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Earlier this month, digital audio-visual content, including films and web shows on OTT platforms, were brought under the purview of the I&B ministry. iStock
Earlier this month, digital audio-visual content, including films and web shows on OTT platforms, were brought under the purview of the I&B ministry. iStock

Government to only act as facilitator for OTTs, say officials

  • Industry stakeholders have been asked to recommend or suggest incentives that the sector could benefit from and which will be communicated to the finance minister who is holding a budget consultation meeting next week

NEW DELHI: Government officials on Wednesday sought assuage concerns following the move to bring digital news portals and over-the-top (OTT) streaming services under the ambit of the ministry of information and broadcasting.

“The idea behind the change that was brought about in November was to bring content in one place, that is under the ministry of I&B, and platforms at another place, which is ministry of IT," Amit Khare, secretary of I&B, said at the inaugural session of the CII Big Picture Summit on Wednesday.

Also Read: How schooling in rural India is plunging into darkness

“The role of the government in this sector is mostly that of a facilitator," Khare said about the predominantly private-led video streaming industry that helps the country wield soft power.

Filmmaking in India, except that carried out by the NFDC (National Film Development Corporation of India), broadcasters, barring Prasar Bharati, and the entire OTT segment is led by private firms, Khare pointed out. However, Prasar Bharati is now planning to have a platform of its own and NFDC is also thinking on those lines, he added.

“...we must focus on and facilitate that private initiative."

Earlier in the session, Siddharth Roy Kapur, co-chairman CII National Committee on media and entertainment, president, Producers Guild of India, and managing director Roy Kapur Films had emphasised on the need for a concerted push by the government for the entertainment industry, a light-touch regulatory approach and consistent dialogue with stakeholders to avoid "a regressive scheme" now that Indian OTT content such as Netflix’s Delhi Crime has won international honours.

Union minster of information and broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said the role of communication technology is phenomenal in a country like India that is home to 1.2 billion mobile phones and 600 million smartphones.

“There is tremendous scope for all kinds of entertainment and information businesses," Javadekar said, adding that Indian animation, visual effects, gaming and comic (AVGC) experts have been providing backend support to top filmmakers of the world. It is time for the sectors to grow manifold in the domestic market too for which the government is forming a Centre of Excellence in cooperation with the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, where courses in AVGC will be provided.

Gaming, in particular, government officials said, will emerge as an industry that spurred by local innovators and start-ups will not only promote the idea of an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) but have export potential.

Khare called upon industry stakeholders to recommend or suggest incentives that the sector could benefit from and which will be communicated to the finance minister who is holding a budget consultation meeting next week.

Roy Kapur had also highlighted the urgent need for tax incentives for the film exhibition sector that has suffered huge losses given theatres were shut for seven months, leading to thousands of single screens cinemas shutting shop.

“We have received certain suggestions from print and it would be useful to have the same from media and entertainment too. If things that you desire or feel are necessary are part of the budget speech, it would be helpful for both the industry and the ministry," Khare said.

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