Amidst an environment of gloom and doom, the media and entertainment industry registered an impressive growth of 12% last year. The fact that we have been able to deliver this in light of an overall economic growth of less than 5% and a major resetting of exchange rates is a testament to the tenacity of the industry’s leaders and stakeholders. However, while delivering a growth rate three times that of the country at large is cause for satisfaction, the truth is that, in dollar terms, we have barely made a dent this year. And, even more importantly, we remain at a great distance from the goal of growing the sector to $100 billion.
But this is not a sector whose value is measured just by the size of its financial contribution. Media and entertainment remains central to defining the direction of India’s social and economic path; its work remains key to the imagination and inspiration of a billion Indians every day; and its health will be central to the ethos and values of the society we collectively shape.
Therefore, it is hugely important that we sit up and take note in these days and weeks in the backdrop of the national elections—one which comes at a particularly important time in our post-Independence history. We have run the course on exploiting the momentum of the first set of economic reforms unleashed in 1991. We have created enormous opportunities and wealth for many. Now, we are faced with a far more complex set of economic and social choices, including on the ideal role of the government, its relationship with industry and, in fact, the relationship of the private sector with the overall society at large.
No relationship is more important than the one between the government and the media. In many ways—and not unique to India—this is a relationship which by the very nature of its constituents is conditioned to be adversarial. Governments and political leaders are deeply aware of the power of shaping the message. The natural instinct of the state is to control the message and, where it can, the messenger. The natural instinct of the media, whether the news media or the creative community, is to resist control, is to question authority. There is, therefore, tension inherent in the conflicting instincts of the two constituents.
In India, that relationship has often moved from being just adversarial to flirting on the boundaries of dysfunctionality.