India’s creative economy needs creative solutions

A vice-like grip of regulators and regulations governs the creativity of the private television industry in India. Photo: Mint

A vice-like grip of regulators and regulations governs the creativity of the private television industry in India. Photo: Mint

Sometimes you don’t need to look under rocks to find the objectionable.

The auction for T20 cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL) broadcast rights, across geographies and media, has amplified the asymmetry in regulatory frameworks operating in the creative economy. The entire issue should also help triangulate a policy conversation between competition law, intellectual property rights and a sectoral regulatory/legislative narrative that has failed to comprehend the dynamics of India’s growing media and entertainment industry.

Star Group’s winning bid for IPL media rights was made via a transparent process. But the voluble protests preceding and following it have their roots in the Indian economy’s enduring legacy of cronyism and government patronage. Even if we move beyond the immediacy of the complaints and try to focus on the larger picture, the state of strife and conflict does underscore the need for regulatory reform in the creative economy. Specifically, it highlights three issues: multiplicity of regulators leading to lack of clarity on regulatory jurisdictions; need to grant supremacy to Indian Copyright Act—which governs creation, broadcasting and monetization of content—over a plethora of other laws and regulations that are stifling legitimate rights of content creators; and, finally, whether the 20th century mode of administered pricing for content produced in the private sector for sale in the open market can still work in the 21st century.

At the heart of the debate is the difference between monopoly over content and content monopoly. Monopoly over content arises when the content creator has the sole right, granted by law, to monetize the intellectual property embedded in the content for a specific period of time. Content monopoly arises when there is only one content producer in the entire industry and can hold distributors and consumers to ransom, which is clearly not the case in the India.

However, the extant regulatory framework seems to be ignoring these nuances and apprehension over content monopoly seems to have engendered systems that grant subordinate status to the Indian Copyright Act for broadcasting organizations, which is in contrast to global norms. Indeed, indications about content’s future were discernible in the IPL auctions: Facebook’s Rs3,900 crore bid for digital rights (for the Indian Subcontinent) trumped Airtel’s Rs3,280 crore and Reliance Jio’s Rs3,075.72 crore bids. Though Facebook eventually lost out to Star’s consolidated bid, the incident demonstrates how digital content is clearly the next battleground and how companies are according supremacy to content. It also brings into sharp relief the question of net neutrality and the role of gatekeepers. This then also begs the question: Is the current regulatory structure, erected to generate societal equity through mandated economic pricing, adequate and symmetrical for content delivered through cable/satellite and through digital pipelines?

The private television industry in India is of fairly recent vintage. Yet, a vice-like grip of regulators and regulations governs its creativity. The key regulatory institutions overseeing the industry are the ministry of information and broadcasting, the ministry of electronics and information technology, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, the Competition Commission of India, the department of industrial policy and promotion in the ministry for commerce and industry, the Intellectual Property Appellate Tribunal and the department of telecommunications in the ministry of communications.

Given the multiplicity of agencies, there is a wide and bewildering assortment of laws, rules and guidelines that govern this sector: Indian Copyright Act, Information Technology Act, Consumer Protection Act, Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, plus a labyrinthine web of regulations from Trai.

Historically, all attempts to establish an appropriate regulatory regime for the broadcasting and cable industry fell victim to political fragility of the 1990s, till the Centre reclassified broadcasting and cable services as telecommunication services in 2004 and appointed Trai as the designated regulator. Occasional attempts to create an independent broadcasting regulatory authority suffered pre-mature deaths due to political uncertainty.

With Trai and so many other agencies, acts, rules and guidelines at play—often at cross-purposes to each other—it is only natural that the playing field gets skewed in favour of those with unequal political bargaining power. In the sector’s infancy, the boundaries were stretched by organizations that employed musclemen and were friendly with political parties. Not all companies were born from this violent crucible, but some of the leading names in media and entertainment rose to prominence from this brutal churning. In addition, as various stakeholders have pointed out, the regulator’s lack of capacity has also led to the current regulatory distortions.

According to the KPMG India-Ficci report on Indian media and entertainment industry, 2017, Trai’s March order on inter-connect and pricing of channels may lead to a decline in revenue for broadcasters and might even result in an increased monthly outlay for many subscribers, thereby defeating the very purpose of the pricing model. Clearly, it is time to either upgrade Trai’s capacity or to even start thinking again of an independent and separate broadcasting regulator.


TBH, the Hot New Anonymous-Gossip App, Is … Actually Nice?

TBH is the latest anonymous app sweeping the teen world.

Claire knows what her classmates think of her. A boy in the ninth grade at her high school in Massachusetts thinks she’s “so crafty she could build a house.” Another female classmate says she “looks like a snack.” A different guy describes Claire as “always fiending on that boba.” (Teens, man.) Claire’s got screenshots to prove these compliments — she just doesn’t know who any of them are from.

