IFJ Calls for Broad Union Participation in Evolution of Ownership Rules for Indian Media

Media Release: India                                                                                       

March 13, 2013              

 

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) welcomes

the submission made by the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), to an empowered

official inquiry into media ownership norms. In two submissions made between

March 8 and 11, the DUJ, a constituent unit of the IFJ-affiliate, the Indian

Journalists’ Union (IJU) has addressed a broad range of concerns about

ownership issues in the rapidly growing Indian media industry.

 

Public consultations on the issue were opened by the

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on a mandate from India’s Ministry

of Information and Broadcasting. An initial position paper was released by the

TRAI on February 15 and consultations will continue until April 15.

 

In its submission, the DUJ has focused on the growing

dependence of media revenues on advertising spending. India’s print media is

estimated to receive over 66 percent of its total revenue and the television

sector, over 35 percent of total revenue from advertising. In a context of

economic downturn, with advertising expenses stagnant and the share of the

print media possibly shrinking, there could be serious implications for job

security and for the continuing well-being of small and medium newspapers.

 

The DUJ has highlighted a trend of growing

concentration within the print industry. India’s three top largest

English-language publishers, it estimates, account for about 6 percent of total

newspaper readership, but 39 percent of total industry revenue and 44 percent

of advertising spending in the print sector.

 

Many large publishing groups have diversified into the

television, radio, online and outdoor advertising sectors. Repeated recent efforts

to legislate a set of norms to preserve media diversity and plurality have stopped

short of producing results.

 

The DUJ has in its submission, pointed out that media

growth in India “has been averaging about 15 percent since 2003: more than

overall economic growth rate”. “Increasing competition for advertising revenue

has damaged media standards and led to a loss of public credibility. Public skepticism

about the media is now at an unprecedented high. Recent revelations about news

content that is directly paid for – the ‘paid news’ or ‘cash for coverage’

scandal – have added to the crisis of credibility”.

 

On the proposal of a “negative list” that TRAI has put

forward, restricting particular kinds of entities such as political parties and

religious bodies from owning media assets, the DUJ has counseled caution. The

right to free political speech should not be abridged, it argues, but at the

same time, religious bodies that feed sectarian prejudices and foster

obscurantist beliefs could conceivably be restrained from media ownership.

 

The DUJ has also sounded a caution on the growth of

monopoly tendencies within the media, which could have the impact of shutting

out certain kinds of voices and opinions from the national political dialogue,

and allowing corporate business interests a free run.

 

The IFJ welcomes this initiative by the DUJ and calls

for a stronger voice for India’s journalism unions in this consultative process

leading to credible norms on media ownership that will serve the broad public interest.

 

For further

information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

 

The IFJ

represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

 

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the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 

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