Nicolas Smirnoff, editorial director of Argentinian publishing powerhouse Prensario SRL and one of FRAPA’s newest board members, has seen at first hand the “terrible damage” wrought by piracy on the music, DVD and home-video markets — and he would like to prevent the formats industry from suffering a similar fate.

“The music and home-video markets were brought to their knees by piracy,” he said. “This was true around the world, but the situation was particularly brutal in Latin America. My message to the formats industry is to learn the lessons; protect yourselves now by establishing and promoting a legitimate, legal business. Because if you don’t, the pirates will move in and destroy it for everybody. Piracy in formats may not have quite the same destructive power as it does in, say, music, but it could still inflict terrible damage.”

Fortunately, Smirnoff is uniquely qualified to spread the word via his company’s portfolio of local and international publications, which cover the media spectrum, from TV and music to new media and licensing.

Having joined the family firm in 1988 at the age of 18 and been in charge of the content side of the business since 1999, Smirnoff has had a ringside seat at Latin America’s fight against piracy — and much more besides. A journalist himself, he has observed his country’s development from a bit player in the international formats industry to the world’s fourth largest exporter of unscripted programming, as revealed by the FRAPA Report 2009: TV Formats To The World. Argentina’s progress is exemplified by Telefe, which at the last count had spawned 45 foreign adaptations of its iconic telenovelas.

“But Latin American as a whole is powering ahead in formats at the moment,” Smirnoff added. “Colombia is now the other big production pole in the region, while Mexico and Brazil, along with several other countries, are strongly promoting their international production business.”

Other items on Smirnoff’s FRAPA agenda include “reaching out to medium and small companies to help achieve a truer representation of the formats industry”; and helping to prepare FRAPA’s members for the challenges of ‘glocalisation’ as they strive to balance global concepts and scale with local demands to generate ever greater quantities of quality content.

With a format now as likely to originate from Buenos Aires as Bucharest or Bali — and more likely to be multiplatform than single screen — FRAPA and its members are going to have to adapt to cope with the new realities, Smirnoff said: “That will mean new relationships with new partners in new territories. It will mean more collaboration between big players and small independents, between major format markets and emerging territories and between traditional TV companies and new-media entrants in, for example, the mobile and video-game space. I believe FRAPA has a valuable role to play in connecting people from across these physical and virtual worlds.”