Media is not philanthropy and as long as it remains dependent on advertisements it can never be free, says former I&B Minister.
By B N KUMAR
MUMBAI, Sep 18 (BNC Network): Comparing certain news channels to pet playing poodle, former I&B Minister Manish Tewari today criticized the government for “headline management” at the cost of the national interest.
Media is not philanthropy and as long as it remains dependent on advertisements it can never be free, Tewari said participating in social media programme - a "Visionary Talk” with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now.
When pointed out that the news channels enjoy high TRPs and that the people want such broadcasts, the former Minister ridiculed the ratings. TRP is fake currency. The rating companies have to be regulated. In a country of 1.4 billion people just about 35,000 rating metres are installed in cable homes to measure.
Out of the 95 million cable households, 93% do not watch the news channels, he said. He described the competition among 391 news channels as ‘dog-eat-dog’.
Tewari said the government does not have a proper definition of the news. What is not entertainment is categorized as the news, he said and called for cleaning up the TRP paradigm.
He recalled that late R K Misra, editor of Patriot, had once described freedom of the Press as a myth.
The MP suggested a subscription based model for the media to be able to work free of controls of the prevailing “huge corporate interest” that rules most of the media.
He said he tried to introduce policy against paid news. But the push-back from the big interest was so enormous that the proposal was stalled.
He came down heavily on the government’s “headline management” resulting in neglect of issues such the “very serious” border tension with China. The unfortunate death of an actor is dominating the headlines rather than the much more serious issues, he said.
He criticized the Modi government for not allowing discussion on the border tensions which he said are very serious.
Asked by the anchor if the debate and criticism of the government would not weaken the morale of the armed forces, Tewari said it is an “authoritarian canard institutionalized by the NDA Government”.
The Congress leader narrated an anecdote: 36-year-old Atal Behari Vajpayee requested 72-year-old Jawaharlal Nehru for a debate during the 1962 aggression and the then government had eight-day long debate in both the Houses of Parliament from November 8, 1962. As many as 165 members participated in the debate and that did not weaken the morale of the armed forces, he said.
Tewari said conflict now is not in the interest of either India or China and hopes that the initiative taken by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will lead to de-escalation of tension at LAC.