Media industry
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This article is written by Devagni Vatsaraj, pursuing a Diploma in Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations & Technology Contracts from LawSikho.

What is the media industry

By the term “Media”, we generally understand that it is a medium by which some content is shared by the creator to its audience. The organizations and the individuals that create, process, share and consume this content constitute the media industry. The Indian Media industry is a rapidly growing sector for the economy and is making significant acceleration. Showcasing its elasticity to the world, the industry is on the way of creating a stronger phase of growth, backed by rising consumer demand and improving revenue. The industry has grown exponentially due to the digitisation and internet usage in the last decade. The Internet has turned out to be a conventional media for entertainment for most of the people; across demography and through various means, from the retro to the most advanced ones, such as the radio, theatre, print, television, cinema, gaming, advertisement, music, OTT services, etc.

The Indian Brand Equity Foundation has estimated that the Indian media industry is projected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 13.5% from 2019 to 2024 and is estimated to reach US$ 43.93 Billion by 2024. Since the industry is growing at such an unpredictable rate, it becomes difficult for the players to keep up with the expectations of the users. One of the most important hurdles is to handle the pressures to cut the expenses while improving revenue. While multiple small platforms are stepping in, the traditional monarchy of one big company is fading away. Since a new player is introduced in the market every day, and the customer needs as well as the delivery of content of their preference is highly fragmented, it paves way for the media industry to implement big data and data analytics technology to gain more insightful viewer perception. In this article, we are going to look at the different challenges faced by the media industry.

General challenges faced by the media industry across all formats

The content that is distributed through these formats can be either for educational purposes, for entertainment or to endorse an idea. These formats are broadly categorized into two heads; (1) Traditional media (those which we hereinabove named) and (2) New media (like blogs, vlogs, websites, podcasts, websites, etc).  Some common challenges faced by both these formats are:

  • Lack of Transparency

This has been an issue for as long as the industry can be recognized. Issues in complex nature of contracts, advertising, handling (and settlement) of funds, acquisition and retainment of personnel and content, ambiguity in having on board the clients and producers have always been of concern to the media houses. Further, advertising has been a simple model; but there are various pieces that are needed to be put together- what type of media is being used for advertising, is it direct or indirect advertising. This leads then to a whole separate need of accounting, from sales, to financial planning, its analysis, to finance management. This poses a risk of slip-ups due to which an overall analysis gets affected.

  • Compliance with laws/regulations

It is very difficult for the media industry to comply with all the rules and regulations within the time limit and to act in accordance with all the laws that apply to them. From managing the finances to filing of return, reporting expectations with SEBI and such other Authorities, complying with labour laws, environmental laws, local laws that regulate the lease of the premises, electricity and other requirements, from employment laws to IP laws, etc. Legal compliance is very important as it prevents the organisations from lawsuits and damages, while detecting violations. But it is not easy to identify them since the laws are evolving and an organisation needs a sound team to put off this challenge.

  • Challenges with respect to taxation

Each business has to pay taxes, to the local government, to the state and the centre. The Income Tax department comes very heavily on the defaulters, from huge amounts of fines to even imprisonment. Taxation is a very slippery path and it is very important to be cautious as to how the media industry grows and grows safely (without having being a target to the tax structure). Hence it is very important that this industry has a very sound section to manage taxes.

  • Threat to media channels

With people shifting to digitisation, it is not only the transmission of news, facts and information that has become faster and easier but so has the attacks such as hacking of social media accounts, phishing, frauds, etc. Social media accounts are one of the most important assets of the media industry in the current scenarios, and the hackers can easily hack into them and spread false information which may result in hurting the sentiments of lots of people and attract bad names to the media house. Further, the attackers may use these handles to post a link that may redirect the users to malicious websites and the users may be duped. There are various instances wherein these attackers pose themselves as employees of these media houses and loot them.

  • Hurt and life threats to people working in the industry

We see this happening to reporters that cover sensitive issues and to those who really put in genuine efforts in revealing the truth behind a story. News anchors, journalists, activists on social media are mainly targeted. People who are whistleblowers or who spend their career covering issues such as rape, dowry, honour killing, murder, revealing the identity of a famous celebrity or a VIP or even cases related to them; most likely get threatened of harm to their life or injury to their loved ones. This holds true for people working in journalism, anchor/hosts of radio station, news channel, writers of print media and influencers online.

