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Book review: The Indian Media Business (Fourth Edition)

Book review: The Indian Media Business (Fourth Edition)

The fourth edition of this comprehensive work includes a fresh chapter on digital media

The Indian Media Business (Fourth Edition) The Indian Media Business (Fourth Edition)
The Indian Media Business (Fourth Edition)
Vanita Kohli-Khandekar
Sage Publications
Pages: 484; Price: Rs 650

This is the fourth, updated edition of a book written 10 years ago, that has since become essential reading for media students and professionals. Vanita Kohli-Khandekar has painstakingly updated her book with new facts and interesting details that have arisen since the last edition came out. She has added, for instance, a new chapter on digital media - perhaps the first close look at the subject from a business perspective - to the seven areas examined in earlier editions: print, TV, film, radio, music, outdoor and events, homing in on key areas of concern.  

Take TV. I was discussing TV programming with Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India, a while ago and found him dwelling at length on the perplexing lack of talent in the profession at many levels, especially in script writing. There may be long queues of aspirants for various categories of jobs outside every production studio, but clearly most of them do not fit the needs of the studios. Thus it was heartening to find Kohli-Khandekar too discussing the talent crunch. She examines in particular the surprising paucity of producers in the film industry.

Preceding the section on talent crunch is another detail that makes you correct your mental image of the Indian film-making industry - the largest in the world by number of films released - being a thriving one. The sad truth is that India is a hugely unprofitable film market. India made 1,200 films in 2010 as opposed to Hollywood's 677, but most of them were flops. The author sets out the many factors that stymie the ability of Indian filmmakers to extract the maximum from each rupee spent, unlike their US counterparts. "The reason we make too many films is because, just like news channels, films too get a log of random, glamour-struck investors who jump in to spoil the party," she says.

And just as she does with films, Kohli-Khandekar examines comprehensively other segments of the media too. After decades, India finally has two media houses - The Times Group and the Zee Group - with a top line of over a billion dollars. Still, it is important to keep the perspective right: media is small cheese compared to certain other sectors. "The country's largest telecom provider Bharti Airtel's revenue in 2012 was 86 per cent the size of the entire media and entertainment industry," she says. She pegs the M&E industry revenue at Rs 83,060 crore for 2012.

Some segments are peppered with stories of bygone times that are extremely interesting. The rise of Gulshan Kumar and his T-Series cassettes - when the issue of piracy first surfaced - serves as an interesting reminder of how history has been repeating itself in the music industry once the transition to digital occurred.  

My small quibble is that I expected a little more colour from Kohli-Khandekar, who is also a seasoned journalist. The book could have done with more anecdotes and stories that would have personalised the narrative and also added more drama. There are also areas where I would have liked to read more. For instance, I would have liked to know more on how consolidation is panning out in the industry, and the recent investments by business houses in media. I also wanted to see more information about the business media - both print and TV. Again, developments in the media segment focusing on children could have done with more detail.

But overall, this new edition of an old, much-admired book, remains riveting.