. We also hope to do that,” she said. “It will encourage tourism.”
The other panellists at the session included Star India chief executive Uday Shankar; WPP Group country manager Ranjan Kapur; Khozem Merchant, Pearson India’s deputy chairman; Dave Senay, president and chief executive officer of Fleishman-Hillard Inc. and Sanjaya Baru, consulting editor at the Business Standard.
Soni reiterated that her ministry was against any kind of content regulation. “I’m all for self-regulation,” she said.
However, content in India that is driven by television rating points (TRPs) is a concern. “The television ratings, which are dependent on a few thousand boxes, are a big concern for us as they are affecting viewing habits of the people,” Soni said.
Soni and the other panellists agreed that the media and entertainment industry in India was growing despite an economic slowdown. Quoting a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, Senay of Fleishman-Hillard said the Indian media and entertainment industry was growing at 10.5% every year compared with a global growth of 2.5%. “The good news is that traditional media in India is still growing,” Senay said.
WPP’s Kapur said media in India was growing because advertising spending was increasing. However, he said that the country is still “under-branded”. Compared with developed markets, advertising expenditure in India is barely 0.47% of gross domestic product (GDP). The worldwide figure is 1% and more, he said.
“In fact, China’s ad spend is 2% of GDP,” Kapur said, adding that India needs to monetize its content both in print and television.
Star’s Shankar said that India’s media industry was growing but added that broadcasters need to monetize their content. “Of the 400-500 TV channels that we talk about, not even 10% are breaking even, let alone making money.”
Shankar said that cable TV subscribers across India generate $4 billion every year. However, of this amount, the broadcasters collect only about $600 million.
“And even from that, we end up paying $200 million in carriage fees. So we make only $300-400 million from subscriptions,” he said.