The newly-elected Government has been swift in addressing some of the pressing issues of the media industry and initiating steps to stream operations of this industry. One such step has been issuing a Consultation Paper to discuss media laws with the various stakeholders.
The Consultation Paper raises some select concerns and poses a set of questions that will help foster a larger public debate amongst stakeholders and the citizenry to shape the approach that should be adopted in tackling these issues.
Government-owned media is one of the major issues that the Consultation Paper addresses. exchange4media spoke to some media players to gauge their views on freedom of Government-owned media and whether it requires more freedom.
Sharing his point of view, Jawhar Sircar, CEO, Prasar Bharati said, “I would like to point out that Prasar Bharati is an autonomous organisation, set up under an Act of Parliament and not Government-owned. It is Government-supported to the extent that the Government pays the salaries for the employees it has recruited over the years and who are on ‘permanent deputation’ to Prasar Bharati.”
Though Prasar Bharati reaches out to maximum number of people, it has fallen short of gaining maximum popularity. The question that arises is will giving it more freedom enhance the quality of the public broadcaster?
Replying to this, KVL Narayan Rao, Vice Chairperson, NDTV said, “I don’t think so. If we look at the Prasar Bharti Act, for example, it has been given a lot of freedom as far as rules and regulations are concerned. It is in their programming where they falter, which has been formulated without giving much thought to who is watching them.”
He admitted, “Sometimes some degree of interference does happen.”
Self-regulation and freedom of the press have been sensitive topics. While the Government has been time and again talking about putting some kind of control on media, so far such control has been kept at abeyance.
Shailesh Gupta, Director - Marketing, Jagran Prakashan remarked, “Irrespective of ownership, the opinion generated by media should be just, fair and independent. That applies to Government-owned media as well. The new Government has already made its intention very clear that there will be no government interference in the functioning of Doordarshan and AIR.”