Welcome to TBH, short for “to be honest,” the latest anonymous-gossip app to emerge overnight as every teenager’s favorite app. “Last Sunday was the first time I heard of it,” Luci, a junior from Texas told Select All about the app’s sudden rise. “It got really popular overnight; it was weird! Almost everyone I know uses it now.” It’s currently the No. 1 free download in the Apple App Store — no small feat, considering TBH is only available in a limited number of states. And its secret is … kindness?

Like Sarahah, the megapopular anonymous-comment app that took over adolescents’ phones earlier this year, TBH allows users — mostly teenagers and young adults — to comment anonymously about their friends and peers. But unlike Sarahah or other infamous anonymous-comment apps (remember Yik Yak?), TBH is not a cesspit of toxic gossip and petty cruelty. In fact, it’s downright nice: The app only allows its users to say positive things about other users, a limitation that, believe it or not, only seems to make the app more popular.

The way the app works is simple: “You sign in with your first and last name. You select your school, gender, and grade. They have questions like ‘always nice to talk to’ and ‘going to win an Academy Award,’ and other nice things,” Claire explained. “You have four options [names of friends and classmates], and you click on one. When you are picked, it’s anonymous. You have no idea who picked you.” The questions — think 2017’s version of yearbook superlatives — are generated both by the TBH team and submitted from users.

TBH first launched at a single high school in Georgia in August, where 40 percent of the student body downloaded the app on the first day. The next day, they expanded the app to three more schools in the area to the same results. “Basically, every iPhone owner at the school downloaded it,” said a TBH spokesperson, who asked not to be named. (TBH is currently not available on Android.) Since then, the app has been released in nine states: Florida, Washington, Rhode Island, Texas, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, and California. (It’s also currently available in New York City as a test, but the app is working toward a statewide release very soon.) “I think at this point, over 25 percent of students in California have the app installed,” the spokesperson said, noting that the app has 2 million daily active users across the United States. “It seems to be the new rage … for now,” said Sharleen, a California senior.

A few screenshots from a teen TBH user.

TBH’s overnight success isn’t unfamiliar. Again, earlier this summer, Sarahah (the name loosely translates to honesty in Arabic) spread like crazy among teenagers. But unlike TBH, Sarahah was a free-for-all. Users could anonymously leave comments of any nature — which in practice means comments that are either “really nice or really mean,” as one 17-year-old user told me at the time. Female users in particular were targeted with bullying and overly sexual comments.

TBH is striving to be the anti-Sarahah. It’s heavily moderated to avoid harassment, and while I hesitate to call any app “woke,” TBH is definitely in that neighborhood. Superlatives submitted by users are vetted by the TBH team, which receives about 10,000 submissions per day. One percent of those make it to the app. “Sometimes they’re funny; sometimes they’re catty,” Luci said of the prompts, though the cattiness is always winking — the worst Luci could come up with was, “Always wins their drama,” a far cry from the cruelties of most anonymous comments.

“Anytime we get a complaint about a question, we remove it right away,” the spokesperson said. “We usually don’t deliberate too much; if it upsets someone, it’s gone.” The app offers a nonbinary option for users who don’t want to identify as a “boy” or “girl.” “I guess you could say it assumes everyone is bisexual,” Luci told me, when explaining that all prompts, including the flirty ones, are accompanied by mixed gender user choices.

Like Sarahah, part of using TBH takes place off of the app itself. Teens will screenshot the superlatives they receive — these are also visible to their friends on the TBH app in a News Feed — and upload them to their Snapchat or Instagram stories. “Part of the fun of anonymous apps is trying to get people to admit that it was them,” Luci explained, adding that nobody ever actually fesses up. “I posted one on my Snapchat because the question was, ‘Waiting for our first date,’ and I was like, ‘Reveal yourself, I’m waiting too.’”

Another reason users need a secondary app is because TBH currently has no way for users to communicate with each other. Which means they can’t discuss who received what TBHs, or speculate who sent them, from within the app. The lack of communication options definitely helps with the whole no-bullying thing, but isn’t super conducive to building a social platform. “We definitely will hint that something related to messaging is around the corner, but we won’t say anything more about what it is,” TBH told Select All.

The app is going to need some new features if TBH expects to maintain its status as the hottest thing in teen tech. Anonymous-compliment Facebook pages and apps, like Brighten, have come and gone, and though they’re nice while they last, users often lose interest. For better or worse, the lure of anonymous apps is the drama, and the potential for harassment that comes with said drama.

“It’s a temporary-use app like Pokémon Go or,” Madison, a junior, told me when I asked if she thought her friends would keep using TBH. “It’s not like Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter.” It’s worth noting that both Pokémon Go and are both actually still kicking, they’ve just lost their hype. “At the end of the day, everyone reverts back to their Snapchats, Twitters, and the few that are still really into Instagram,” Luci said. “These apps last around a week or two before someone finds an even more obscure, new form of social media.”

U.S. Spends Less as Other Nations Invest More in Education

U.S. spending on education declined from 2010 to 2014. (Hero Images/Getty Images)

The world’s developed nations are placing a big bet on education investments, wagering that highly educated populaces will be needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs, drive healthy economies and generate enough tax receipts to support government services.