  • Concern relating to Data Privacy

Regulations have been implemented for businesses to handle personal data and for organisations that transmit user data to such companies, yet data leak has been the headlines quite very often. Big data challenges can pose trouble when it comes to accumulating adequate user data, without which exact scrutiny cannot be carried on. Viewers are being more sensitive than ever, towards their data and are troubled on how their personal data is being used. 

  • Licensing requirements

With each step of success that the organization takes, registration is required for business licenses, from employment registration, taxation, expanding the business, enlarging its scope by having new clients on board, etc.; for all steps, the ownership document is a primary requirement. Investors are also very vigilant on the license issues ahead of entering into this type of business.

  • Copyright and piracy issues

These challenges have been in the industry for a very long time now and it is very difficult to bring justice even if the laws are all stringent and in place. With the rise of digitisation, more big data problems have emerged such as sharing of account information through which multiple users can view content from the same account, using the password. It then becomes difficult for the production houses to categorise what genre of content is favourable to an adult and to a child. Pinpointing on the demographic details of an account user also becomes extremely difficult. Many people have started using the content available on online platforms for their own use; pirate and spoof this data to make it look like their own new creation and upload it to generate revenue. This is another major issue faced by, in particular, the entertainment industry.

  • Adaptation challenges

Only a few percentages of players in the media industry are welcoming new technologies to their area of work, while the majority are hesitant and are concerned about the backfire or the trouble these new “uncommon” solutions will cause. This results in dependency on outdated methodologies making it difficult for the players to communicate business between themselves. Use of terms like “big data”, “artificial intelligence”, “automation” etc have increased now more than ever, particularly as reporting tools and yet we are resilient in adapting these technologies for our benefit.

  • Lack of financial support

Finance is not so-much-of-a-big-issue for well established or even new media houses that are backed by some influential person; but it matters a lot to small organisations, someone like you and me who wants to establish a start-up to give out some real content. Starting a new company may or may not be difficult on an individual basis but one thing is common in each case, that is, building investment and scaling up with the growing business has always been tough for all types of media houses. These costs vary a lot, from human resources costs, to data collection and processing costs, to data storage and protection costs, etc.  SaaS and Cloud storage do make it easier to an extent but not everyone is ready to accept it with open minds or do not have enough resources to implement it.

  • Media Reputation

Reputation is fast-reaching; it is like the fire in the forest. The character of lifetimes crushed down to “reputation” in one action; whether that action was justified or not is something to be looked into but nowadays, media houses are not considered to be a very favourable place to work at. It has gained a bad reputation; a medium that was earlier supposed to bring out true facts and be a source of inspiration has now merely become a money-making institution and the “voice of the voiceless” gets silenced in no time. Ever wondered why not many people are choosing this profession? Ever wondered why there aren’t enough professionals to fill the void?

  • Discrimination and lack of efforts

Both these words are a reality in the media industry. Discrimination happens; discrimination of both types-positive wherein females are not put out on field for particular tasks where muscle and high tolerance to pain and pressure is needed and, negative wherein a stereotype is formed that a particular gender is only fit to assist and to do desk-job. But this discrimination is gradually fading away when we as a society are developing a sense of togetherness, that no work is made for a particular class and that anyone who has the require qualification and skills can perform it. That draws my attention to another challenge which is short of initiative. I remember my journalist friend telling me, “I just do my part of the work, our individuality gets work done but we lack team effort; my teammates always have to gossip around until the deadline and then work all night”, she continues, “we are a group, not a team.” When odds are against us, it is the total effort that brings us success. I believe Hellen Keller puts it in the best way when she says, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” [1]

  • Bullying and harassment at workplace

The media industry has been collaboratively working to promote a more inclusive workplace but what comes out is that we still need to work on creating a safe, respectful environment. Bullying in the form of intimidation and/or insulting behaviour, abuse or misuse of power, mobbing or intentional/unintentional targeting is very prevalent. Other than bullying, harassment- physical, mental and visual, is always very frequent in the media biz. For instance in America, the Centre for Talent innovation in its “What #Me Too Means for Corporate America” report has found that 34% of women and 13% of men have been victims of sexual harassment, defined as an unwanted sexual advance or obscene remark.[2] The 2020 film “Unpaused” showed how the boss of that news channel is making advances and is offering his female juniors an opportunity to handle big projects in return for sexual favours. This has been a challenge that needs to be tackled for so long but the victims were not ready to open up for understandable reasons. The society is now supportive and the abusers are now being questioned but we still need to fight this evil.

