My media wish list for 2015

Santa Claus said goodbye yesterday and 2014 will do the same next week.

Here, then, is my wish list for the Rs 91,800 crore Indian media and entertainment industry in 2015. I wish that @media and entertainment becomes a transparent, clear and financially trackable business. It is a nightmare to research this industry currently. The financial data for private limited firms which should be available on the Registrar of Companies website is never there. The site itself is so clunky and difficult to navigate that after three years and paying for several annual reports, I have given up. And am back to the the ‘beg and borrow from friendly sources’ tactic.

Considering that digital media is just about 3 per cent of the total industry maybe it should drop those chips and learn how to make money from print, (the most profitable segment of the industry) and TV (the largest). Pic/Thinkstock
Considering that digital media is just about 3 per cent of the total industry maybe it should drop those chips and learn how to make money from print, (the most profitable segment of the industry) and TV (the largest). Pic/Thinkstock

The big broadcasters have joined hands to stop TAM from sharing data with media, so TV audience data is a problem. The Indian Readership Survey data is in limbo because publishers don’t like what it shows. And box-office data is a mystery that only trade magazines that work in cahoots with producers to inflate figures can explain. None of these lead to a very scientific or accurate analysis of this business. If you wanted proper answers to questions such as — why does this industry offer such poor returns — then all this data is just the starting point.

@media owners and publishers should spend at least 10 per cent of their revenues on training editorial staff — reporters, editors, sub-editors and others. An army of well-trained journalists will do a world of good to the quality of journalism and therefore the quality of debates in India. For instance if media was more economically literate, it could have questioned the Comptroller and Auditor General’s calculations on the 2G scam.
Many economists have been questioning them. This lack of literacy is true for legal, financial and social issues too. The Securities and Exchange Board of India recently came out with regulations for research analysts.
There is some controversy over whether these should apply to journalists. Maybe they should if a journalist is recommending a stock to a large section of the public on television or through a newspaper or magazine.

@media owners and publishers learn to relax and take some of their own medicine. Most media owners cannot tolerate any questioning, forget criticism. Newspaper owners are the worst of the lot say anything that doesn’t suit them and they will sulk for months, not returning your calls or giving you any interviews. Of the television owners, a few are churlish. Digital media owners are, arguably, as bad. They have a sneery, smirky attitude towards anyone who is not into new media. And they believe that they have nothing to learn or to offer to anyone who makes their money from print or television. Considering that digital is just about 3 per cent of the total industry maybe it should drop those chips and learn how to make money from print, (the most profitable segment of the industry) and TV (the largest).

@the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) thinks hard about its role. It is a policy maker and regulator both. This is unheard of in most free media markets. Add the fact that the government is one of the biggest advertisers through its Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity or DAVP. This dual role and the conflict of interest has played havoc with media policy in India. There is too much focus on controlling news and creative expression and too little on facilitating the business. For instance, pushing through digitisation, giving infrastructure status to the building of broadband, cable or film chains will be the biggest boost this industry can get. This in turn will release pay revenues from the clutches of local cable operators and channelize it back to the creative industry, a bit like what multiplexes did in films.

And many more.

Wish you all a happy 2015.

The writer is a media specialist and author. Follow her on twitter at http://twitter.com/vanitakohlik

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1 Comments

  • Innamburan26-Dec-2014

    Vanitha is right about 2G calculation. CAG erred on the safe side. Actually, the loss is much more. This said, I agree with her about media being economically literate. The populace at large needs this info.

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