‘News is now a commodity to be sold like any other thing’

  • admin@kashmirink.com
  • Publish Date: Jun 11 2017 4:13PM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Jun 11 2017 4:13PM
‘News is now a commodity to be sold like any other thing’

How did the book India’s Changing Media Landscape come about?

Well, it started when I finished my Ph.D. on Cross Media Ownership. During the course of my research I studied the media laws of more than a hundred countries, including some advanced countries like European nations, USA and many other countries. I had a good time to compare the industry status of the media in those countries with that of India and the relevant laws or policies as well. It was then that I thought of tracing the journey of media liberalisation in India and also look at the laws or any policies governing it. Expanding at a staggering pace, Indian media is a story of fascinating

growth. During the last decade or so there has been a foreign direct investment in India’s media industry to the tune of around Rs. 19,000 crore which is a phenomenal amount. The industry is growing at a compounded annual rate of 14% to reach an expected  volume of Rs. 226,000 crore by 2020.

 

The book delves into the Foreign Direct Investment in the media industry. What has been its direct or indirect impact on the content? 

A: That is very interesting question and also may be the subject of an elaborative empirical study. Liberalisation has had an impact on the content, no doubt about that. I conducted a survey during the 

course of my research. The respondents included the people dealing with news and its treatment from a day to day basis to a policy planning level. The respondents were almost unanimous in saying that the foreign channels brought with them their own stylebook of fashion and culture, though many of the respondents liked it. Likewise the traditional concept of treating news as something sacred also changed. News, nowadays, is a commodity to be sold like any other thing. These are the visible and blunt consequences of this liberalisation.

 

Your book also suggests steps for regulating the balance between investment, ownership control and content to ensure the diversity of opinion and views. Can you tell us about some of those steps? 

There is a need for a regulatory authority to oversee all this and to strike a balance between content, investment and ownership so that the people are not misled. There is a need to check and regulate the growing tendency of cross ownership in media in the country as has been done in many other advanced countries. But for that you need an institutional framework. And yes, the country needs to have a National media policy. There has been a tremendous proliferation of media in the country but without a policy. Its time to have one. The Broadcast Bill is already with the 

Parliament. It needs to be discussed, debated and passed. By suggesting establishment of a regulatory authority to monitor the corporate mergers and tie ups and also get into the issues like  circulation, TRPs, market share, etc, aren’t you suggesting a return to a red tapism in a liberalized sector. Not at all. What I have proposed is just an autonomous regulatory mechanism, free from the  control of the Government. We already have a Telecom (Regulatory) Authority, Competitions Commission and so on and they are operating independently. The proposed authority would in fact clear the air on the claimed figures on TRPs, market shares, circulation etc. which often vary from channel to channel and newspaper to newspaper. This way the consumers (readers or viewers) would be 

able to make an informed choice, free from any influence or bias. It’s a concept in practice in many  democratically advanced countries in the world like US, England and many other European  countries as well. 

How do you think that the emerging media in India can be freed of the pressure to ramp up TRPs which now largely drives the selection and the treatment of the content. 

There is an urgent need to democratise the media in India. You need to free it from the influence of advertisers, sponsors and yes, the owners also. For that, the public broadcasters need to be promoted in terms of the financial  support, content quality, technological upgradation and so on. Many countries have  done that and they have succeeded in checking this trend of either fudging TRPs or doing anything to get a better rating (of TRPs). There is an urgent need to revive old healthy media practices and strictly discourage the commodification of news, comments, issues and emotions.