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Indian budget “completely ignores” live events

Industry association EEMA has sharply criticised the Indian government for making no provisions in its most recent budget for the live entertainment sector, which has been devastated by the series of lockdowns and ‘unlocks’ imposed on the country since last March.

The 2021–22 Union Budget, presented to the Indian parliament by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this week, “completely ignores” the events sector, as well as hospitality, tourism and other related industries, according to Siddhartha Chaturvedi, general secretary of the Events and Entertainment Management Association.

While cinemas are permitted to reopen at 100% capacity from 1 February under so-called ‘unlock 9.0’ guidelines (ie the ninth easing of lockdown), the live events sector has had “almost nil revenue” since the first lockdown came into effect” in March 2020, said the EEMA in a letter sent to Sitharaman (pictured) last month asking for relief for the industry.

The association had asked for wage subsidies, tax relief/refunds, free venue hire and interest-free loans, among other measures, to be included in the budget.

“We were really expecting some SOS measures for our industry in particular”

Chaturvedi says the industry has been left bitterly disappointed by the lack of support for what he describes an industry that is still “bleeding” money. “The budget has been extremely disappointing for us in events. The government has completely ignored this bleeding sector, and so is the case of the entire hospitality, tourism and aviation sectors, which are all related to each other,” he comments. “We were really looking forward to a helping hand from the government in these dire times.”

While the budget shows the government’s intent to “spend a lot to infuse economic activities”, EEMA was “really expecting some SOS measures for our industry in particular, and are extremely disappointed with this lack of empathy towards us.”

“The budget largely seems progressive for the economy,” adds Samit Garg, the association’s executive vice-president. “However, there is unfortunately nothing in there for our events and experiential industry. The only silver lining is the increased government expenditure, which may yield more business opportunities for us.”

EEMA represents more than 1,000 companies, including artist managers, talent agents, event organisers and event management companies.


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India mulls more foreign investment in music

The government of India hopes to open up its nascent music industry to more foreign direct investment (FDI), the country’s new finance minister has said.

Nirmala Sitharaman, who was appointed minister of finance and corporate affairs in May, presented her first budget to the parliament of India on Friday 5 July. Among other announcements, including tax relief on electric vehicles and an increase in the corporation tax threshold, Sitharaman pledged to further liberalise rules around FDI in the media and entertainment industries.

According to Sitharaman (pictured), India recorded an “upsplurge” in foreign investment in 2018–19, up 6% year on year to US$64.4 billion, and the BJP government wants to continue that momentum.

“I propose to further consolidate the gains in order to make India a more attractive FDI destination,” she said, reports RadioandMusic.com. “The government will examine suggestions of the further opening up of FDI in aviation, media, AVGC [animation, visual effects, gaming and comics] and the insurance sector in consultation with stakeholders.”

“I propose to further consolidate the gains in order to make India a more attractive FDI destination”

It is hoped the administration of recently reelected prime minister Narendra Modi will allow more foreign investment across the music/entertainment industry, including in radio, according to Nisha Narayan, director of Red FM and Magic FM. “Indian economy is all set to become a $3 trillion economy, and the first budget by the Modi government has introduced several benefits.

“It proposes more foreign investment in media. Currently, FDI stands at 49% for the private FM radio industry, which we now hope will be opened up to 100% like DTH [direct-to-home television] and entertainment. Liberalisation of the same will also majorly help in private FM station to reach the current media ‘dark’ cities in India and adapt new era digital technologies and best practices being followed globally.”

According to PwC, India’s growing live market is on track to reach nearly $125m in ticket sales in 2022.


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