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.


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.


Punishments turn creative


In a world that waits for none and rushes around all the time in a frenzied hurry, it is no wonder that tiny children get trampled upon. And their rights and aspirations get violated inadvertently. Injustices suffered by the toddlers go unperceived and unnoticed except on occasions. It was one of those occasions when there was widespread outrage at an 11-yr-old girl in Hyderabad being made to stand in the boys’ washroom for a prolonged period as punishment for not wearing her school uniform. The kid’s pleas that her mother wrote an explanation in her school diary why she was not able to wear uniform fell on deaf years.

The girl was old enough to understand the abnormality of being pushed into a boys washroom. She was sensitive enough to feel humiliated when the boys mocked her. And she was smart enough to recognise that her teacher was punishing her, a punishment that had a clear and express intention of insulting her. The kid does not now want to go to school any more, an understandable response that parents now need to address.

Fortunately, such bizarre punishments are rarely doled out, though, of course, the possibility of less reportage is always there.

What happens when a teacher resorts to severe physical and psychological methods to discipline children? “Disciplining students is an integral part of what a teacher should do. It is what a teacher can and is expected to do. It is the teacher’s duty to draw boundaries for a child’s behaviour. So what happens when the teacher herself/himself fails to respect those boundaries?” asks Dr G Padmaja, Psychologist and Assistant Professor, Centre for Health Psychology, University of Hyderabad.

What happens when a child is publicly humiliated?
Low self-esteem
Low confidence
Loss of sense of right and wrong
Sense of vengeance

What is the accepted way of disciplining a child? In ways that are not psychologically or physically hurtful. In ways that neither violate the law nor the parameters of child welfare. Judgment is becoming increasingly difficult, say experts. “Punishing a child has many ramifications. There’s psychological distress for the child, a rollercoaster ride through emotions. There’s humiliation and the outcomes become manifest after years. When the child is slightly older, public humiliation can cause a peer pressure, a humiliation that becomes social as much as psychological,” explains Dr Padmaja.

The teacher’s administering of punishment is, in fact, a demonstration of how to cause displeasure or pain. And it comes from someone, who is supposed to be showing the right path. If the child is in its formative years the scars may go pretty deep. And among adolescent children, it can even lead to reactionary behaviour, warns Dr Padmaja.

The unorthodox punishments by teachers, reported in recent times, ranged from making children run in sun for hours, slapping a child 40 times by a teacher in Lucknow, pants pulled down and sent to a dark room in Bengaluru, forcefully cutting off hair in a Mumbai school. While this is apart from the regular scale on the palm punishment, a Kerala school went to extremes making good students wear white uniforms and ‘duffers’ red checks.

Such punishments can build a fear psychosis and it affects not only academics but the entire personality, says Dr Padmaja.

Finding fault with the teacher alone is a reductionist approach, says Dr M Narayana Reddy, former Principal of a DAV school and an education reforms activist. “There are many underlying circumstances which lead to such a manifestation. In fact, this is more difficult than handling curriculum for teachers, finding the right to discipline a wayward child,” he says.

While teachers do receive training, he points out that often the schools where teachers show lack of empathy are corporate schools. “It is also those schools which show a high rate of reportage. They are supposed to be having the best trained teachers.” Even the training does not emphasise enough on empathy and fair methods of disciplining a child, he feels.

“Yes. Clearly, though there is the fault of the teacher in these incidents, we cannot over-generalise,” says Dr Padmaja. There are lakhs of teachers handling school issues with compassion and aplomb every single day. It is only an aberration that punishment goes to bizarre, extreme levels.

So how does a teacher find balance? Every child is unique. Every child is a product of an entire set of genetic, social, cultural and economic factors. And every child has his, her own psychology. Is it fair to apply a blanket rule to them?

“There lies the problem. The student-teacher ratio is very high in many schools. How does a teacher already handling syllabus and examinations have time to specifically each child’s needs? That has been one of our long-standing demands that a child-teacher ratio should be rationalised. But it is far from becoming a reality.”  Narayana Reddy says.

Schools also complain that the parents refuse to take responsibility for the overall development of their children. It is only a few hours that the child spends in the school. The influences at home and in the family and neighbourhood are far stronger. “They want us to spare the rod and yet make their child turn out to be a perfect specimen. How is that possible? I do not beat a child but they do need punishment though I agree my frustrations should not fuel the severity of punishment I dole out,” laments a teacher.

“Don’t judge the teachers. It is a team that requires to handle this,” asserts Dr Padmaja. “Teachers and parents plus a cooperative school environment. Application of principles of reinforcement should be the focus. In fact, we advise that every school should have a psychologist on board for timely inputs.” Expectations from schools and teachers are high. And education has come to be not just a profession but a commercial enterprise where parents paying high amounts of money expect miracles from the service provider.

“Teachers need to show integrity. And learn the potential power of their role. And society needs to recognise the role of the teachers in the right proportion and perspective. But it is also important to reorient them periodically with refreshers and training programmes so that even they understand the changing dynamics in the world and the new influences on children,” says Dr Reddy.

Understanding punishment

Reinforcement is a way to strengthen a certain pattern of behaviour. While positive reinforcement motivates a student to act in more positive ways, negative reinforcement serves to emphasise that errant behaviour will not be rewarded. Isolating a student who misbehaves with his fellow students is negative reinforcement, bringing him slowly back to the group when he calms down is removing the negative and encouraging positive behaviour.

Managing a child’s psychology is nothing but a combination of rewards and punishment through reinforcement. It is up to the teacher to take him closer to the goal step by step and the parents to be keen parents who observe the obscure little ways in which their child is improving or digressing and either reward him or alert him.

A child’s development as a holistic process needs an intricate psychological management. It is this management that lays the foundation for a human being to take shape. And it is up to the teachers and the parents to work in tandem to judge a child’s progress. Strict is not stringent and firm is not violent but punishment is still an essential part of psychology of learning. Aberrations should be lessons in how not to handle situations involving wayward children.


A government that works hand in glove with the creative industry

The government in Singapore is a firm backer of creative agencies – from attractive grants to working together to setting up centres of excellence – it has not shied away from broadcasting this fact.

Agencies too are happy. For them, the experience of working with the Singapore government is devoid of the usual hang-ups associated with the civil service, such as being slow or bureaucratic.

So is Singapore creative? Industry watchers believe it is. According to an industry insider, “Singaporeans were more traditional; creativity was not a preferred choice but rather something you pursued if you ‘failed’ to make it in the mainstream. The government is doing its best to push creativity by welcoming cultural, social and political diversity.”

That said, there is work being done to develop the key industries that drive creativity as well as spur innovation, most prominently from startups. And most of it is visible.

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