New York, Sept 25: American media and entertainment industry leaders have made a strong pitch for early expansion of 4G network and TV digitisation during a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi who told them that India offers "biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge for them".
The CEOs, who included News Corp's Rupert Murdoch, Sony Entertainment's Michael Lynton, and Discovery Communications' David Zaslav, also called for strengthening of the mobile infrastructure. [Updates: PM Narendra Modi visits US]
The focus was on the role that the media and entertainment industry can play in development and generation of employment opportunities in India.
The CEOs -- representing 40 per cent of the world's entertainment industry -- appreciated Modi for "energetic and dynamic leadership" and expressed optimism about the future of India, an official statement said.
They were enthusiastic about the digital transformation that is taking place in India through the 'Digital India' initiative, it said.
They said that the current strong trajectory of the Indian economy makes it at a unique moment to accelerate growth in this sector.
Modi said the world is now in a technology-driven era, where growth of digital infrastructure is as important as growth of physical infrastructure.
"He suggested to the CEOs that India represents both the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge for them, and urged them to keep regional languages in mind, as they firm up investment plans for India," the statement said.
The Prime Minister spoke of the Government's vision to connect 600,000 villages through broadband connectivity.
The CEOs present also included 21st Century James Murdoch, CEO of 21st Century Fox, Robert Thompson, CEO of News Corp; Uday Shankar, CEO of Star India.
Others present at the round table were Michael Roth, CEO, Interpublic Group of Companies; Shane Smith, CEO, Vice Media; Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP; Jeff Bewkes, CEO, Time Warner; Nancy Dubuc, CEO, A&E Networks; Anthony Pratt, chairman, Visy Industries; William Duhamel, Route One Investment Company and Jeff Ubben, CEO, ValueAct Capital.
"All of them said India is the biggest market for them in terms of the phenomenal growth of the entertainment channels, in terms of the youth in India wanting more such content. They asked for speedier digitisation of the Indian systems," External Affairs Minister spokesperson Vikas Swarup told reporters.
Shane Smith said he wanted early roll-out of the 4G systems as this was the bandwidth that they needed for the program contents to reach people as fast as possible.
The CEOs said they do not have any issues with the existing norms but they wanted speedier expansion of broadband infrastructure, Swarup said.
Modi also gave a number of suggestions in terms of how media and communications companies can be part of Indias development story.
One of the idea he floated was that of setting up of a communications university in India, Swarup said.
Another aspect that came out during the round table that digital technologies and mobile platforms provided opportunity for democratisation of access to media for inclusion and empowerment and therefor building of more infrastructures would be a critical element of the both process in the coming years, said the Indian Ambassador to the US, Arun K Singh.
There was discussion how media could be a partner in India's developmental agenda.
For example in the tourism sector spreading more effectively messages related to tourism and historical sites and also training of people to act as effective partners in the process of hospitality and tourism, the Ambassador said.
Responding to a question, Swarup said there was no mention of increasing the current 26 per cent cap on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the media sector.
Great hour with Indian PM Modi. Best leader with best policies since independence, but massive task to achieve in most complex nation.— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) September 25, 2015