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TRAI to float paper on media ownership

Broadcast regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday said it will soon float a consultation paper on the ownership of media to ensure plurality and diversity of views in the country.

People need to think whether newspaper, television, radio, IPTV, satellite channels should be owned by one person, TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar said at industry body Assocham's conference on ‘Cross Media Ownership’.

‘Most of the international experience is 'No'. You are giving a single owner pre-dominant influence and that influence is not on a market for shoe or ice-cream but for idea. He or she can swing opinions and that is why we don't want it,’ he said.

No democracy can survive if a country doesn't have plurality and diversity of opinion, Khullar said, adding that the move was not related to content of the media.

‘I will put together consultation paper. I will take your opinion and at the end of it as a regulator, I will do my job by making recommendations,’ Khullar added.

He said concerns are being raised on media ownership related issues even by Members of Parliament.

‘I have deposed before two Parliamentary Committees. Even Members of Parliament are extremely concerned about issues concerning vertical ownership and horizontal ownership (of media),’ Khullar said.

TRAI chairman added that the time has come to regulate ownership in media.

However, Khullar added, ‘It is not because of the stand-off between the government and the media. There are genuine concerns about concentration of ownership, monopoly, displacement and whole lot of other things that are being raised. Please don't get carried away by thinking this is some plot dreamed up by the government.’

He said the moment a media house acquires enormous influence, it is one short step from where it will start exercising political influence. Consumers of media should have liberty to say 'no' to a particular media and listen to other view as well, he added.

Khullar said people need to think whether there should be mandatory disclosure requirement for affiliation and ownership, level of market share a media should have to ensure plurality and diversity, and disqualification criteria for broadcasting licences, among other issues.
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