Restrictions on cross-media ownership in offing too

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is all set to recommend the creation of an ‘institutional buffer between corporate owners and newspaper management’ to the government. TRAI, which is also the regulator for the broadcasting industry, will also suggest ways to restrict cross-media ownership in line with practices in ‘most other established democracies.’ TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar told The Hindu his recommendations would be based on the principle that corporate ownership of media must be separated from editorial management, as “the media serves public interest”. Mr. Khullar said he had no problem with corporates investing in or owning media houses for profits. “But the problem arises when the corporate wants to abuse the media it controls to project a coloured point of view for vested interests. There is conflict of interest here.”

Mr. Khullar plans to recommend a special organisational structure in which the corporate owner — who may have multifarious business interests — would have only a financial interest in the company, restricted to owning of shares. The editorial operations would be done under a different structure where the corporate owner would have little say. TRAI has earlier flagged the issue of a “growing number of undesirables, including builders and politicians” acquiring media interests. Mr. Khullar pointed out that even Vice President Hamid Ansari had spoken out about the “paid news menace” recently.

“The idea is to create an institutionalised buffer between the corporate owner and newspaper management to ensure the independence of TV channels and the print media to articulate impartial, free and fair editorial policy,” said Mr. Khullar.

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