Bucking that trend is the United States.

U.S. spending on elementary and high school education declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2014 even as its economy prospered and its student population grew slightly by 1 percent, boiling down to a 4 percent decrease in spending per student. That’s according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report of education indicators, released last week.

Over this same 2010 to 2014 period, education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD. In some countries it rose at a much higher rate. For example, between 2008 and 2014, education spending rose 76 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Israel, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 27 percent in Portugal. For some countries, it’s been a difficult financial sacrifice as their economies stalled after the 2008 financial crisis. To boost education budgets, other areas were slashed. Meanwhile, U.S. local, state and federal governments chose to cut funding for the schoolhouse.

“Overall (U.S.) education spending has been cut quite severely in the last few years,” said Andreas Schleicher, who heads the OECD directorate that issued the report. “That clearly puts constraints on the environment you have for learning.”

How lower spending constrains learning is subtle. Schleicher has pointed out for years that there isn’t a clear relationship between money spent and student outcomes. Some countries that spend far less than the United States on education consistently outshine this country on international tests.
And even with the decline in spending, the United States still spends more per student than most countries. The United States spent $11,319 per elementary school student in 2014, compared with the OECD average of $8,733, and $12,995 educating each high school student, compared with an average of $10,106 per student across the OECD.

The way that high-performing countries achieve more with less money is by spending it differently than the United States does. For example, larger class sizes are common in Asia, with more resources instead spent on improving teaching quality. During the period of U.S. budget cuts to education, there weren’t major changes to how the money was allocated.

“If you simply cut spending with your existing spending choices, you will end with less for less,” said Schleicher, citing school districts in Oklahoma that cut the number of school days to four from five each week.

One big way that the U.S. education system differs from others is in asking teachers to carry a heavy teaching load. U.S. teachers teach close to 1,000 hours a year, compared with 600 hours in Japan and 550 hours in Korea. In these countries, teachers might specialize in one course, such as Algebra I, and teach it only a few periods a day. The rest of their work week is spent on other activities, such as preparing lessons or giving feedback to students.

“In the U.S., teachers have less time for professional development, teacher collaboration, lesson preparation, working with students individually,” said Schleicher. “In other countries, teachers have a lot of time to watch each other’s lessons, design lessons and evaluate lessons.”

By contrast, the U.S. system spends a lot of resources on keeping class sizes relatively small, and hiring more teachers for them.

The OECD’s data echoes what the National Center for Education Statistics in Washington, D.C., has been tracking. It found that education spending for elementary and high school students had fallen for several years in a row from 2009 to 2013, due to a combination of federal, state and local budget cuts. Spending rose a smidgen during

the 2013-14 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, but, after adjusting for inflation, it is still well below the 2009 peak.

Last week’s U.S. Census report showed that middle class incomes are rising. One could argue that the economy is flourishing just fine with less spending on schools. But education is an 18-year, long-term investment, from pre-K through college. It could be that we won’t see our economic prospects smashed from this divestment for many years down the road.

This column was written by Jill Barshay and produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.


Havas Acquires The 88, Taps Founder as New York Creative Chief

Havas Acquires The 88, Taps Founder as New York Creative Chief

Havas has acquired social media and digital shop The 88, bringing on Harry Bernstein, founder and chief creative officer, as chief creative officer of the New York office.

Bernstein succeeds Toygar Bazarkaya, who until mid-April was chief creative officer of the Americas and chairman of the Global Creative Council for Havas Worldwide and led creative for New York, says Jason Peterson, chairman and chief creative officer of Havas Creative U.S.

All 48 of Bernstein’s staffers will join Havas New York, and The 88 name will dissolve with the acquisition. Bernstein will report into Peterson. The duo previously worked together at Berlin Cameron.

No client conflicts have surfaced through the deal, says Bernstein, adding that his current clients, such as Adidas and Bloomingdale’s, will now have broader support and scale through Havas’ network.

“When I started the 88 and I didn’t call us a social agency – I just wanted to do things differently,” says Bernstein. “And this opportunity came and it’s accelerating my vision to change advertising and do things non-traditionally.”

“The advertising industry is a broken model, and right now the industry is gasping for breath to figure out what it should be,” says Peterson. “We had an idea – and Harry was the missing piece in this – to create a new model of a consumer-first journey with a media agnostic approach, so taking a strategic and creative idea and being able to execute it flawlessly in every channel and touchpoint that our consumers are actually using.”

While Havas won lead creative and media duties for Con Edison this summer, the agency has had a run of executive departures since the beginning of the year and lost the Dos Equis account. In January, Andrew Benett stepped down from his role as global CEO of Havas Creative Group and Havas Worldwide, followed by the departures of New York-based global Chief Marketing Officer Matt Weiss, Global Chief Content Officer Vin Farrell and Bazarkaya.

“We have amazing clients and we have a great group of people, but there’s been a lack of clear vision and guidance about what kind of company we want to be and that’s what this acquisition is about and what Harry will help us do,” says Peterson.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.