Smriti Irani: Need to reduce gap between regional & national news & democratize viewership

NEW DELHI: Stressing on the need for a model structure of broadcasting, which can strengthen the Indian democracy, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani yesterday exhorted the media to reduce the gap between regional and national news, thus democratizing viewership, and the need for meeting objectives of public good and entertainment.

“If we want the broadcasting landscape to be strong, the first and the foremost requirement is to give as much importance to the regional content as the national content...(and) reduce the gap between the regional news and  national content,'' Irani said yesterday while delivering the Sardar Patel Memorial Lecture 2017 themed 'Model of Broadcast: Landscape for Democracies'.


Describing the broadcast news landscape as a “spectator sport”, the minister said the rush for audience ratings has reduced everything to “headlines competing with hashtags” in the wake of social media explosion taking place in the country that has provided a new pathway for information dissemination.

Coming down heavily on a certain section of the media for being driven by TRPs, forsaking codes, ethics and conduct rules, unlike another section, Irani said, ''There is a need to democratize the (audience) measurement system in the country.''

According to the feisty minister, who also holds the portfolio for Textiles Ministry, a model structure of broadcasting should focus on “democratized viewership” based on an accurate measurement system that reflects the strength of regional languages, varied tastes of viewers/consumers and bridges the divide on issues related to agenda setting, creative content and revenue between the mainstream and regional platforms.

Stressing the importance of the sector keeping abreast with trends in the social media, which she described as a “disruptive” force, Irani said though the broadcasting sector is based on business propositions and technological upgradation, the ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi aired on AIR was an ideal example of how a technology platform blended his message with citizen understanding and awareness of the issues highlighted in each episode.

Highlighting the difference in the way pubcasters --- Doordarshan and All India Radio --- functioned vis-a-vis a large section of the private sector media, Irani added: ''If you look at the broadcasting sector, the overriding focus of the public broadcaster has been on serving the public good. In today's times, however, when news has become a spectator sport, there is a need to bridge the gap between serving the public good and providing entertainment.''

The annual lecture held at the National Media Centre in the Capital, started by All India Radio way back in the 1950s, was attended by Minister of State for MIB Rajyavardhan Rathore, pubcaster Prasar Bharati chairman A. Surya Prakash and Prasar Bharati CEO Shashi S. Vempati, apart from other senior government officials.

Even as Irani lauded the public broadcaster's endeavour to focus on public good, she said it was the “duty of the public broadcaster to speak fairly and freely, as it is doing now". She also called upon the pubcaster to weave stories on the lives of ordinary people, which could have an impact both within India and abroad.

The minister said it would be the endeavour of MIB to promote the concept of “design thinkers” for content generation in the digital space in the light of growing use of technology by the young generation in areas of internet, mobile content and animation & gaming. This would also incorporate the elements of the New India vision envisaged by the Prime Minister by 2022.

Highlighting the fulcrum strength of her ministry, Irani said that the Information Service officers’ profile would be strengthened in the future by giving them skill sets along with an integrated administrative exposure so as to enable them to serve policy and programmes of the people through the medium of information. This would be along the lines of Sardar Patel’s vision of creating a steel frame to serve the people through the channel of information dissemination, she added.

The first Patel memorial lecture was delivered by C. Rajagopalachari, while the other distinguished speakers in the series have included stalwarts like Dr. Zakir Hussain, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and Morarji Desai.

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