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Hollywood-high Delhi to lift investment curbs

Chennai, April 20: Hoping that Hollywood would look to India for good locales and themes, Union minister for information and broadcasting Ravi Shankar Prasad today said the Centre has cleared proposal to allow 100 per cent foreign direct investment in filmmaking in the country.

“We are going to soon inform the Reserve Bank of India on allowing 100 per cent FDI in film production,” Prasad said at an interactive session with representatives of the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce here.

He said the government had taken crucial steps to enhance the availability of funds to the film industry by according it industry status. He, however, urged Indian filmmakers to widen their horizons.

India’s strengths lie in the low cost of production, “great experience” in filmmaking, knowledge of English and post-production facilities, the minister. He asked the film industry to leverage these strengths to market itself more professionally and make India the “hub of global entertainment”.

Prasad pointed out that Hollywood appeared to have reached “saturation point” in terms of film scripts and themes. This, he emphasised, presented a big opportunity to the Indian film industry as they would look to countries like India and China for good locales and themes.

The minister said a film like Monsoon Wedding has created a lot of interest about India. “I see cross-cultural cinema coming about and you must think big,” he said. Co-production agreements between countries were being considered, he added.

Prasad agreed with South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce president Mohan Sharma that piracy threatened the industry’s viability. The minister said he was open to the idea of a separate law to address the concerns of the film industry, though there is a common copyright law now.

Sharma pointed out that a recent survey had shown that Rs 1,600 crore of black money was generated every year in the south through film piracy and called for a national policy on the issue.

The law and finance ministries as well as industry bodies such as the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry have been asked to give a “structured response” on how piracy could be tackled, Prasad said. He, however, said the film industry also had to cooperate in this fight against piracy through technology and by creating awareness among the people.

If Indian cinema has good themes that are narrated through powerful scripts, people would still flock to the theatres despite the piracy, the minister asserted. “Good content creation is something only you can do,” he told the gathering.

The minister said he has asked Prasar Bharati to allot time in Doordarshan and All India Radio free of cost for campaigns against film piracy and asked if the film industry would take a similar initiative in private television channels.

Prasar Bharati would soon convene a meeting with chamber representatives to address issues such as increasing time-slots for regional films and enhancing the royalty for film songs broadcast by AIR, he said.

Conditional access

As per the Cable TV Amendment Act, under the conditional access system to come into effect on July 15, cable operators and broadcasters would initially be regulated only in Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai and Mumbai. Other cities would be included in phases, the minister said.

The Rs 72 fee to be charged by cable operators per month for the 30 free-to-air channels was arrived at after extensive consultations, the minster said, adding that this could not be revised now.

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