Government unveils plan on merger of film media units

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The Information and Broadcasting ministry on Thursday made public the recommendations of the Bimal Julka-led expert committee’s report on rationalisation, closure and merger of film media units, seven months after it was submitted to the ministry.

In 2020, the Union Cabinet had approved the merger of all branches of the Films Division (FD), Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), National Film Archive of India (NFAI) and Children’s Film Society of India (CFAI) with the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC).

The formal merger is to be executed this month.

The aim was to converge activities and resources to avoid overlapping, duplication, wastage of financial resources and for a more efficient and coordinated management of the films wing.

The committee, headed by former I&B secretary Bimal Julka, and including filmmakers TS Nagabharana, Shayama Prasad, AK Bir and Rahul Rawail, along with two representatives of the I&B ministry, had unanimously proposed the need for an umbrella organisation.

The organisation would have four verticals, dealing in film production, festivals, heritage and knowledge, each of which would perform different activities.

“This will be limited to small and medium producers and can be funded through equity infusion in the corporation,” the committee said.

In December last year, over 850 signatories, including actors, academics, students, and members of the civil society, sent a letter to the Ministry opposing the merger.

The letter stated that the move, which was taken without consultation with the stakeholders, is a matter of concern due to the “lack of clarity and transparency in the process of this merger”.

“Since the MIB’s announcement of re-assessment of these units in January 2019, we have followed several notices issued by the government. We hoped that an exercise as important as this will involve detailed discussions with the stakeholders including members of the film fraternity and the employees of the above mentioned institutions amongst others.

“Hence, it was a surprise to know that the High Powered Committee under Shri Bimal Julka submitted its report without engaging with the primary stakeholders. The fact that this report has not been made publicly available despite an RTI application raises further questions about the legitimacy of the whole process,” the letter read.

It raised concerns over the inaccessibility of the report, especially in light of the recent announcement of the government to shut down “three of these units as early as January 2022”.

According to the letter, drafted by filmmakers Prateek Vats and Shilpi Gulati, the decision of the government has led to speculation that it eventually aims to “privatise” film archives and government properties. It called the ministry’s decision to close the FD and NFAI as a “catastrophe in the name of Indian film heritage”.

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Source: The Economic Times
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