Big Story: Watchdog seeks to bar political parties, corporates from media

New Delhi, Aug 12 :

To ensure unbiased dissemination of news and views, the broadcast regulator sought to restrict entry of political parties and corporates in television and newspaper business.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Tuesday released the “Recommendations on the Issues relating to Media Ownership”, which propose a single independent media regulatory authority for television and print media.

“The regulatory body should consist of eminent persons from different walks of life, including the media. It should be manned predominantly by eminent non-media people,” the recommendation said.
The job of the media regulatory authority will be to check and impose penalties for “paid news”, “private news” and issues related to editorial independence.

“The entities (political bodies, religious bodies, urban, local, panchayati raj, and other publicly funded bodies, and central and state government ministries, departments, companies, undertakings, joint ventures, and government-funded entities and affiliates) to be barred from entry into broadcasting and TV channel distribution sectors,” TRAI said.

It said an exit route option should be provided in case permission to any such organisation has already been granted.

With respect to the “media regulator”, the authority said: “Government should not regulate the media; there should be a single regulatory authority for TV and print mediums; the regulatory body should consist of eminent persons from different walks of life, including the media. It should be manned predominantly by eminent non-media people.”

Commenting on corporates entering media, it said: “On grounds of the inherent conflict of interest, the authority recommends that ownership restrictions on corporates entering the media should be seriously considered by the government and the regulator.”

“Rapid structural changes in the media and entertainment industry have occurred over the last few years. … Cross-media integration provides media owners with opportunities to leverage content, advertiser relationships, build economies of scale and to enhance viability,” Jehil Thakkar, partner and head of media and entertainment, KPMG India, said in a statement.

However, he added: “Onerous integration restrictions could potentially constrain investments, economies of scale, incentives to invest in sourcing and developing better quality content, and thereby, long-term growth. Most mature markets do have some level of cross-media restrictions but India must be careful to frame its regulations in a way that encourages healthy growth rather than restrict scale.”

The recommendations said the news and current affairs genre is of utmost importance and direct relevance to the plurality and diversity of viewpoints and hence “should be considered as the relevant genre in the product market for formulating cross-media ownership rules”.

It also said the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (a commonly accepted measure of market concentration) should be adopted to measure the concentration in a media segment in a relevant market.

TRAI also said: “The arm’s length relationship between Prasar Bharati and the government be further strengthened and that such measures should ensure functional independence and autonomy of Prasar Bharati.”


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