Sector-specific issues

Media is basically of three types; broadcasting, printing and internet media. Let us now look at some concerns faced by these different communication outlets:

  • Television

The customer’s flavour is changing every day; they are not anymore fully satisfied with conventional broadcasting. They want, rather need, fresh content each time they log in; on their laptops, tablets, mobile phones, social media TV etc. That being said, customers now do not have the time to sit in front of the LED TV and view content, they rather prefer television-on-the-go. The biggest challenge that affects the Television media industry is digitisation and technological advancements. Technology never remains static, televisions which were very popular once, have not much in style in the present day. The channels now have their own mobile application through which users can watch the shows from any device, anywhere and this does not look good for this traditional medium of communication. OTT platforms have become quite popular amongst the younger generation. When one can simply view fresh, new content on these platforms, why would users wait for the content to be broadcasted on TV?

The customers have become tech savvy and since now everything is on their fingertips, it is easier for them to decide what electronics are best suited according to their lifestyle, what is pocket friendly and what return do they get out of their investment. This is another challenge for the industry; the customers have realised that television sets are expensive and which are not-so-expensive might need added accessories like speakers and home theatre etc. The other electronics are cheaper and come with newer technologies. The subscription of these OTT platforms and the mobile applications is not very expensive as compared to paying for a TV channel package.

With many more new manufacturers coming out in the TV market, it is necessary to be outstanding from the group to build customer trust and confidence. They are in the pressure to cut their costs and even in the long run, we do not see the companies earning a significant amount of profit. This will result in winding up of many TV manufacturing companies because their selling price would not be much than the manufacturing costs, leading to reduction in the company’s profitability.

  • Radio

The oldest and the cheapest form of entertainment, All India Radio has been going through a turbulent phase and is fighting for its survival. The relief from the government in the form of annual license fee payment is not enough and nor is the FDI which is not more than 49% subject to terms and conditions.[3] The smaller organisations would reach a stage whereof their revival is beyond the scope. Another challenge is coming out of the turbulent phase affected by the Covid-19 lockdowns. Even if the business starts operating as usual, there is not much support from the government in res+pect of advertising and revenue; and hence, the industry will take a long time to put itself back in as their previous position.

Another hit to the radio industry comes through the other sectors of business and their advertising. Apart from the government advertisements, the other players that contribute to its revenue are real estate, MSME, retail, hospitality, etc. These industries too have suffered immensely due to the pandemic and do not help in contributing towards the radio industry. The only way to distribute their content is by branching out and generating revenue for themselves.

Big cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Chennai are recovering from the hit as compared to smaller towns. Banking and finance institutions, the FMCG sector have come forward for advertisement with respect to hygiene, sanitation, etc, bringing in new revenue. The industry is partnering up with OTT music streaming platforms making their original shows, content and podcasts available on apps for a better reach. At the most basic level, radio was used for person-to-person communication, the scenario of which is changing now. Partnering up is at the cost of losing radio’s own uniqueness; the business will grow on a compromise driven model rather than a content driven model.

The radio is expected to show the true image of the facts; help citizens with clearer social and political awareness. But when the regional and the national government is of two different political parties, that will not be a smooth sail. Even though broadcasting is within the powers of the union government, they cannot work in isolation without the inputs of the state governments. Yes, there is a risk from the new media coming up but radio is still a very respectable medium which has compromised significantly. It is important that with a rigid policy in respect of new recruitments, internal promotions; it meets the requirements of suitability in respect of language and professional standards.

