Hathras: Expressing concern over paid news, cross-media ownership and the declining role of editors and their editorial freedom, Vice-President Hamid Ansari has stressed the need for corrective action to restore the credibility of the media.
Inaugurating the Biennial Session of National Union of Journalists at Hathras on Saturday, Ansari said: "The need for comprehensive corrective action is imperative and must be undertaken without delay. A failure to do so would lend credence to widely expressed apprehensions about "special interests".=
Ansari further said that the involvement of big business in the media and market domination are posing a serious threat to media freedom.
"The commercial imperatives for the incursion of big business into media and the resultant concentration and market domination are known to this audience. These have worked against competition and media freedom. The ASCI found that 11 of the top 23 TV networks had stakes in print and radio; the remaining had interests in at least two media platforms including television. Four networks had vertical linkages in cable/DTH broadcasting," he said.
"The pressure on the quality of news coverage and decline in media pluralism have occurred due to slow down in increases in advertising revenue and predatory pricing squeezing out small, independent publications. It is said that most of India`s 300-odd news channels are loss-making and dependent on dubious cross-holding, black money infusion and dodgy private equity investors, foreign and Indian. In this scenario, the media is inclined or forced to adopt unethical methods," he added.
The Vice President, while quoting the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) report, said that if irresponsible reporting and sensationalism had to be curbed, then media ownership had to be regulated.
"The magnitude of the problem is highlighted in the TRAI paper. It drew a direct link between "uncontrolled ownership" and” paid news, corporate and political lobbying by television channels, propagation of biased analysis and forecast both in political arena as well as corporate sector and irresponsible reporting to create sensationalism." It adds that this is "even more lethal where the ownership/control rests with entities which have both business and political interests." The paper concludes that regulating media ownership is "essential in the public interest as a guarantee of plurality and diversity of opinion" , he added.