India's FRAMES honors U.S. as partner

Americans seek improved terms for business

NEW DELHI -- FRAMES, India's flagship entertainment industry conference celebrates its tenth year starting Tuesday in Mumbai by honoring the United States as its partner country.

American industry figures including U.S. delegation head NBC Universal Co-Chairman Ben Silverman, actor Danny Glover and veteran broadcaster Charlie Rose will join about 2,000 Indian and 800 foreign delegates, organizers from the New Delhi-based Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) project.

The U.S.-India Business Council in Washington, D.C. is spearheading the U.S. delegation of about 30 leading entertainment industry figures gathering through Thursday at Mumbai's Hotel Renaissance.

"The last eight years have seen remarkable growth in the overall bilateral economic, political, and cultural relationship," Ron Somers, president of the USIBC told The Hollywood Reporter.

"This has been particularly true in the media and entertainment sector, as exemplified by the recent partnership between Steven Spielberg and Anil Ambani."

Indian industrialist Ambani's Reliance Big Entertainment funded DreamWorks' exit from Paramount for $550 million.

Somers, whose group represents 300 member companies across various industries, said that neither the global financial crisis nor last November's terror attacks in Mumbai has affected plans by U.S. delegates to attend FRAMES.

"When we are suffering from negative and stagnant growth in the United States, Europe, and Japan, an Indian economy that is growing by 5-7 percent becomes even more critical to global strategies," Somers said.

According to 2008 USIBC figures, the Indian media and entertainment industry is now a juggernaut of $11 billion (Rupees 440 billion) and growing at a combined annual growth rate of over 18%.

However, various obstacles remain to boosting Indo-U.S. ties in entertainment, such as India's current tax administration which "has not kept pace with reforms," Somers said, adding that some problems must be addressed in the Indian court system, "a process that can take years."

Another impediment to increased trade is lax protection of intellectual property rights, Somes said. A recent USIBC study conducted by Ernst & Young showed that counterfeiting and piracy had caused the loss or blocked the creation of more than 800,000 legal jobs in India's media and entertainment industries and caused the loss of an estimated $4 billion a year in potential revenue.

These and other issues will be discussed with Indian government officials when the U.S. delegation travels to the capital New Delhi after FRAMES ends Thursday.

"We also hope to discuss restrictions that are imposed on investment," Somers said.  "Currently, India imposes foreign direct investment restrictions (FDI) on news media, print media, and cable services.  We believe that by raising these FDI caps, India will attract needed investment and provide greater choice and value to the Indian consumer."

FRAMES will release its 2009 annual entertainment industry study later on Tuesday with its new partner, the U.S. consulting firm KPMG.  KPMG replaced PricewaterhouseCoopers after PwC was embroiled in India's biggest corporate accounting scandal involving the IT services giant Satyam.