  • Cinema/Films

Cinema is a combination of visual, dialogue, music and special effects that makes us reflect on our lives and entices deep feelings. There are many petty problems regarding the cinema industry worldwide but here, we will look into how it has mainly affected the industry in India. For the Hollywood movies that wish to come to India for their shoot, one of the major problems is that the industry has too many permissions to take, too many protocols to follow, which results in losing the potential client and they shifting to some other location where this process is much faster.

Challenges faced

Perhaps the biggest challenge to the industry is the Censor Board; it is now machinery that does not produce critical, positive criticism but just creates too many problems. From corruption, to having decisions influenced by politics, to mere ignorance, to making insensible statements; the Censor Board has made it to the headlines quite a few times. From releasing a list of words that is no longer allowed to use in the movies, making too many cuts, to refusing certification for a film being too women-centric; Pahlaj Nihlani has depicted a very ignorant approach towards film rating.

Another major challenge that the Indian cinema industry has to fight through is the misconception about Bollywood. Most consider that our Hindi movie is all about music and fantasy (which is not always true) and that the actors must know how to dance. Agreed that music brings in significant revenue to the industry since that lures people to come and watch movies; people are now realising that songs are not required in every motion picture.  Why do we need songs in a horror movie or a scifi movie? The industry too needs to realise this fact and work on the issue. What we need to understand is this industry is capable of bringing out meaningful, sensible and serious issues (movies like Pink, Badhai Ho, Stree, Taare Zameen Par, Lipstick under my Burkha, Dear Zindagi, etc).

The industry needs to understand that people see and understand everything. Starring famous celebrities with no proper storyline or concept is not going to bring them money. This is why there is a gradual shift in the audience favouring Hollywood in place of Indian cinema. We just do not have good scripts; all we see is a remake of either, old movies or movies from other industries. This being said, another point that we observe is the producers like to play it safe, for themselves and their distributors. Most of the producers bet their money on the same old cliché scripts and are not willing to take risks even on good content, which in my opinion is regretful. Like every other industry in India, even the cinema is affected by the virus of realtive-ity. With a population of over a billion, we try to accommodate our known ones in a vacancy, even if that person is capable of achieving it for themselves without any help. Nepotism has been the talk of the industry for quite some time now, and it is very difficult for a newcomer to get established and be launched without a caretaker.

Piracy and shifting to OTT platforms has been an issue for quite a few decades and the major reasons that aids to piracy are high ticket prices, release of film in other places of the world before India and poor cyber structure. However, with anti-piracy measures and laws in place to safeguard innovative content, along with the government reducing the GST on film tickets, piracy has been under the radar but it still has a long way to go.

  • Print Media

The print media has been in the market since Johannes Gutenberg invented the print press in 1450s. However, technology upgradation and changes in customer preferences have created some serious challenges for this industry. One of the very serious concerns amongst the masses lately has been that so much paper is consumed by the print and publication industry. As much as half, or atleast near about so; of the trees that are harvested, are cut off to make paper. The bleaching agents that the industry uses, also causes harm to the environment. Inks which are petroleum based, have high amounts of volatile organic compounds that cause further harm to the environment.

Challenges faced

One of the biggest challenges is the digital substitution of the print media. With the introduction of E-Book formats such as Kindle, Noble and Nook, and audio books, a larger audience has substituted the traditional means of newspaper, magazines and books. These digital substitutions are a better option and are affordable, convenient.  Another shot that digitalisation has taken on the print media is that, there were some tasks that very mandatorily be done through the means of printing; but due to the Covid-19 hitting worldwide and us witnessing nationwide lockdown, has made us digital. We create documents and send them online; can create invites, brochures, magazine layouts on our desktops/laptops and share online with people. No need for printing now.

They say that a Pen is mightier than a sword. Journalism, a form of print media is expected to state out true facts, to bring out the political narrative. However, with political pressure and/or the media house owners’/promoters’ ties with political links, suppress the actual facts and the whole intention of free press is failed. For instance, a Marathi newspaper, Lokmat, have Mr. Rajendra Darda and Vijay Darda as its editor-in-chief, both former MP of Congress and Jagran, a Hindi newspaper, has Mr. Mahendra Mohan Gupta as is CMD, who is a former MP from the Samajwadi Party. Various regional print media publications are partially or wholly owned by the political parties. Such control of present or former politicians can directly/indirectly affect the elections. Though the Election Commission comes down heavily and watches every activity of the parties participating in elections, a kin or next friend having interest in the media house can influence the readers through advertisements. Political capture in India needs to be regulated.

