The prickly issue of imposing control on media (especially print media) was raised by India Today Group’s Prabhu Chawla on one of the sessions, ‘Driving growth of magazines through policy initiatives initiated by the Government of India’, on the concluding day of the Indian Magazine Congress 2006.
Chawla opened the session with a comment on the changing role of the I&B Ministry, which, according to him, had been gagging the media. Defending the government’s position in this regard, S K Arora, Secretary, I&B Ministry, said, “I think in modern times, governments look at media with a hands-off approach. The traditional concept of media has been the freedom of press and freedom of expression, but now media is no longer that simplistic, it is as much commerce oriented as it is about freedom of expression.”
India Today Group’s Aroon Purie raised the issue of not allowing local ads in facsimile editions. Arora had nothing much to say on this except for the fact that the government had not thought it fit to relax that policy so far. When asked the same question on the first day of the conference, I&B Minister, P R Das Munsi, had said that allowing local ads in facsimile editions would wipe out 90 per cent of the local media.
Arora said, “The government is not here to prevent the flow of information. But we have to also see that it does not adversely impact Indian media’s commercial interests.”
When queried as to why only the commercial interests of the print media was being prevented and not that of the broadcast media, Arora replied, “I think newspapers not only in India but in other developing countries, too, had some restrictions. It’s a policy that is followed elsewhere too and is not really an impediment.” He also indicated that along with the progress and the development, the government might look at further liberalising the policy.
Another issue that came up for discussion was ‘Leveraging the B2B opportunity in Indian magazine publishing’. Moderated by exchange4media’s Anurag Batra, the panelists included Pratap Padode, Editor, Construction World and CEO ASAPP Media; Pradeep Gupta of CyberMedia; M Jasubhai of Jasubhai Digital Media; and Bringi Dev of IDG.
IDG’s Dev highlighted the fact that the content had to be right and also stressed on the need for certification while saying, “Certification is the done thing in B2B media. It’s the way to go.”
Dev further said, “One of the things that works for B2B ethos is transparency – transparency in terms of readership, transparency in terms of circulation, and in terms of profile. It is a key element and the industry should seriously look into it.”
Jasubhai highlighted the fact there was a significant growth opportunity and said, “We need to look at non-IT advertising as well as other sources of revenue.”
Cybermedia’s Gupta also sounded quite bullish about the opportunity. He said, “I see many more areas in the B2B industry. We also need to look at vernacular products. Besides looking inwards, we need to look outwards too (meaning, the international market).”