The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is looking at bringing in a regulation to control cross-media ownership. Speaking to Business Line, Rahul Khullar, TRAI Chairman, said most countries had regulation to prevent a single entity from owning more than one or two types of media carriage and India should not be any different.
“Everywhere there is regulation which restricts domination of the media market. This is a different sort of market from ice-cream or shoes. This is market for ideas and for influencing minds. Now, why should Mr X control the newspaper, TV and the radio?
“Then you might as well be in an earlier totalitarian era where opinion is made by a single state-controlled media that existed then,” Khullar said.
TRAI will examine ownership of broadcast, print media and radio and soon float a consultation paper.
“We all know how media get into bed with power and politicians. This is not new to India. The News of the World example is staring us in the face.
“In many countries, a newspaper cannot own anything else. In most jurisdictions you can own a maximum of two media outlets. What’s so unique here that this should not apply to India?” asked the TRAI chief.
Khullar said the idea of bringing in regulation was not to take away the freedom of speech.
“We are not talking about content but carriage. There are a number of reasons why the story is changing as all three networks — TV, print and radio — are converging, devices are converging and this will make it available on a single platform,” he said.
While TRAI has not named any specific media house that has ownership across platforms, the latest move has made large media companies unhappy. Khullar said he was willing to discuss the issues.
Open to discussion
“I am willing to talk to you about these issues, but I am not willing to say that this discussion is not worth having. Unless there is plurality and diversity of ideas, what is democracy,” he said.
Earlier at a roundtable organised by Assocham, the TRAI chief said that media monopoly was a larger issue than corporate monopoly in other fields.
He also drew a parallel with the financial sector where industrial establishments are denied banking licences.
Everywhere there is regulation which restricts domination of the media market …[that is] for ideas and influencing minds. RAHUL KHULLAR, TRAI CHAIRMAN