If one wants to revisit the entire paradigm of media ownership – be it cross, vertical or horizontal – there has to be a purpose to it.
Fundamental to the discourse is not only finding the right solution but also asking the right questions, said Pulak Bagchi, Vice President, Legal and Regulatory, STAR India. Stating that the basic premise of any regulation is very central, he pointed that “we need to debate on what approach to take”.
It is imperative to learn from international precedence which is very insightful and valuable. “Let us understand why are we regulating and why are these countries thinking of regulation – is it for growth or recession or depression,” asked Bagchi. Today Greece is on option mode, Italy is on the verge of being sold out to the best bidder in Europe, US is re-opening the entire media ownership debate, he added.
While there might be big businesses, how does on define ‘big’? There can be a big fish in a very small pond but then, is the answer to kill the big fish or regulate the big fish? Or should one expand the pond itself or find more ponds and inject more and more fishes? Basically, we are talking about the market that is over crowded with small fishes. “These fundamental questions need to be asked and we need to shake off thought processes that have been holding us hostage from the 80s,” said Bagchi.
“We need to understand size is relative. So are we going to be held hostage to the idea of smallness of what is happening in a particular state or locality, or are we going to think beyond borders?” asked Bagchi.
Today telecom operators and broadcasters are vying for consumer attention. There are instances of regional and sub-local absurdities but are they ‘big’ enough to become a subject of national level? Also, by doing so, are we falling into the trap of regulating for recession? That is the last thing required for the economy of the country.
We need to look at cross media ownership in the right way. It has to be pro-consumer and pro-investor. Bagchi said that none of the earlier studies, i.e. from the 80s were guided by any impact analysis but today’s studies are supported by studies with actual market-based data and analysis.
Pulak Bagchi was speaking at a conference organised by ASSOCHAM on Cross Media Ownership. The conference was held in New Delhi on July 27, 2012.