A veteran’s take on the state of M'sia creative industry

  • MDeC old hand reckons creative content industry has all the blocks in place
  • Weaknesses exist though and need to be addressed to strengthen ecosystem

Kamil Othman has spent 13 years with the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) and has been its point person for many of the MDeC-led creative content industry initiatives. He is MDeC's creative multimedia vice-president and director. 
A veteran’s take on the state of M'sia creative industryOne of the key initiative he has been trying to push for in the past few years is to consolidate the various agencies that handle aspects of content under one umbrella.
He argues passionately that this is to ensure the various tactical initiatives carried out by government in the creative industry would complement each other and do not overlap, so that there won’t be costly duplication of work and energy-sapping “turf protection” attitudes in place.
One example of how an overall body can help is to ensure that any grants given by the government supports other government initiatives. Currently grants given out are not tied to any conditions, which specify where the rendering or other kind of work has to be done.
“When MDeC gives out grants, we make it a condition that the recipients have to use the multi-million ringgit funded MAC3 (Malaysia Animation Creative Content Centre) lab in Cyberjaya,” says Kamil. MAC3 was formed to provide technology, resources, develop talent, and offer funding to content developers.
Overall Kamil (pic) believes the industry is in good shape despite experiencing some gaps which still exist. But this is not something that can’t be overcome as long as there is an acknowledgement that the changes made are to strengthen the ecosystem.
“The creative content industry is getting the acknowledgment from government that it is a key growth industry not just from an economic point but from a cultural context too, in that we can export our stories to the world, provided they are told in the right way.”
All the building blocks are in place, ranging from infrastructure, global markets access, support services, scholarships, funding and policies, Kamil says.
“Funding has never dried up and is in fact, ‘pouring in’,” he says. Under the 9th Malaysia plan, which ran from 2006 to 2010, a total of RM500 million was allocated to the creative content sector with the headline grabbing RM200 million that was dropped into the inexperienced lap of Bank Simpanan Nasional, which got the most of the attention from the industry. Among others who got the funding were MDeC, RM75 million, Finas, RM50 million and the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture, with RM50 million.
But the challenge is to address the gap he sees exists in the system.
“What appears to be missing is a perspective on the converging environment. While content is clearly moving into a multi-channel, multi-delivery, multi-platform environment, some institutions in the country are still carrying out policies and offering support for the industry based on traditional production and delivery mechanisms.
“What I mean by traditional is that a film is still seen as film, theatre is seen as for a physically present audience etc. But in today’s world they all have a place in the digital universe too but that recognition has not sunken in and therefore the supporting policies have not accommodated the new reality in this space.”
An example of this can bee seen when such matters are being discussed under the Communications, Content and Infrastructure pillar of the National Key Economic Area, Kamil says.
“Content is seen as based on the convergence environment but in the interpretation of this is that it has reverted back to the old mode of thinking (that content is medium specific).
“The reason for this step back is because it has been left to institutions who themselves have not changed,” he says. It is worth noting that Malaysia is slated to switch over to digital TV in 2015.
Kamil sees the proliferation of devices as simply screens, the key focus being on simple, having the ability to produce great content.
Surprisingly, another challenge Kamil believes will hinder the industry is connectivity. Surprising because thanks to the ongoing rollout of high-speed broadband (HSBB), more Malaysians are getting connected to the Internet at higher speeds (Unifi has crossed 400,000 subscribers).
Yet Kamil feels that broadband affordability is still an issue.
“Is HSBB being taken up at such a rate that new business models such as video on demand and IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) can take off?” Is it widespread enough?,” he asks.

Ed Note: If you feel differently, write in your counterpoint to Kamil's views at [email protected].

Kamil shares his disappointment over repeated grant-preneurs, who forget the reason why they are entrusted with public funding

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