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Budget 2017 - It will be a transformational Budget: M&E industry leaders

With just a day to go for the presentation of the Union Budget for 2017-18, the media and entertainment industry is upbeat about the Budget spurring growth for the industry. M&E industry leaders expect a further boom for the digital ecosystem in the country. While most don’t see much impact of the GST on the M&E industry, they expect a more uniform and streamlined tax structure. 

Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO, Viacom18 & Chairman, Media and Entertainment Committee, CII

“This Budget will be a ‘transformational’ budget. The Government has already showcased its commitment to alter the status quo by changing the classification of expenditure, subsuming the rail budget and advancing the date of the announcement. I have always maintained that as an industry, we have a lot to gain from an economy that is buoyant in the aggregate sense. This year’s Budget will enable just that – a revitalised economy that’s raring to go. Demonetisation is sure to expand the tax base in the medium term. I am certain that the Government will use this added fire-power in a prudent manner. Hopefully, we’ll get to hear policy measures that encourage the digital economy, make India’s tax system globally competitive and put more money in the hands of Indians. As the saying goes, ‘the best is yet to come’.” 

Abhesh Verma, COO, nexGTv

“I have great expectations from the Union Budget this year. Last year, the Indian Government issued a series of benefits for the start-up community, including and yet not limited to Startup India, Standup India initiative, along with Digital India and Make in India. As a result, we see India transforming into a mobile-first economy, with a host of foreign players setting their base for operations in India. Besides, towards the end of the year, Government denouncing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes further pushed the economy towards digital transactions. 

In 2017, I expect the Government to continue to support and nurture the budding entrepreneurial infrastructure in India. To begin with, the Government should consider extending the tax exemptions for start-ups. This is especially crucial given the state of economy post demonetisation and infrastructural changes that are yet to be put in place. Furthermore, the Google tax is going to further increase the costs of operations and hence, the same should be checked, and start-ups should have enough incentives to grow and expand, without having to necessarily invest their resources in additional levies. 

At last, I expect the Government to reduce and streamline the taxes charged on e-commerce services and digital goods, such as games, music, and videos consumed online. The same would allow OTT players like NexGTv to grow our consumer base and provide the most simplified services.” 

Sunjoy Waddhwa, CMD, Sphereorigins

“This fiscal Budget should go notch up for the media and entertainment industry. Times are changing, remunerations are constantly rising for artists and other talent on the sets. There has been a lot of difference in terms of costs involved in each and every perspective. The talent in the entertainment industry is also expensive. Amongst all of this, we have the challenge of showing good programming to keep the viewers engrossed. Television channels are now experimenting with new kinds of programming, wherein the primetime itself is changing and channels are also experimenting with the same. To continue such kind of programming and to increase the quality of regular programming, budgets need to go higher. With respect to the news coming on GST, I think it would not have a lot of impact in the industry per say as long as the percentage is not going high. If the tax rates change initially, I feel the cost of production might go up or the budgets might go higher. But at the end of the day, GST is going to be replacing service tax, so I don’t think it would make much of a difference to the media and entertainment industry as a whole.” 

Anup Vijai, COO, Contiloe

“I think there will a reduction in the overall tax rate. And also, GST was supposed to be implemented come April 1, but now they are talking about July 1. So we are expecting a road map around that. Right now, the GST slab rates have come up. Going forward, we are expecting the rates of movie tickets to go down, say by 15-20 per cent in the state of Maharashtra, where we have a very high entertainment tax. Moreover, high rates of entertainment tax and lack of uniformity in tax rates across different states are adding on. Uniform taxation across product categories will benefit the entertainment sector as a whole.”

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