Being strategic. With many competitors emerging in the industry, the business houses need to up their game, engage in formal strategic planning by goal setting and undertaking measures to stay ahead in the competition. Assets, talent, margins, verticals, customer base, their response should be considered at all times. Planning, Pricing and People will help media houses stay ahead in such times of crisis.

  • Online Education

With schools and colleges closing its operations during the lockdown due to COVID-19, alternatives had to find an alternative. All the institutions shifted to digital classes through Zoom, Cisco Webex, etc. The problem with going digital is since there are so many participants, bandwidth creates issues and there are other technical glitches too. Apart from issues relating to geographical reach; not everyone has the means, financial or otherwise, to procuring education by this means. Adaptation is also an issue; not everyone, especially the professors, are not very well versed with the technology.

With lack of in-person interaction, there is also a lot of distraction among students. Social media is always a distraction; while students go online to surf the internet to learn things, they tend to go switch to other social media and then it gets difficult to manage time.

There have been instances where the students while hiding their identity, harass the professors online, calling their names and abusing them. On the other side, during proctored examinations, the supervisors have misused the personal information of the students, approached them and have made advances. One such recent instance was that of NMIMS.[4]

Conducting examinations has been a challenge; though the proctor system is in place, there are still a lot of ways that the students have devised to cheat. Assessment and Feedback is affected as compared to the traditional method where the teachers and the students communicated physically.

  • Advertising

Ad Blockers are the biggest challenge. People want to view content without interruption. This software makes it easier so that many advertisements do not appear on screen. These programmes cost billions to the advertisers.

With the increase in the use of social media, the advertising agencies saw a great potential in their business. However, the key people of the social media platforms realised what they were missing and simply blocked having advertisements on their platform unless paid for such promotion. The industry, especially small brands, started spending hugely on advertisement across all platforms digitally or otherwise. This resulted in an increase in the cost of advertisement. Embracing technology and at the same time protecting the privacy of the users will be something that the industry will have to confront with.

Another challenge for the advertisement industry is attention and retention. We do not have the time and patience to look through all the advertisements and appreciate the content. Which is why, it becomes very important for the players in the industry to keep their content catchy, appealing and targeting a specific audience. The only solution to keep its business growing is to study the market, see what content is acknowledged by the majority of the users and accordingly make content. This helps in attracting an audience as well as in its retention.

Another challenge on a positive side is the rapid growth of the digital setting. Advertisements started off with printing and publishing, then now have moved on to the digital space but the truth is that it’s not only the internet that the industry now has to focus on; we have smart cars, smart houses, IoT, virtual reality and what not. It is in the industry to figure out what their audience is, find different avenues, optimize, target and accordingly place advertisements. Technology will continue and so will the obstacles.

  • OTT platforms

Content is the most important factor to these platforms; it’s basically the heart of the OTT media. If the platform is unable to provide services that match up with the standards of the public, these service providers are not going to be successful and are going to suffer terribly. For this, the industry needs to understand its audience. Providing content which is niche, is a very good prospect for growth but the problem while having a survey around this question is that either the sector to which they can invest in is very niche and not very popular or is niche and already over-crowded.

Competition and Retention. One of the very important issues is the rise of players in the industry. With rise in Covid-19 and the governments declaring nationwide lockdown with temporary closure of theatres and other sources of entertainment, these OTT platforms have received fame like it never has. However, there were many companies who had projected this to happen and have launched themselves in the market giving rise to competition. Yes, we do think that the ones that are old enough and have their customer’s trust will survive nevertheless. But we are living in a society that is savings friendly; we switch to the service provider that provides services for a lesser amount. Further, since we are talking about reality, let us not forget that we all share our user ids and passwords with our friends and relatives so that they can view content for the platform that we have a subscription and the other way around.

