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Industry experts scrutinize relation between Govt. and Media @ PMAO 2016

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Industry experts scrutinize relation between Govt. and Media @ PMAO 2016

exchange4media group and Madison Media released the 2016 edition of the Pitch Madison Advertising Outlook Report (PMAR) yesterday in Mumbai. The Chief Guest for the night was J.S. Mathur, Special Secretary, Ministry of State for Information & Broadcasting (I&B).

He also participated in a panel discussion on the topic—"Media's Make in India Story". The other panelists included Punit Goenka, CEO of Zee Group, Benoy Roychoudhury, Executive Director of HT Media, Ashok Venkataramani, CEO of ABP News and Tarun Katial, CEO of Reliance Broadcast Network. The session was moderated by Sam Balsara, Chairman of Madison World.

Starting off the proceedings, Balsara commented that interface between the government and news broadcast was much more than the interface between entertainment broadcast and the government and invited comments from the panel on this.

Roychoudhury opined that the relationship between government and news is a love-hate one. "The government has been supportive but the government also needs us a lot especially in the digital age where information is becoming asymmetric, the government needs credible media. It is a symbiotic relationship but there will be conflicts," he said.

Balsara also queried why penetration of newspapers was still lagging behind when it came to rural India. Roychoudhury was of the opinion that one reasons for this was the literacy issue, since the literacy rate was low in rural India. He also opined that a major failure of mainstream print media was in poor reporting of rural India. He added that if newspapers reported news of relevance to the rural population then they would perform much better.

"There are outliers in every industry. All the top advertisers will support self regulation but we do need support from the government. We need some kind of sanction from the government that would recognize the work that we do and this would help us in the courts," opined Roychoudhury.

In his introductory speech before the panel discussion, Goenka highlighted some measures that the media could adopt to become more responsible. He opined that how the young generation views Indian programming and news broadcasts vis-a-vis international content would give more insights than any survey. "When you start talking to them you discover that downloading international content is a norm in their social circle," He further opined that the goal of Indian media should be  to get the youth in the US to download the latest episode of a show produced in India.

"As industry pioneers if we can join together to fight piracy, why cannot we work towards creating truly global content," he asked.

On being asked by Balsara about the upcoming international news launch from Zee and his thoughts on government policies, Goenka said that on the news side he was pretty much happy with the policies and ownership rights.

The panel also spoke about their expectations from the government in terms of support. Balsara asked Mathur whether there were painpoints he had with the media industry.

Though Mathur agreed that there were no particular issues with media, he highlighted the recent coverage of the Pathankot blasts. "All (media outlets) had appropriate coverage barring one. We would like a little more sensitivity and a little more of understanding and not just going after ratings. It is not only in this sector, we have seen this happening whenever there are things that can create hype. A sense of responsibility is needed. It does not happen all the time but it does happen some times," he said.

He also mentioned that news channels should actually cover more "news" rather than being confined to 2-3 particular issues that go on throughout the day.

On being asked about particular plans for Doordarshan, Mathur said they have been working for a very long time to make Doordarshan competitive. He gave the example of the recent decision to outsource content production and said that the aim was to bring back the same level of quality as of earlier Doordarshan programming like Buniyad, etc.

"DD's feed is growing. There has been a good revamp of DD news programmes in last few months," he added.

Balsara also highlighted the 10+2 issues. He called it disturbing thinking that the government should get involved in a relationship between advertiser and channel. "We operate in a free economy so it is a mistake," he said.

Mathur agreed that the government has had discussions on this topic. He agreed that free market economy is absolutely good and India is also on a very fast path to liberalization. However, he said that though broadly a lot of leeway has to be given, one cannot have daily increases in ad rates.

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