TRAI Report on Media Ownership: Occupation of media by 'natural' market forces
Note: The trend of occupation of media by 'natural' market forces has been unfolding for quite a while. Indeed "media regulation" is "essentially a bargain between power brokers in the media and the competing elements within the political domain" amidst "concentration of ownership". Hasn't TRAI recommended something like a Third Press Commission “headed by a retired Supreme Court judge” to examine the structural changes in the media landscape?
First Press Commission was set up Nehru Govt. The Second Press Commission set up by Morarji Govt and reconstituted by India Gandhi Govt. There was a demand for the 3rd Press Commission which Dr Manmohan Singh government agreed to it. It sought its Terms of Reference twice from Kuldeep Nayar but failed to set it up. The Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Information Technology in its report in 2013 has observed on cross-media ownership and its adverse impact on "democratic structure”. Besides Nayar, senior journalists like Ram Sharan Joshi and Ram Bahadur Rai have been demanding the setting up of the Third Press Commission.
In a rigorous analysis, Sukumar Muralidharan recorded that Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) has commended the TRAI initiative but suggested that the magnitude of the problem of media monopolies remained to be accurately assessed. The market share of the major media entities was of course germane, but so too was the disproportionately large share they obtained of the aggregate advertising expenditure in the economy.
The fact of The Times of India (TOI) questioning TRAI’s jurisdiction into the policy space on print media is quite predictable. Notably, TOI has questioned the role of Press Council of India too in the past. TOI's division which manages radio broadcasting assets put on record its “fundamental” belief that the “growth of media in a democracy as vibrant and heterogeneous as India is possible only if the industry is allowed to grow to its full potential governed only by market forces and not restricted by suffocating regulations”. TOI's the internet division told TRAI, "(i)nstead of trying to harm the Media Industry...TRAI must be sensitive to efforts to protect the Media Industry against existing wrong practices like wage boards for newspaper employees, which allows government the power to decide the salaries of journalists and non-journalists." Such submissions of likes of TOI and STAR are part of profit at any cost ideology who find 'public interest' an idea of the by gone era for whom media freedom means freedom to make profit and externalize costs.
Will the new government concede to the demand for the Third Press Commission? Drawing on the 2009 report on media ownership by the Hyderabad-based Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI), the TRAI recommendations makes a case for it.
TRAI Report on Media Ownership
The Press’s Curious Response
(i)nstead of trying to harm the Media Industry...TRAI must be sensitive to efforts to protect the Media Industry against existing wrong practices like wage boards for newspaper employees, which allows government the power to decide the salaries of journalists and non-journalists.