Convergence may be a reality but there has to be better knowledge of the availability of devices and their penetration, believes Rahul Khullar, Chairman, TRAI. Khullar, who has always advocated timely policies and recommendations that stick to their deadlines, spoke about the need for a national media policy, while delivering the key-note address at the CII Big Picture Summit.
“Today you have sector-based policies for telecom, information and broadcasting and I assure you there is no convergence of minds between those two ministries,” he said. “The truth of the matter is, as you move forward you will have to reconcile sector-based policies which are independently being constructed with different silos so they gel with one another. And then you have to start thinking about what is the best way to handle convergence,” he added.
Khullar said he was speaking from experience.“Ten years ago we started to do convergence and the bill was drafted and it ended nowhere. Quite simply because there was a huge war between I&B and telecom,” he revealed.
Underlining the issues that lay in the path of convergence, Khullar said: “Against the blurring traditional dividing lines between telecom, digital and media industries, business captains and policy mavens should discuss how regulators should revisit the policy paradigm in a digital era. Whether a level playing field in content regulation is necessary.”
On the contentious issue of carriage and content, Khullar suggested:
“Let carriage be the exclusive preserve of one ministry and let content be that of another. Let’s say department of telecom or whatever you call it, should exclusively focus on carriage and related issues. They are not an institution used to public dealing and content regulation. On the other hand MIB, with its history of regulating content, gets an independent regulator to do it. And I think that is the way to do it.”
Outlining the structure of a national media policy, Khullar said that the media should be free from interference and restrictions from the government, but subject to safeguards through other form of regulators. “You cannot have institutions which have rights but not duties,” he said while emphasising the need for a policy that upholds plurality of views and diversity of opinion.
He also made it evident that the country has projected itself in poor light over the issue of digitisation. “We cannot flip flop over it. We have to decide whether or not we are going to digitise. We have sent extremely bad signals to the rest of the world about our commitment towards any policy,” he asserted.
While reiterating the need to keep politicians and surrogates away from the broadcasting platforms, Khullar called upon the government to show its commitment towards a media policy.