New Delhi: Corporate as well as surrogate political ownership of media are "inescapable" realities, Union minister Manish Tewari on Saturday said and asked media industry to devise ways to separate commercial considerations and editorial autonomy.
The Information and Broadcasting minister was speaking at an event organised by the Press Council of India (PCI) to mark the National Press Day, where Vice President Hamid Ansari was also present and awards were given for outstanding journalism.
"Corporate ownership of the media is an inescapable reality as is surrogate political ownership as well as government ownership in the public broadcaster format," Tewari said.
With diverse interests always at play, the challenge is to always try and find the elusive golden mean so that public interest does not become a "permanent casualty at the altar of competing and contradictory private interests," the Union minister said.
He said the British government had promulgated the Royal Charter on Media Regulation recently and termed it unfortunate that this development had not found resonance here.
The media industry should consider evolving the means and measures of putting "Chinese walls cast in concrete" between commercial considerations and editorial autonomy, the Ludhiana MP said.
He lauded that recently in an influential publications, the editors had voluntarily relinquished their managerial responsibilities.
The Vice President said that the country`s media should articulate consistently and effectively the Indian discourse on global issues. He said the "credibility and commitment of the press and media to objectivity and to that elusive search for truth" is crucial.
He said that some disconcerting developments also had been observed that "media often diverts attention from real issues to non-issues, often divides people and at times promotes superstition."
Ansari also said that in relation to economic liberalisation in the post-1991 period, the mainstream media has generally adopted a "laudatory" tone and tended to underplay its negative socio-economic effects, though there have been exceptions.
He said that there were other systemic issues that need to be considered which relate to cross-media ownership, the phenomena of "paid news", need for effective self regulatory mechanisms, decreasing role of editors and editorial freedom, and the need to improve the working condition of media personnel including their safety and security.
Earlier speaking before the Vice President, Tewari also said that there were some pertinent questions that the first generation of the digital age should address to ensure that the process of defining agreed global rules of engagement commences in right earnest in the virtual civilisation.
Giving an example he asked -at what point does a personal `tweet`, essentially a digital freedom of expression turn into a `mass broadcast` a telecommunications business, in effect one that has to be held to certain standards of accountability?
Speaking further he said that the fundamental public interest off our times was the constitutional values which define the very idea of India.
He said "dark clouds of fascism loom ominously over the horizon- a great evil stalks our land. The first casualty of this spectre would be the constriction of liberal spaces, curtailment of creativity and circumscribing the right to challenge the conventional and think off the beaten path."
Referring to newsreports related to BJP leader Amit Shah, Tewari said that if an "alleged expose about state sponsored stalking is correct, I would be worried not as a woman but as a civil libertarian about the Orwellian state that some esteemed gentleman seek to construct."
PCI chairperson Justice Markandey Katju said that India was facing huge socio economic problems and hoped that member of press would do their duty ably.