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TRAI seeks views on monitoring cross media ownership

Broadcast regulator TRAI on Tuesday sought views from various stakeholders on the need for monitoring cross media ownership and control, mechanism and related issues in the wake of drastic changes in the sector with the advent of digital technology. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a consultation paper on ‘Issues Relating to Media Ownership’ after the government asked it to reconsider its recommendations made in 2014 in light of the changes in the media and entertainment industry with the advent of new digital technologies such as over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

“Considering (the) overall scenario, do you think there is a need for monitoring cross media ownership and Control?… Should there be a common mechanism to monitor ownership of print, television, radio, or other internet-based news media,” are some of the issues on which TRAI has sought views from the stakeholders. The TRAI has sought written comments on the issues raised in the consultation paper from the stakeholders by May 10, and counter-comments by May 24.

It observed that the digital media landscape was marked by the dominance of a limited number of very large players who have wherewithal to consolidate by acquiring smaller players. “This can reduce media pluralism by undermining the diversity of new age portals and online media,” the consultation paper read.

The paper also sought views on whether there was a need for any additional regulatory/ monitoring mechanism. “Do you think there is a need to monitor takeovers, acquisitions of media companies, especially the news media companies,” it asked. The TRAI also noted that with the emergence of social media platforms and apps which depend on user generated content, the news and facts do not depend upon any media organization for its conveyance to the public.

The TRAI had made recommendations to the government on issues relating to media ownership in August 2014. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting asked the TRAI last year to reconsider the recommendations in the wake of the advent of digital media. The consultation paper also sought views on what genres shall be considered for the purpose of overseeing media ownership to ensure viewpoint plurality.

It contended that infotainment channels broadcast content on a wide array of subjects, ranging from history to religion to international relations. “The peculiarity of infotainment programmes is that they are perceived to be factually correct and therefore, have the ability to influence popular perceptions. Consequently, any inherent bias in such programmes is bound to have adverse impact on the society,” the consultation paper said. PTI

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