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What should top I&B minister Anurag Thakur’s immediate priorities

The past year has been a roller-coaster ride for the M&E sector, with a slew of announcements and measures that have created ripples in the entire landscape. With Anurag Thakur taking charge of the Information & Broadcasting (I&B) portfolio, all eyes of the TV broadcasters, print media companies, digital companies and radio operators are glued to his subsequent steps.

Experts are anticipating opportunities and measures that will proffer relief to some of the longstanding discussions- NTO, OTT & social media regulation, 5G services and alike. The industry also seeks fair hiring and affirmative actions from the newly appointed minister.

Harish Bijoor, Brand-Guru & Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults admits that the I&B Ministry is very powerful in terms of its ability to communicate, “In a nation as large and diverse as India, this challenge is best handled by the Ministry which has constantly updated its ability in terms of the tools it uses.”

“The Ministry is poised at the cusp of a digital India, where every breath you take and indeed every step you take has a digital touch and twist to it.

A young and in-touch-with-technology Anurag Thakur is a right choice. A very appropriate incumbent to the key challenges and tasks at hand,” he further adds.

Agenda Outline

Having been a four-time BJP MP from Himachal Pradesh & former MoS for Finance, the sector hopes Thakur to look upon and prepare a policy roadmap for stronger growth in a post-Covid era.

Lloyd Mathias, Business Strategist and Angel Investor believes, “As someone who was head of the BCCI, he has an insider’s views of the media and its functioning and his recent stint as the Minister of State for Finance will give him an unrivaled perspective of the space.”

Giving us a sense of how Thakur’s top agenda list may pan out across sectors, Karan Taurani, SVP – Research Analyst (Media, Internet & Consumer Discretionary), Elara Capital shares “His top priority will remain on the regulation part. There’s too much uncertainty right now in terms of the entire regulatory aspect on the OTT & social media side. OTT has come up with some self-regulatory guidelines but apparently, more clarity needs to come on how they will be implemented. There may also be some kind of penalty announced if the set guidelines are flouted.

As for social media, with the appointment of a redressal officer and tracking the origination of the message, clarity on how this will be implemented may also be seen soon.”

While Mathias also looks forward to clarity on the new rules that were to establish an institutional mechanism with a level playing field featuring a Code of Ethics and a three-tier grievance redressal framework for news publishers and OTT platforms on the digital media, he further points the challenge of relative overlap of domains, between the I&B and Ministry of Electronics & IT – when it comes to broadcast platforms. “This will need great coordination and cooperation with the new Ministry of Electronics and IT,” he suggests.

Apart from the above, experts contemplate benefits for the cinema and movies industry, as they have been hit hard by the pandemic. Some of these have come down to single-screen cinemas and some have shut already. Hence, some relief measures can be helpful for the industry.

As for radio and print, they too have been battered by COVID-19 significantly. Taurani here mentions that there has been news on print making revenue-sharing arrangements with Google & Facebook in Australia. “There is a need to fasten this process as the print industry is struggling to stand. Radio too hasn’t been able to scale up because of the digital media. These must be catered immediately,” he says.

Avinash Pandey, CEO, APB News Network asserts that the industry is over-regulated currently and hence, the priority shall be given to make it light-touch regulated and help the industry grow to take up emerging challenges. because of technology and social media. “Traditional players of media, if helped by I&B, can further save the country from the impact of fake news,” he advises.

Pandey also proposes that the Minister should look at helping the industry perform better in the pay market and liberate several categories for advertising, like the ones practiced in Europe and North America. “This will help TV channels compete with OTT, expand advertising revenue market and make their economy workable.”

Announcements around the gaming industry are also expected as it is becoming more of a state subject, with many states banning gaming platforms and apps. Business World

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