Tag Archives: competition

Striving for plurality in Media – The promises and shortcomings of TRAI’s recommendations on media ownership: Smarika Kumar

Guest post by SMARIKA KUMAR

TRAI published a set of recommendations on issues relating to media ownership on 12 August 2014. A summary of the key points of these recommendations may be found here. But what do these recommendations imply for the freedom of speech and expression in India? This post is an attempt to contextualise TRAI’s recommendations against this question.

From No Regulation on the Business of Speech to Some Regulation on the Business of Speech

In its introductory chapter, TRAI says that the objective of its recommendations is to achieve plurality of views and opinions in media. It states:

The objective of these recommendations is not, in any sense whatsoever, to curb the media or deprive it of its rights – that, in fact, would be a disservice to the Indian citizen – but to put in place suitable safeguards that would ensure citizens the right to obtain objective, unbiased and diverse views and opinions.” (para 1.5)

This is a remarkable move because the idea of media plurality has remained contested in the understanding of Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression to Indian citizens. The whole dance began in 1961 with the judgment of Sakal Newspapers v. Union of India, where the government sought to regulate the number of pages a newspaper could carry. Since such regulation would make newspaper prices of smaller newspapers comparable to big newspapers, the government argued that it would enable the smaller newspapers to secure larger circulation. One can clearly see how this was an attempt at enabling plurality in the newspaper business, so that the smaller voices are not stifled by the big voices.

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Big media has become bigger – Media Diversity and Reliance’s takeover of Network 18: Smarika Kumar

Guest Post by Smarika Kumar

Big media has become bigger. The takeover of Network 18 by Reliance has consolidated news media in the country like nothing before. The Reliance-Network18 combination is, in fact, not exactly new. It was actually executed a couple of years ago in a very telling, roundabout fashion when Reliance lent money to Network18 through a trust called IMT, among other things, to buy all of its media properties. As a result of Network18’s debt, Reliance could then dictate to it the terms of repayment, which were agreed between the two entities in the form of debentures convertible to shares.

The resulting combination brings TV channels like CNBC-TV18, CNBC Awaaz, CNN-IBN, IBN7, IBN-Lokmat, ETV-Rajasthan, ETV-Bihar, ETV-Uttar Pradesh, ETV-Urdu, ETV-Marathi, ETV-Bangla, ETV-Gujarati, ETV-Kannada, ETV-Oriya, ETV-Telegu, ETV-2, Colors, MTV, VH1 and Nick; web content properties such as moneycontrol.com, ibnlive.com, and firstpost.com; as well as magazines like Forbes India under a single umbrella of ownership and control. (For a complete list of media properties held by Reliance currently, scroll to the end of this article.)

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