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Today'sPaperOPINION

Anewtemplateformediaregulation3

Thelegalprovisionsforthefreedomofthepressareclear.Freedomofthepressisnotrecognisedasafundamental
rightbutisfoldedintothefreedomofspeechandexpression.Whenitcomestothemediasresponsibilities,governing
rulesaremurky,theregulatoryframeworkisweakandtheonusofholdingthemediaaccountableislefttoabyzantine
mazeofenforcementmechanismsthatfailsthecredibilitytest.Thisseriesonmediaregulationseekstowidenthe
debateandgetthevoicesofthereadersandtheviewers:thefinalconsumersofnewsandinformationandhencemajor
stakeholdersinmediaecology.
MytaskiscutoutbytheprescriptionprovidedbytheeminenthistorianRomilaThapar.Knowledge,accordingto
ProfessorThapar,requirestheteasingoutofcomplexitieswhichcannotbedonebyinsistingthattheanswertoa
questioniseitherthisorthat.Shecallsthatapproachtheonebiteanswer.Shepointsoutthatnuancespushideas
forwardandencourageexplanations.Inthefirsttwoparts,welookedatthefieldasitwere,andsharedsomeofthe
recommendationsthathavecomeupsofartocreateaframeworkthatcanplacetherightsandtheresponsibilitiesof
themediaonanevenkeel.
Limitations
TRAIrecommendationsoncrossmediaownershiphavesomegoodsuggestionsbutsomereallimitationstoo.Two
youngmedialawscholars,SmarikaKumarandSiddharthNarrain,pointouttheshortcomingsofTRAIs
overdependenceoncompetitionlawsdefinitionofrelevantmarket.TheirmainargumentisthatCompetitionlaw
existstoprotectcompetitionandnotpluralityitappliesgenericallytoallmarketsandisnotspecialisedtospecifically
addressthepeculiarimplicationsofmedia.Thatiswhythereisaneedtofind,outsideofcompetitionlaw,aframework
forhorizontalownershipregulation,whichaddressestheuniquepluralityneedsofamediaenvironment.
KumarandNarrainfurtherarguethatwhileundertheCompetitionAct,2002,relevantmarketisdefinedasamarket
determinedwithreferencetotherelevantproductmarketorrelevantgeographicmarketorboth,TRAIhas
identifiedonlythenewsandcurrentaffairsgenreasthatwhichneedstoberegulatedundercrossmediaownership
rules,andhasrecognisedtheseaspartoftherelevantproductmarket.
Theymakeavalidpointwhentheysaythatthereisalimitationinthedemarcationoftherelevantgeographicmarket
thatitisonlyonthebasisoflanguageandStates.TheycitethecaseoftheRelianceNetwork18Eenadudeal,which
consolidatednewschannelsinEnglishandseveralotherregionallanguagenewschannelsunderasingleownershipby
reasoningthatconcentrationofmediaownershipisnotmeasuredacrosslanguagemarkets,butonlywithinlanguage
markets.
OnewouldhaveexpectedTRAItoadvocatepublicinterestbroadcastingcodes,anautonomousgovernancestructure
andanindependenteditorialfunctioning,whichisbindingandnotsubjectedtopoliticalandbureaucraticpressure.
Butithasrecommendedbarringnewspapersandtelevisionchannelsfrombeingownedbypoliticalbodies,religious
bodies,PanchayatiRaj,urban,localandotherpubliclyfundedbodies,CentralandStategovernmentMinistries,
departments,companies,undertakings,jointventures,governmentfundedentitiesandaffiliates.Thisnegatesthe
spaceforresourcingforameaningfulpublicbroadcastingstructure.ItfailedtolookatthemodalitiesoftheBritish
BroadcastingCorporation,theNationalPublicRadio,theCanadianBroadcastingCorporation,theAustralian
BroadcastingCorporationandtheDeutcheWelle.WhatisTRAIsperceptionof,sayRajyaSabhaTV,whichhassome
ofthefinestprogramminginthesubcontinent?

Moreissuestoaddress
Thedomainexpertiseoftheregulator,whichismeanttoaddressthequestionsofcarriersliketelecomservices,DTH
andISPprovidersisnotenoughtodevisearegulatoryframeworkforthemedia,whichisessentiallyacontentprovider.
Theconflationofrulesforcontentandrulesforthecarriernotonlycomplicatesthediscussionbutalsofailsto
disaggregatethespecificrequirementsofmediaoncontent,onissuesofprivacy,defamation,trialbymediaandthe
righttoinformation.Further,theconsolidationofownershipinanintegralmanner,wherethesamefirmbecomesboth
thecontentproviderandthecarrier,isnotaddressedadequately.
Itisvitaltounderstandthedifferencebetweenamediacarrierandotherformsofcarriers.Forinstance,apowergridis
acarrierthattransmitselectricityfromthegeneratingpointtotheenduser.Thoughtherearemanyformsofpower
generationhydro,thermal,nuclearandrenewablethecontentfromonesourceseamlesslymergeswiththe
contentfromtheother.Amediacarrierontheotherhandcanplaytheroleofeitherpromotingorinhibitinga
particularcontentsourcedependingonarangeofissuesideology,politics,preference,urbanbias,amongother
things.Intheeraofconvergence,thenewregulatoryframeworkmustensurethatthecarrierisaneutralpipethatwill
notprohibitsmallerplayers.Thedigitalrevolutionshouldnotbethepreserveofthosewhocanaffordaheftycarriage
fee.
(Tobeconcludednextweek.)
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