Media needs to relook its revenue models: Manish Tewari

The former I&B Minister was speaking to Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the Visionary Talk series

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Sep 18, 2020 6:08 PM  | 3 min read

In a scathing attack on media, former Information and Broadcasting Minister and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari has said that media has degenerated into becoming the "pet performing poodle" of the government.

While speaking to Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, during the Visionary Talk series webinar organized by the public policy and analysis platform, Tewari came down heavily on news channels and said that media is not philanthropic.

“Over a period of time, media has degenerated into becoming the pet performing poodle of the government. Freedom of press in India is a myth. It is a chimera. Huge corporate interest dictates the direction and trajectory of media depending upon what their business interests currently are, except for print media. Unfortunately, I can’t say that for substantive section of electronic media,” said Tewari.

Giving out numbers, the former minister said there are 950 million people with a television set at home in India. As many as 93% do not watch news channels. Only 7% watch news and current affairs channels, and the 391 existing news and current affairs channels are digging around in that 7% space trying to earn money. “It has become a dog eat dog market.”

Adding that media needs to relook its revenue models and cannot have a totally advertisement-driven model and responding to a question if the revenue model could be regulated with a policy, Tewari recalled that when he was the I&B Minister, he cleaned out the TRP paradigm with a policy framework on how companies which generate TRPs need to be regulated. He said a leading newspaper at that time wanted to get out of business.

“If you want to correct your revenue model and charge subscribers a higher rate for the newspaper they buy or a TV channel they want to see, you will be able to then offer them better content. You have to start pricing your products properly and get people into the habit for paying. But since you remain advertising dependent, it is measured by fake currency called TRP,’’ said Tewari.

The former MP added that like print and electronic media, social media is equally worst. He said the biggest difficulty today is that what used to plague the print media and electronic media, now plagues the social media, which is also completely advertisement-driven model. He said the advertisement-driven model does not allow you to curate quality content and be independent as bulk of small and medium people in the business depend on handouts which are given by the BOC (bureau of outreach and communication). “There is a fundamental problem they are not willing to look at,” he said.

Speaking on paid news, the former minister said when he was trying to amend the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 and specifically tried to insert the section on paid news and penal provisions, ‘‘the push back from biggies in the media industry was so enormous that the bill has not seen the light of day till date.”
“The news and current affairs media is about educating people, presenting facts in perspective and bringing seriousness to public discourse. That’s the responsibility you need to discharge rather than looking at bottom lines and spin off cheap entertainment as news which does not require news licence,” said Tewari in a cryptic attack on news channels.

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