A Wishlist for the New I&B Mantri

06 Jun,2019

 

By A Correspondent

 

We know that Information and Broadcasting is not only the ministry Union Minister Prakash Javadekar is going to be overseeing. The all-important, future-critical environment ministry is also something that the Pune politician is going to be concentrating on. And given the challenges that prevail on the environmental front as India races towards an infrastructure upgrade, clearly I&B will be Javadekar would do well to ensure the ministry runs on an auto-pilot.

 

The minister is affable, even as he conscientiously follows the party line on all issues. He is friendly with the media, but that’s about it… we know how much the media – especially the part dealing with news – is truly independent.

 

But there are many things we expect the new minister to do (and not do):

1. Ensure minimum government intervention: The MIB should have minimal role in the functioning of MIB. It must monitor the role of the TRAI in broadcast and digital. Empower industry associations to take decisions, and if necessary have a body like TRAI to ensure these things happen. Just that. The TRAI shouldn’t be issuing diktats to the industry.

 

2. Ensure self-regulation proliferates: And in order to be able to do that the government must ensure that all those who wish to take advantage of its largesse (DAVP ads), must be active participants in the self-regulation process

 

3. Stay away from measurement: The MIB and the TRAI are actively engaged in television viewership measurement. Thankfully, for all players, not in print, radio, digital and outdoor measurement. The government must have no role in BARC, MRUC, RAM etc etc. These are funded by industry, and the forces within each trade will ensure that the measurement agency (and currency) performs.

 

4. Allow news on FM Radio: This is an old demand that we have tried to impress upon every I&B minister. Insisting that private FM players can only air All India Radio news is pointless. If the government really wants Radio to grow, it must allow news on FM Radio. Let self-regulation and industry associations ensure that quality is ensured and national security isn’t compromised. If it’s okay to have news on TV, print and digital, why not Radio?

 

5. Minimal controls on OTT: puhleez. OTT is set to grow exponentially and we hear that the government is planning to set rules on the content that will play on the platforms. If that happens, it would be unfortunate, and meaningless because there are enough and more ways to access content. Adequate viewing advisories should be enough, we think.

 

6. Level and Just Taxes: The industry has been pushing for some relaxations on the GST front. This applies to advertising and the various media and entertainment entities. Minister Javadekar would do well to ensure a level and just playing field for everyone.

 

7. Continuity: Can we have one single I&B Minister for the next five years, or at lease 2.5 years. Wishful thinking?

 

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