IP PIRACY in Mongolia is so rampant that even the country’s public broadcaster is airing unlicensed formats and dramas. This is the news from the Mongolian frontline as reported by Nomin Chinbat, managing director of FRAPA’s newest member, Mongol TV.
Chinbat pulls no punches when describing the severity of her home country’s piracy problem. “It’s the Wild West,” she says. “We have pretty much all the Western formats, but in cheap knock-off versions. As a general rule, Mongolian broadcasters see a format they like and just copy it. The idea of respecting copyright barely exits.”
The fact that it exists at all, however, is largely down to Mongol TV. Chinbat explains that, when the family-focused terrestrial channel launched in 2009, the notion of IP protection was a largely alien concept to Mongolia’s 20 or so broadcasters. It was, she says succinctly, “as bad as it could get”. Mongol TV, under Chinbat’s guidance, decided to take the road less travelled: “We came out and said we were against piracy and that we were going to push for the legal use of formats. Now, three years later, several other Mongolian broadcasters are trying to do the same. We hope we are leading by example.”
As ever, part of the problem is money. In a country of three million people and 1.5 million TV viewers, Mongolia’s 150-odd channels are operating in a brutally competitive market. Budgets are not just lean – they are anorexic. In such a climate, the temptation to rip off rather than pay up is great. Chinbat admits that ‘going legit’ has been tough financially, but that Mongol TV’s drive for quality product is now paying dividends. With a market share of around 28%, it is already one of the country’s top three channels. And Chinbat is confident that, with an entertainment-focused relaunch planned for this autumn, the top spot is well within reach. But to achieve that pinnacle, Mongol TV has to forge closer links with the international market, not only in terms of acquiring formats but also in reassuring foreign companies that their content will be safe in the channel’s hands. This is where FRAPA comes in. Under the guidance of The Format People – FRAPA board member Michel Rodrigue and content specialist Justin Scroggie — Chinbat is currently working on establishing a FRAPA branch office in Ulan Bator to serve as “a bridge between Mongolia and the West”.
Chinbat adds: “It would be a central point where the Mongolians could go for practical help about working internationally, and where foreign companies could go for information and guidance about our market. A major problem is that our media industry doesn’t know how the international market works — how deals are constructed and licenses negotiated. More and more Mongolian companies want to do things properly but they don’t have the right paths of communication with the West. I’m the first person from Mongolia ever to have gone to MIP in Cannes, for example.” But it’s not all about buying — The Format People are also helping Mongol TV to move into format creation. “I hope we’ll be coming to MIP with own our formats soon,” Chinbat says.
Watch this space.