Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has told TRAI that there should not be any cross-media restrictions between newspapers and their digital entities.

“With newspapers already on the decline globally, and facing stiff challenges from online media, further restrictions on cross-media holdings across-media sectors will make it impossible for print media to survive,” INS has said in a communication to TRAI in response to a consultation paper issued by the regulator.

“Globally, print media is on the verge of a shutdown and are facing stiff competition from unregulated BigTech. The American and other Western newspaper markets have suffered significant reversals in readership and revenue and hence journalism is suffering from cost-cutting measures, reduced consumption, declining resources and its accompanying challenges. The print sector is forced to move into the digital media because the consumer is spending more time on these platforms and therefore advertising revenues are moving to these platforms as well,” INS said.

Purpose of overseeing

In the consultation paper, TRAI has asked what all genres shall be considered for the purpose of overseeing media ownership to ensure viewpoint plurality. INS said that there is a basic fallacy in TRAI’s position.

“It seems to be leading with the premise that ownership of multiple media platforms by the same entity challenges plurality. This premise is completely wrong because we reiterate that plurality in media ownership is not a requirement to ensure plurality in views. Different media products owned by the same media entity are structured under different companies, run by entirely separate management and editorial teams, are designed to focus on their own differentiated target audiences and are hence usually entirely different in viewpoints from each other. Hence, the same media entity with different newspapers or TV channels, for instance, would perforce have different content strategies for each of them to ensure each caters to a different target audience,” INS said.

While the TRAI issued the discussion paper after receiving a reference from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, INS said that TRAI does not even have the jurisdiction to issue the consultation paper with respect to cross-media ownership in print media.