Information and Broadcasting Ministry is not anything new to Sri Arun Jaitley. Sri Vajpayee inducted him as its Minister in 1999 when NDA came to power. Though Jaitley was not there for long, he did leave his imprint as a reformist Minister. It is well known that Jaitley is very close to Sri Narendra Modi. He assisted Modi to win Gujarat Assembly elections in 2002 and 2007. That he continues to enjoy Modi’s confidence is evident by the multiple portfolios held by him. Expectations therefore are necessarily high and what he does in the first few days will be keenly watched. Here’s my 10-point wish list:
1. Prasar Bharati, which runs both Doordarshan and All India Radio, is facing enormous competition from the private sector. Several crores of rupees are being lost every year when the role of public broadcaster has lost significance. Maybe it is time that someone takes the bold step of privatising this behemoth, converting the assets in to cash. There are many properties that Prasar Bharati has like the specialist Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha TV Channels, which can be made in to money-spinners. Also, AIR can be converted in to a market leader in no time in the hands of a good private group.
2. There has been a long-standing demand for allowing majority foreign ownership in Print and TV News media. A clear and unambiguous statement is needed that these businesses are only available for resident Indians.
3. Political parties use professional private advertising agencies to promote themselves, but when it comes to Government departments why should they put up with archaic looking work, put out by DAVP? The media rates are negotiated today and therefore less opaque. DAVP may not necessarily provide the best rates or terms for Government today. Can the Minister embrace the market forces and make DAVP less relevant?
4. The Ministry can provide more teeth to the Advertising Standards Council of India by backing the complaints upheld by Consumer Complaints Council as something that all media and advertisers should follow or face penal consequences.
5. Roll out the Conditional Access System across India within a time frame so that dependency on advertising is reduced for broadcasters.
6. Bring about greater transparency in the working of Central Board of Film Certification. Guidelines must be elaborate so that everyone knows what is allowed and what is not. And once passed by CBFC, courts will find it difficult to interfere.
7. When TV news channels are beaming news 24x7, why should news on Radio be restricted? Radio can provide local news better and with more immediacy.
8. The Government has mandated 2% of the profits to be spent on CSR. Can the Ministry mandate that 2% of the Print space and TV/Radio time to be given free to promote issues like safe driving, hygiene or improve moral standards?
9. Industrialist groups owning media must be mandated to separate ownership and management. There should be no undue influence on editorial matters that can promote their business causes.
10. Paid news of corporates bodies and individuals unless disclosed as such, must be seen as a criminal offence and be dealt with accordingly.
The author is Chairman and MD, RK Swamy BBDO and President of IAA, India Chapter.