Media self-regulation has not succeeded: Ansari

November 16th, 2011 - 10:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Nov 16 (IANS) Vice President of India M. Hamid Ansari Wednesday observed that self-regulation in media has not succeeded “due to personal predilection and prevailing of personal interest over public interest”.

“Collective self-regulation in media is yet to succeed in substantive measure because it is neither universal nor enforceable,” said Ansari.

“Individual self-regulation has also failed due to personal predilection and the prevailing of personal interest over public interest.”

“Who will step in to address the gap when the government, the polity, the market and the industry are unable to provide for full-spectrum systemic regulation that protects consumer welfare and citizen interest.”

Ansari was delivering the inaugural address at the “National Press Day Celebration” organized by the Press Council of India, headed by Justice Markandeya Katju here.

Justice Katju’s recent remarks on the role of media has raised a debate over self-regulation within the media, especially in relation to the electronic media.

Stating media represents a sector of the economy, Ansari said it has witnessed extremely buoyant growth over the last two decades in an environment characterised by minimal or no regulation.

He said in the absence of any other government regulator, the focus has shifted to self-regulation by the media organisations, individually or collectively.

The vice president said the convergence between news media, entertainment and telecom has meant that the demarcation between journalism, public relations, advertising and entertainment has been eroded.

He said: “Our democracy is poorer without active media watch groups engaged in objective analyses of the media, discerning prejudices and latent biases, and subjecting the media to a dose of their own medicine”. And added: “For an industry that has over fifty thousand newspapers and hundreds of television channels, systemic media criticism is non-existent in India. This should be remedied.”

He remarked that controversy over ‘paid news’ has been debated extensively in the Press Council and other fora, including Parliament.

Ansari opined that media outlets assume importance not only for marketing and advertisement but also for the ’soft power’ aspects of businesses, organisations and even nations.

“It is a harsh reality that media entrepreneurship is now a necessary condition for a business enterprise, a political party and even individuals seeking to leverage public influence for private gain,” said Ansari.

Ansari raised a point stating “if the constitutional safeguards on freedom of speech be used to evade regulation of the commercial persona of media corporates and groups.”

“Where does public interest end and private interest begin,” said Ansari.

He expressed hope the debate on media role would focus on the erosion of the institution of the editor in media organisations.

“When media space is treated as real estate or as airline seats for purpose of revenue maximisation, and when media products are sold as jeans or soaps for marketing purposes, editors end up giving way to marketing departments,” said Ansari.

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