Pranab Mukherjee tells Lok Sabha opinion is being collected on this complex issue and that states will also be involved before a decision is taken
New Delhi: The government will not take an "off-the-cuff" decision on the complex issue of allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Lok Sabha today.
Responding to a calling attention motion on the matter, Mr Mukherjee said the issue was complex and the states would have to be involved to arrive at a larger consensus before taking a decision, reports PTI.
He noted that of 109 respondents representing various interests before an official committee on FDI in multi-brand retail, 73 had expressed their opposition to the concept. Among those who were opposed to FDI were farmers and small traders, he said.
Mr Mukherjee said an UNCTAD report had suggested that job losses in the informal sector far outweighed the benefits of allowing FDI in multi-brand retail. "The government has not taken any decision in this regard," the finance minister said in a statement, in response to the issue raised by Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) and Nishikant Dubey (BJP).
Mr Dasgupta and Mr Dubey expressed their opposition to allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, saying that it would be a disaster for the over eight crore traders in the country.
The minister said that an inter-ministerial committee had been constituted to examine the comments received on a discussion paper. The committee was headed by the senior economic advisor in the Department of Consumer Affairs.
The committee had submitted its report to the government, but did not make any recommendation relating to FDI in multi-brand retail trading. It has analysed the responses received to the discussion paper, collated and summarised them, Mr Mukherjee said.
There are 40 million radio users in the four metros and over 250-300 million audiences across 80 towns. But with the government still undecided on the revenue structure, and the debate over royalty issues with the music industry embroiled in a suit, the phase III rollout has been deferred. Big players are treading cautiously now
While the industry waits for the rollout of the third phase of radio in India, sector experts say that it will be good to rein in the optimism.
Since the government's announcement about the rollout of phase III of radio in the beginning of 2010, the industry has been waiting. But with the government still undecided on the revenue structure, and the debate over royalty issues with the music industry (which escalated into a suit in the Madras High Court), the rollout has been deferred. The senior players present at the 'FICCI Frames 2011' conference, therefore, feel that the industry should plan a controlled expansion and should not be over-ambitious.
"Radio has gained popularity, and penetration is much better compared to newspapers or television channels", said LV Krishnan, CEO of media research firm TAM. There are 40 million radio users in the four metros and over 250-300 million audiences across 80 towns. As compared to a 95% reach of TV, radio also reaches out to 90%-95%, said Mr Krishnan.
"With (the) phase III rollout, the sector will boom with 800 new channels in 300 towns, and the license period has been extended from 10 to 15 years. However, new players may bid over-enthusiastically and lead to increase in price," he said.
Tarun Katial, CEO, Reliance Broadcast Network Limited, said that the expansion will enable radio to cash in on the regional boom factor, like newspapers have done the last year. However, the strategy should differ according to the location.
"The spectrum auction will enable each station to own multiple frequencies," he said. "It should be remembered that more channels do not always mean better revenues. In small towns, more than five to six channels will not be possible, and it will not be necessary to have all the program formats there," Mr Katial added.
There are other worries as well. Radio listernship has shown a decline of nearly 6% in the third quarter instalment of the Indian Readership Survey this year. Following the 2G spectrum scandal, the government has become stricter about auctioning of radio spectrum, and has also refused to increase the ceiling for FDI (foreign direct investment) beyond 20%.
As Harrish Bhatia, CEO, My FM pointed out, it takes three years on an average for a radio venture to break even. But though the existing biggies in the field have done extremely well and absorbed most of the revenues, many more have broken down before breaking even.
Rahul Gupta, director of Radio Mantra, said, "We find very few players who operate exclusively in the radio space." Unsurprisingly, radio ventures which are associated with print or digital media houses have been the ones to succeed-like Radio Mirchi of ENIL, which is a part of Times Group, BIG FM and regionally-focussed Radio Mantra, which is part of Dainik Jagaran group.
Salil Pitale, executive director, investment banking, Enam Securities, said, "The real worry, for me, is the lack of exit options for financial investors." The best thing to do is have the rollout as soon as possible, he said. "2010 has been a year of waiting. Let's hope 2011 does not go the same way," he added.
Lack of activity and absence of companionship at home is leading to excessive media consumption through TV and mobiles which is having dangerous consequences, experts warn
Media immersion among children and young adults has become an issue serious enough to be treated as a new form of personality disorder, according to well known child psychologist Dr Kersi Chavda. Speaking at the FICCI Frames 2011, Dr Chavda said henceforward, psychology will have a special branch that deals with mental and personality disorders that result from excessive media consumption.
"The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, which is considered to be the Bible for psychologists, will now have a new chapter on media-related personality disorders," said Dr Chavda. The fifth edition, which is likely to be published in May 2013, will see the new addition.
The manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is considered to be the standard in classification of mental disorders, and is used worldwide by doctors and medical practitioners.
It has been proven in various studies that excessive media consumption leads to several disorders like obesity, attention-deficit disorder, aggressive behaviour and leads to a decline in social skills and academic performance. In India, where 95% of households have a television and mobile penetration has reached phenomenal heights, more and more children are reported to be showing symptoms of mental and personality disorders, said Dr Chavda.
"It is not just television. Internet, mobiles, games, movies, all contribute to it," he said. "Media content has become too violent and sexualized, and children and teenagers are more vulnerable to its ill-effects, which continue even during adulthood."
Media consumption among children in India is increasing. A Cartoon Network survey conducted by Nielsen India showed, in 2010, 18% of children had access to the internet, 79% of them used mobiles (mainly those of their parents) and on an average, viewed more than five hours of television every day. Their top interests seem to be gaming, searching for television and movie-related content and downloading music.
Nitish Mittersain, CEO of Nazara Technologies, a mobile gaming company, said, "We assumed that our audience is mainly the 16+ audience. But we were surprised to see that almost 25% of the traffic and downloads are either contributed by children aged 7 to 14, or their parents, at their request."
Rohit Sharma, CEO of Reliance Entertainment-Digital Business, too, said that children aged 4-14 years constitute 30% of their business. "The idea of 'edutainment' is nonsense. Children's media consumption is chiefly for entertainment, and they would migrate to those channels where the content is available," Mr Sharma said.
While admitting that media addiction is dangerous, he suggested that this was the result of several things, like the lack of outdoor activities and space, and absence of companionship at home. He said, "Most kids, as we see, view gaming and television as a form of stress busting. Due to excessive pressure from schools, they turn to media for entertainment."
Dr Chavda said, "Ratings should be enforced properly, as to what is appropriate and what is not. Parents, too, should be vigilant and responsible about what they allow their children to view. Discarding media is impossible, but monitoring content for kids is a must. Psychology sees excessive media exposure as a disturbing and increasing trend. Hopefully your child will not become a statistic in it."