The Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association is all set to file a complaint against the state's Film Producers Council (TFPC) with the Competition Commission of India (CCI), within the next week. This comes over a month after the TFPC stalled the shooting and release of movies over a dispute in paying Virtual Print Fee (VPF) to Digital Service Providers (DSPs).
According to Nikilesh Surya, the executive director of Rohini Silver Screens in Chennai, the association will be alleging that the TFPC's blanket ban on release and shoot of Tamil movies is anti-market in nature. The Council's president Vishal Krishna had earlier told TNM that there was no question of even accepting a discount from DSPs such as Qube which were willing to slash rates by over 10%. The actor made it clear that producers were no longer willing to pay VPF.
"The activity of the TFPC is sabotaging the existing market and demanding the service of DSPs for free is against the laws in the country. We have already discussed the issue amongst theatre owners. We will be approaching the CCI within the next few days," says Nikilesh.
The CCI is a statutory body of the Government of India, responsible for enforcing The Competition Act, 2002 throughout India and to prevent activities that have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in the country. "And once we've filed a complaint, there is no turning back," Nikilesh adds.
While Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association President Abirami Ramanathan was not available for comment, other theatre owners that TNM contacted claimed to have no knowledge on where the dispute between DSPs and producers stand.
Meanwhile the Producer's council has signed a deal with a smaller player, Aerox, which has reportedly offered them rates 50% lesser than existing market rates. The TFPC has termed the development a huge milestone in the struggle against 'high' VPF charged by DSPs.
When TNM contacted Qube co-founder Senthil Kumar about this latest development, he says, “We have not seen the revised rates that are apparently being offered by Aerox. It could just be packaged differently and come down to the same amount that we are offering. So it depends on the release pattern. The second issue is the support that they offer in terms of equipment and technical features. Qube offers high-end security features such as forensic watermarking and a mechanism to prevent theft of a film from the server."
Theatre owners too remarked that Aerox is a little known DSP and that their services were regressive as compared to the existing system.