The Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF), News Broadcasters and Digital Association (NBDA), Indian Newspaper Society (INS) and Association of Radio Operators for India (AROI) have stated unequivocally that there is no is not necessary to monitor cross media ownership. and control as there is enough competition in the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) sector.
The IBDF, NBDA, INS and AROI, which represent television broadcasting, print media and FM radio companies, also said there was no need for a common mechanism to monitor ownership of print, television, radio or other Internet sites. media.
The industry bodies made the comments in response to the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) consultation paper on media ownership following a referral from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) .
TRAI had solicited comments/views from stakeholders on the need, nature and level of safeguards with respect to horizontal and vertical integration in the broadcasting and distribution sectors and cross-ownerships in various media sectors.
Sufficient plurality in the Indian M&E market
In its brief, the IBDF asserted that there is no need to monitor cross-media ownership and control, as there are a plurality of options available to the consumer today. In fact, the plurality of content options has only increased since 2014, with new media and new vehicles within each medium, he added.
Citing industry and TRAI reports, industry bodies pointed out that there are 909 television channels, 386 private FM radio stations, 1,46,756 registered publications, more than 40 digital content platforms in India and over 2100 digital news platforms (apart from traditional media news). media).
The presence of so many TV channels, newspapers, radio stations and digital platforms ensures that there is enough choice for consumers in the market, the IBDF said.
He also pointed out that content consumption patterns have changed since 2014, with television reaching 892 million viewers, internet (500 million), print media (407 million – IRS 2019) and radio (226 million – IRS 2019) . According to the IBDF, this indicates that content consumption occurs across all mediums.
“As there (i) is an increase in plurality; (ii) a shift in consumption habits and access of content to consumers across channels and platforms; and (iii) is there regulations within the existing legal framework that have controls over ownership, there is no need to further monitor cross media ownership,” the IBDF said.
Cross-holding enables cross-subsidies
The NBDA pointed out that TRAI’s statutory and jurisdictional powers in conducting such consultation which also impacts media segments other than broadcast services are beyond the authority of TRAI.
He also called the proposed restriction on multimedia holdings an attempt to regulate commercial activities and the freedom of speech and expression of the media, which would violate the media’s constitutional rights to disseminate information and would also affect the fundamental rights of all citizens. receive information pursuant to Article 19(1)(a).
“That in India, there is no reason to impose restrictions/regulations on cross-media ownership, since media pluralism has in no way been affected by cross-media ownership. In fact, media pluralism is on the rise with the advent of new technologies,” argues the NBDA.
The NBDA has proposed that private radio stations be allowed to create their own news content and broadcast it to promote a plurality of viewpoints. He also said that cross-media ownerships enable cross-subsidies for entities and create synergies between different branches of media entities that also allow them to operate in a free and democratic environment and not fall prey to purely commercial business objectives.
INS calls for protection against abuse of dominant position by tech companies
The INS reiterated that there is no need to monitor cross-ownership and control of horizontally integrated media, be it conventional television, print, radio or digital media. He also urged TRAI to protect media companies from abuse of dominance by big tech as well as vertically integrated telecom operators and/or telecom operators that own broadcast assets, whether either in content or transport.
He argued that media companies must be allowed to integrate horizontally so that they can survive by owning different forms of media such as newspapers, television, digital and radio as they do now, of which the most are in decline. In addition, digital media companies must be protected against BigTech monopolies and abuse of dominant position by them and digital media publishers must be protected against any abuse of dominant position by the owners of the distribution channel;
“New era tech companies like Google including Google Search and YouTube and Facebook including Instagram and WhatsApp control the majority of market revenue share thanks to their monopoly power and stronghold in the sourcing. They use reliable content from traditional media houses to distribute on their platforms without adequate revenue sharing with publishers. Indirectly, they control and dictate to traditional media to follow their rules when it comes to content distribution and revenue” , explained the INS.
AROI wants an extension of the vertical integration ceiling by 20% for telecom operators
AROI noted that cross-media borders are a product of a bygone era and are being phased out in the few remaining countries. According to the AROI, any regressive policies controlling media ownership would have a negative effect on the media space in the country and would not only reverse the gains made by the industry over the past decades, but also lead to degrowth and contraction. Of the industry. .
He suggested extending the 20% cap on vertical integration capital in content delivery/routing to telecom operators as well, whereby a telecom operator would not be allowed to hold/hold more than 20% total equity released in a content company and vice versa. , nor will they be allowed to own/hold more than 20% of the total stake in any other type of media distribution platforms like cable network companies and vice versa.
“Telecommunications operators are today one of the largest distributors of content, data and information in all their forms, which has become a major business and source of income. Their ownership of content for different platforms -forms as well as all parts of the broadcast media value chain from content to transport raises difficult questions about both dominance and potential abuse of dominance,” AROI noted.
He also pointed out that there are currently no regulations to control this vertical integration by telecom operators and that it is essential that TRAI address this challenge which seriously threatens the media streaming segment.
No need for a common media ownership monitoring mechanism
The four industry bodies also argued that there is a need for a common mechanism to monitor the ownership of print, television, radio or other news media on the Internet, because there are already enough legal checks and balances.
According to the IBDF, the industry already operates within well-established grievance redress and self-regulatory mechanisms through the BCCC, DMCRC, NBSA and ASCI.
NBDA said that there are enough authorities/bodies like Competition Commission of India (CCI) and Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and regulations to monitor the ownership of print media, television , radio or other news media on the Internet.
The INS noted that there is no vacuum in the legal regulation of Indian news media and that strong laws exist to ensure plurality of views after low concentration of ownership, and that the system also has a robust appeal mechanism.
AROI noted that there are already strong self-regulatory mechanisms in the media sector regarding content. “The need of the hour is to strengthen and empower self-regulatory bodies rather than formulating additional layers of regulation on the media sector.”
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