OTT platforms do their best, despite the competition, to offer high quality video, favourable content, at reasonable price and uninterrupted content; yet viewer retention poses a great difficulty to these service providers.

Challenges faced

Challenges such as congestion, privacy, security and LAN etc. occur during multicasting on these platforms. They also require a protocol to distribute the concept and program guide across various devices. Further, multicasting either requires diverse versions of multicast streams for facilitating DASH protocols or a one-size-fits-all approach based on a single video version. Along with multicasting, functionality also poses a challenge. Viewers no longer want to browse through pages to find content of their interest; they rather want it on their fingertips wherein they could just search or glance through a set and find interesting content. Thus, it is important that the service provider adapts themselves with the preferences of the viewers and makes their content easily discoverable.

Though this is an internal challenge of each company, it is something that hits the industry across frontiers. Managing demand has been challenge ever since people have started using social media; what content goes viral is almost unexpected to predict; it maybe some really important issue to a really dumb meme. But when a video or a part thereof of some video from OTT platform goes viral, the company must have enough measures in place, the bandwidth and servers in place, so that the application does not crash and that it handles so much pressure effectively.

  • Social Media

Social Media has become a very powerful tool; some use it to spread awareness and educate people, while others just want to create chaos online. This happens due to a lot of misinformation. Sometimes a post has been shared and re-shared so many times that the real source of the information is lost in the process and it’s very difficult to establish whether the piece of information is genuine or fake. This becomes a major challenge for the industry to dig deeper, establish the source and label it, much before the information is lost or creates disorder.

The second important challenge of this industry is to protect the privacy of the users. Social media is a space where nothing goes unnoticed and everything that an individual reacts to, comments on or posts, has a consequence or an influence on the onlookers. This attracts attention from people, from authorities and even from people with not-so good intentions. It is the duty of the company providing a platform to the users to protect the interests of the user and takes reasonable measures to guard the identity of the user. Further, driven with ideological and financial motives, we are going to witness more fake news and weaponization of social media. The media houses will have to be more media literate now than ever.

These social media houses are recommendation machines. They suggest to you more of what you want to see. This results in more audiences being attracted to them and their business growing enormously. It becomes difficult to adapt to the geographical reach, the scale of growth, while continuing the level of performance and maintaining internal constraints. The Regulators come down heavily on these media platforms for any harmful content or for missing compliances.

Conclusion

In this article, we have seen an overview of the difficulties/challenges faced by the media industry, jointly and severally. The underlying trend is that the society is moving towards digital and social transformation. By using the rapidly evolving technology, distribution of information and news has become easier. The implications of technology depend on the general developments in the industry, its impact on each country and its audience responding and adapting to the change. It also depends on the policies framed, regulation made and on its implementation; censorship, intimidation, professionalism, and interpersonal relations.

However, this article mentions all such challenges that we read on in our everyday life and the real, ground issues are beyond the scope of this article. The Indian media industry today has a lot of things happening in and around it; be it introduction of FDI, restrictions from the government and impact on the economy, new lifestyle of the users to the advancement of technology. The industry needs to conquer all its setbacks in a determined manner, while producing high quality end products. The media industry has all that it takes to be a tool rather than a weapon; it only needs a little support from the government and an open mind, ears and eyes of the general public to excel in the economy. Challenges are going to evolve every day in an advanced manner but it is on us how we are informed, keep ourselves informed and inform others.

References

[1] Quote by Hellen Keller, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/9411-alone-we-can-do-so-little-together-we-can-do (last visited 03rd December, 2021, 05:00 P.M. IST)

[2] https://www.talentinnovation.org/_private/assets/WhatMeTooMeans_PressRelease.pdf (last visited 03rd December, 2021, 05:10 P.M. IST)

[3] Consolidated FDI Policy Circular of 2020, https://dipp.gov.in/sites/default/files/FDI-PolicyCircular-2020-29October2020_0.pdf (last visited 03rd December, 2021, 07:00 P.M. IST)

[4] ‘Got Your Number From Sources’: Students of Mumbai College Accuse Proctors of Harassment- published on 9th January, 2021 on https://thewire.in/education/narsee-monjee-mumbai-harassment-online-exams-mettl


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