The Indian Magazine Congress commenced in the Capital on October 30, 2006 with I&B Minister P R Das Munsi making some important announcements regarding the magazine industry. Some of the changes that can be expected in the coming year include separate DAVP rates for newspapers and magazines after March 31, 2007, liberalisation of RNI rules, modifications in the PIB Act, and formation of a self regulatory body to check media content, among others.
In his opening address, Das Munsi observed that reach of the press in rural India had grown more than that in urban India, there had been growth of the rural intelligentia that needed to be taken note of.
He said that that the Print Media Policy of 1955 had undergone changes in 2002 and then in 2005. Currently, the Policy of 2005 was being observed, but, he said, the Government was open to further modifications if it benefited the industry.
A major announcement the Minister made was that after March 31, 2007, the DAVP pricing mechanism for newspapers and magazines would be made separate. This was in response to Indian Today Group’s Aroon Purie’s comment that Indian magazines were treated like a step child, where the newspaper was the stronger lobby and the magazine industry’s voice was somewhat drowned out.
Das Munsi also admitted that the PIB Act in its current form was not helpful and needed to be changed. “There have been cases of misuse,” he said. He further announced that liberalisation of RNI rules was on the anvil. Admitting that the current application processing system was cumbersome, the Minister said that new norms would be set up in 2007 to address this issue.
Talking about FDI in print media Das Munsi said that the government had allowed 26 per cent FDI in news and current affairs publications and 100 per cent FDI in the non-news and non-current affairs journals. However, he said that the government had taken a liberal view of FDI.
When asked why there were still restrictions on business and news content and how they could be opened up for foreign content, the Minister replied first it should be decided as to in what dimensions it should be opened up. He further said that the government had an open mind about it and was all for first preparing a test ground regarding a level playing field for foreign as well as Indian magazine players.
“The media situation in our country is very encouraging. But some unpleasant aspects have to be considered before they assume threatening dimensions. As I see, private media houses use the business model of advertising to sustain the costs of the media product. This has over time led to corporate influence or may I say, interference on media content and consequently affected media freedom,” Das Munsi observed.
He further said that the Indian press had by and large been very responsible and added, “Content regulation does not mean restricting your pen.”