Regulators

TRAI releases recommendations on media ownership

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MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released the much awaited recommendations on media ownership.

Here are the highlights of the recommendation paper:



- The news and current affairs genre will be most important and relevant genre in the product market for formulating cross media ownership rules.



- The relevant geographic market should be defined in terms of the language and the state in which the language is spoken majorly.



- A combination of  reach and volume of  consumption  metrics should  be used for  computing market shares for  the  television segment. For calculating market shares, the GRP of a channel should be compared with the sum of the GRP ratings of all channels in the market and the market share of an entity would be the sum of the market shares of all channels controlled by it.



- The    Herfindahl   Hirschman   Index   (HHI)    be    adopted   to    measure concentration in  a media segment in a relevant market.



- The   cross-media  ownership  rules  be   reviewed three  years  after  the announcement of  the   rules by  the   licensor and  once every   three years thereafter. The  existing entities in  the  media sector which are  in  breach of  the  rules, should be  given  a maximum period of  one  year to  comply with  the  rules.



- Mergers and  Acquisitions (M&A) in the   media sector will  be  permitted only  to the  extent that the  rule based on  HHI is not  breached.



As far as vertical integration is concerned, the TRAI sticks to the ones given in the ‘Recommendations on Issues related to  New DTH Licenses’



The regulator states that six years have passed without any concrete action on its recommendations of 2008 and 2012. It suggests that these be looked at as well.



- The     entities   (political  bodies,   religious   bodies,   urban,    local, panchayati raj,  and other publicly funded bodies, and Central and state government ministries, departments, companies, undertakings, joint ventures and government-funded entities and affiliates to be barred from entry into broadcasting and TV channel distribution sectors.

- That in  case permission to  any such  organisations have already been granted an appropriate exit  route is to be provided;



- That the arm's length relationship between Prasar Bharati and the government  be   further  strengthened and  that  such measures should ensure  functional independence and  autonomy of  Prasar Bharati



- That  pending enactment of  any new   legislation  on   broadcasting, specified disqualifications for  the  entities in  (a) above from  entering into broadcasting and/ or TV channel distribution activities should be  implemented  through  executive decision  by  incorporating the disqualifications    into     rules,  regulations and  guidelines as necessary.



- Even  surrogates of the entities listed above should be  barred from  entry into  broadcasting and TV channel distribution sectors.

"Advertorials", or  for  that matter any  content which is paid   for,  a clear disclaimer should be mandated, to  be printed in  bold  letters, stating that the  succeeding content has been   paid   for.  Placing such a disclaimer in fine print will not suffice. Action on advertorials and other material which is paid  for may  be taken immediately.

On grounds of the inherent conflict of interest, ownership restrictions on corporates entering the media should be seriously considered by the Government and the  regulator. This may entail restricting the  amount  of equity holding/ loans by a corporate in  a media company, viz.,  to comply with  provisions relating to control.



Editorial   independence   must    be     ensured   through   a   regulatory framework.



With respect to a ‘media regulator’ it recommends the following:

- Government should not  regulate the  media

- There should be single regulatory authority for TV and print mediums

- The regulatory  body  should  consist  of   eminent  persons  from different walks of life, including the  media. It should be manned predominantly by eminent non-media persons;

- The  appointments to  the  regulatory body  should be done through a just, fair,  transparent and impartial process;

- The "media regulator" shall inter alia entertain complaints on "paid news"; "private treaties"; issues related to editorial independence; etc,  investigate the complaints and shall have the power to impose and enforce an appropriate regime of penalties.



The  Authority also recommends that a commission, perhaps headed by  a retired Supreme Court Judge,  be  set up to  comprehensively examine the various issues relating  to   the  media, including the  role   and  performance of  various existing institutions,  and  the   way   forward.  

Click here for the recommendation paper

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