Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Sri Lanka to Tax all Foreign Movies, Dramas and Sitcoms

According to an article on LBO, Sri Lanka is to tax all foreign movies, dramas and sitcoms from April 2006 onwards. The taxes collected will apparently go into a special fund that will develop the local celluloid industry.

Two months ago, when I watched King Kong at the Liberty Cinema, I coughed up Rs. 275 for a seat in the balcony. Despite the relatively comfortable nature of the cinema (much better than Majestic Cinema and almost on par with Savoy) it wasn't a reasonable price for all viewers. The proposed tax on movies will undoubtedly increase the price of all movie tickets and given that most of the audience belongs to average income earners, would it impact the number of people who take the time and effort to make it to a cinema to watch a movie when a pirate copy of the movie can be bought for Rs. 150? Despite the court cases and temporary closure of several illegal video sales outlets, the business of selling pirate DVDs and CDs has not slowed down at all.

With just two tv networks catering to the English audience 24 hours a day, how will the imposition of tax on programs like The OC and CSI impact the amount of advertisements that is already cluttered into an hour of the average episode. In fact, I have noticed that most episodes drag on for more than one hour thanks to the numerous advertisements that interrupt the characters' speech in mid-sentence!

Does this mean American Idol will be exempt from the tax because it is a reality show and does not fall into the category of drama/movie/sitcom? Are re-run or cancelled shows like Friends and Providence eligible for tax?

Was the tax imposed because several parties (including local artistes) who protested the sudden influx of Indian movies and drama into Sri Lankan theatre and television? That would be my guess. I doubt if the local teledrama/movie industry loses much sleep over the amount of money that is lost when public watches The OC in comparison to watching one of those annoying dubbed dramas on Sirasa Ran Depaya (sp??). As entertaining as the dramas maybe to some people (I have the same to say for those who watch The Bold and The Beautiful) would imposing a tax discourage the fans from watching the program and make them switch over to watch a local program?

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