The private television industry is up in arms over government plans to impose a controversial film tax on imported Hollywood and
Hollywood programming on local TV. The government has, very autocratically, decided to enforce this law from yesterday (16th July) on all imported TV series, films, dubbed programmes, sitcoms, comedies etc. Here is a summary of key facts:
The main TV stations affected by this will be Sirasa TV, Channel One MTV, ETV, ARTv, TNL and Swarnawahini.
On average, an imported English sitcom or comedy costs US$ 200 per episode. The proposed tax on such programmes is US$750 (LKR 75 000) per 30 minutes.
Imported Hindi programmes from our neighbouring
India, which are either broadcasted in the same language or dubbed locally will be taxed a thumping US$900 per 30 minutes.
The local dubbing industry employees over 350 artists, and once technical crew, script writers etc are included, that number edges close to 1000.
Foreign advertisements shown on local television station are to be taxed a million rupees or US$ 10,000 dollars each year
What’s the rationale? (if any..)
The government and film industry claim that this tax will seek to protect and develop the local national film industry which has is currently facing severe difficulty. The industry claims there are over 300 films, teledramas and mini series pending telecast. The government claims that this tax will give an opportunity for these to gain more exposure, thus helping the film industry grow and develop more. On the other hand the TV industry point out that the reason these shows have not been telecast is due to a lack of sponsors for them, reflecting their poor quality and lack of appeal. In their defence, they point out that the tv stations are in the habit of telecasting popular films and teledrams of local origin, if they feel they are popular and profitable on air time. After all, these are legitimate businesses, with bottom lines to consider and wages to pay.
Last night, in a historical and breakthrough move, private TV stations joined together under the banner of ‘Television Industry Joint Action Committee’ and held a press conference to educate the public and the media regarding this government action. Very strong sentiments were expressed by well known representatives from Sirasa TV, Channel One MTV, ETV and ARTv. The facts were highlighted and the concerns of the industry were well voiced. These private players vehemently opposed this very arbitrary and autocratic move by the government, and claimed that it is aimed at destroying one industry with a view to attempt to develop another, despite no evidence to prove that the local film industry will benefit much.
The industry will have to retrench many employees in various fields ranging from dubbing artists and producers to technical staff and crew. This will have a negative multiplier on the economy, albeit on a relatively small scale.
Speculation is rife as to underlying reasons for this sudden government move in the middle of a fiscal year. As per a question by an audience member, is this stemming from a personal grudge the government holds against the Maharaja group, which is undoubtedly the Goliath amongst the private players? (this was quickly dismissed by the MTV rep, Chevaan Daniel, stating that it is detrimental to the entire industry, and no single player will be affected discriminatorily)Is there some hidden government agenda to gradually stomp out the private TV stations by running them into bankruptcy, so that only the govt stations will reign supreme?
If the bill is passed, it will be discriminatory to the English speaking minorities of the country not to mention reduce the quality of life of ordinary working class citizens. Why the latter? They are not privileged to have cable TV, and after a hard days work, the only fringe enjoyment they have is the variety of entertainment at the flick of a remote. Whether it is an imported and dubbed serial like ‘Maha Gedara’ or a late night English thriller, it’s a matter of quality of life and consumer choice. Taking that away from the people is just plain stupid and unfair, let alone being politically unpopular and financially idiotic.
A verdict is expected during the course of today (Monday). The joint action committee is expecting a favourable response. Let’s hope that SOME good sense will prevail amidst such irrational decision making, and the H.E. will intervene and rectify the matter personally. Unless of course….