The government has unveiled a proposal to consolidate film and media companies. This decision has been criticized and opposed by a number of artists and performers.
The recommendations of the expert committee led by Bimal Julkawere made public by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on Thursday. The report recommended the rationalization, closure, and merging of cinematic media units. This will finally be implemented seven months after it was presented to the ministry.
The merger 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) was authorized by the Union Cabinet in 2020. .
This month, the official merger will take place.
Plans undertaken by Government
The goal was to converge operations and resources to eliminate overlapping, duplication, and financial resource waste. It also aims to improve the efficiency and coordination of the film wing’s administration.
The group included filmmakers TS Nagabharana, Shayama Prasad, AK Bir, and Rahul Rawail, as well as two members from the I&B ministry. They unanimously recommended the creation of an umbrella organization.
Film production, festivals, history, and knowledge would be divided into four verticals. Each of these would undertake various activities.
Opposition by the industry
Over 850 people signed a letter to the Ministry in December last year opposing the merger. These included performers, scholars, students, and representatives of civic society.
According to the letter, the decision was made without consulting stakeholders. There was a lack of clarity and openness in the merger process.
“Since the MIB’s (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) 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 said.
The letter highlighted worries about the report’s inaccessibility, particularly given the government’s recent statement that ‘three of these units would be shut down as early as January 2022.’
According to the letter, which was written by filmmakers Prateek Vats and Shilpi Gulati, the government’s decision has fueled suspicion that it plans to ‘privatise’ film archives and government assets in the future. The move by the government to shut the FD and NFAI was described as a “catastrophe in the name of Indian film heritage.”
Actor Naseeruddin Shah, director Vikramaditya Motwane, and lyricist-writer Varun Grover were among the 850 people who signed a letter protesting the merger of the Films Division (FD) and the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) with the National Film Development Corporation(NFDC).
The letter urged that the present re-structuring process for these public institutions be halted until the remaining concerns about openness and public consultation are resolved.