With the growing number of television channels, the critical issue facing the news media industry today is about ownership and security licenses of these mushrooming channels. The industry is in dire need of a proper regulatory framework, to create stricter entry checks.
Concerned about the issue, Dr Subhash Chandra, Chairman, Essel Group opines, “The media houses were started by our freedom fighters, like Raja Ram Mohan Roy to inform and empower people. However today, a few entities have started news media businesses as a shield for their illegal activities. Regulatory complexities are a concern for the industry and with skewed business models, no serious corporate wants to invest in this industry. It is high time we realize the need for a defined framework of rules under the media regulator in order to screen out these illegal players.”
Media is a soft power which in a large democracy like ours creates public opinion so that the other pillars of the society like the executive, legislature, judiciary and even business, do not use the democracy for their own gains. The TV medium is different from the print medium, as newspapers are read only by the educated class. But television being a mass medium has a far deeper penetration, reaching even the remote rural areas of the country and in their respective regional languages. Hence, television as a medium has a far greater impact on the society.
The Reserve Bank of India applies ‘fit and proper’ criteria before issuing any permission for entities entering into the financial services. The criteria unveils the corporate whole and searches for sources of funds as well as the relationship of the promoters in a vertical and horizontal manner, as these services impact the finances of the common man. So the question to be asked is, ‘Is protecting the common man’s mind from getting misled and polluted less important than protecting one’s money?’
Elaborating further, Dr. Chandra said, “Today, ownership of media, particularly of news channels is opaque. We should not be surprised if some of these news channels are owned by underworld elements. The need of the hour is to have a media council with robust media ethics and code of conduct, similar to the due diligence as provided in the Banking sector by the RBI.”
Re-iterating the need for transparent media operations, Dr. Chandra emphasized, “The criticality of the industry players coming together to raise a joint voice on these crucial issues.”
Recently, Zee Business channel brought this issue to light with a compelling discussion on media ownership and transparency. You can watch it here: