Uniform regulatory norms across all media on govt's agenda: Arora

MUMBAI: The government is looking at a near uniform approach across all forms of media, said information and broadcasting ministry secretary SK Arora while explaining the policy of 20 per cent cap on foreign holding in case of radio. Print media (except non news publications where 100 per cent is allowed) and news channels, on the other hand, were permitted 26 per cent foreign equity.

The government, he admitted, has taken a "little more conservative approach towards radio" and kept news out of it. "The reach of radio is far more than print media. And monitoring is far more difficult in radio than in case of television. But we have kept the foreign holding in case of print publications and news channels the same," he said.

Arora was delivering the inaugural address at the seminar on "Future of print media," organised by FICCI.

Big print media companies have entered into TV, radio and the Internet. Media is getting integrated and the reach is being extended. The government is watching these trends closely as more media outfits are getting vertically integrated and horizontally spread across all media. "The challenge for the government is to determine what kind of cross media policy we should have. We have to decide to what extent we can encourage this trend and to what extent we should regulate it," Arora said.




PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) India executive director and leader - entertainment and media practice Deepak Kapoor threw light on the global growth and revenue trends in print media in the US, EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Asia Pacific and the Indian region.



According to Kapoor, the trends were as follows:

    Improved economic conditions

    Audience erosion to TV and Internet from print.

    Strong emergence of free publications

    Paid circulation on the fall except in the Asia Pacific region and positive growth in India and China

India is seeing an annual compounded growth of 6.6 per cent while China was growing at 12.3 per cent. Dwelling on India specifically, he said that the two major trends in 2004 were the revised policy for FDI and a flurry of new publications that were launched in India (specifically Mumbai). This, he said, had generated a new interest in this segment and would drive growth.

Kapoor also mentioned that public issues and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) were going to be the way forward in the print sector.

The four key growth drivers in the print segment according to Kapoor are:

    India is a growing market with a booming economy and that will lead to the growth in the need for new publications.

    Content is always the driver

    Regulatory corrections

    New delivery platforms with emerging digital technologies.

The session on the Business Dynamics of Print Media was moderated by Zee Telefilms CEO and DNA (Daily News and Analysis) board of director Pradeep Guha. The panelists were India Today Group executive director Ashish Bagga, Mid Day managing director Tariq Ansari, Dainik Jagran CEO Sanjay Gupta, Sakal managing director Abhijit Pawar and Delhi Press Group publisher Paresh Nath.

Guha pointed out two critical challenges that the sector will be facing --- (i) of being relevant to the youth readership and keep attracting them since they are light readers and consume media horizontally. It is a huge challenge to keep the connect and create touch points with them. (ii) content leadership, which flows from the youth connect. "These challenges will lead to the fusion of information and entertainment," said Guha.

Bagga concurred with Guha saying that content leadership and the youth segment was most important. "Going forward, readers will have to pay more and therefore content has to be richer, more relevant and engaging. Differentiation is another important aspect and media owners should see to it that that differentiation creeps down to the lowest level," he said.

Ansari pointed out that reducing price of the papers was not going to lead to an increase in circulation. "There is a need to get more out of consumers and increase in price is a must. We have to stop depending on advertising for our revenues," he said.

Guha added that the print medium is an age old medium but is not a mature one. "It has never seen competition and that will be a challenge. And if FDI is permitted in a larger way, then the actual competition will take place."

Dainik Jagran's Gupta said that the challenge that any newspaper faced was to cater to a wide segment of the population covering SEC A to SEC D. "We have actually dropped our prices to increase circulation of our publication but that trend is not good for the industry. The industry needs better content and journalists," he added.

The last session of the day titled - The Content Challenge - was chaired by India Today group editorial director Prabhu Chawla. The panelists were The Tribune Group editor-in-chief H K Dua, Cyber Media Group CMD Pradeep Gupta, Mid - Day group editor-in-chief Aakar Patel, Reader's Digest editor Ashok Mahadevan and Malayala Manorama deputy editor and senior general manager Jayant Mammen Mathew and writer Shobha De.

Chawla too stressed on the point that content differentiation was key in the print medium and that would be ensured by speed in delivery, quantity of content and the credibility of the delivery system. "The challenge is to ensure generation of new content and how to report it correctly. Ultimately credibility is everything," he said.

Dua, on the other hand, started with an optimistic line saying that print media will survive despite the increase in the television and radio channels and also the emergence of the Internet as a medium of news delivery. However, he did agree on the point that the time spent on print had reduced.

"The basic problem is what kind of a bond do we have with our readers? Newspapers and magazines are not products. They are a service to the society and should do the same," Dua said. He further went on to say that today publications were not reporting on India as a whole. "A chunk of the country is not being reported on. North East India is hardly reported on and such is also the case with peripheral India and rural India. Content needs to change. It is the duty of journalists to report on this part of India, only then will there be a bond with the consumers. People report on the limited class of the shining India. They don't realise that that shining India may be due to the huge chunk of the country which is never reported on," Dua emphasised.

Mid Day's Patel stressed on the fact that there was a huge challenge for Mumbai papers since competition had increased. "The challenge is to retain our readers and advertisers. Today a paper is judged by its weight (number of pages) and not by its content. That needs to change since it can prove to be dangerous for journalists," he said.

According to Mathew, the main challenge newspapers were facing was that they were "becoming like a niche magazine with a huge number of supplements on sports, lifestyle, career etc because the editors don't know what their readers want."

He said that the way forward was going to be in utility journalism wherein the players would invest in finding out what appeals to their readers. "The future is going to be local news but there will be a few issues that need to be overcome in that area. Also you have to establish emotional connect with the readers. Multi-skilled journalists who can write for a newspaper, mobile, Internet, magazine and can also anchor on television are what is needed. "

De, on the other hand, said, "If the truth be told, every newspaper is an advertorial as everything comes with a rate card. As of now, what we are facing is survival and that is the biggest challenge. Vision and passion is what is missing today among journalists and print media owners and if that is brought on, there is still hope."


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