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Cross-Media Ownership Being Debated, Says Javadekar At Goafest

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The three key priorities for the I&B ministry in the first 100 days of the new government will be to create digital media hubs in all the government departments, to solve pending issues such as cross media holdings, television ratings, and to try and make Doordarshan the first choice of people in India, said new I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar in his public engagement after  assuming office, at Goafest2014.

Talking to advertising and communication professionals gathered here at Goa, Javadekar took head on questions about Reliance’s investment in Network 18 and the fear of big business’ increasing control over media in India.

“We are debating cross media ownership  – what are the problems that can crop up when an owner has a newspaper, a TV, a steel factory, and other businesses,” said Javadekar. One possible solution he hinted could be upfront disclaimers about these interests.  “This could become a game of monopoly,” he admitted, saying the government was debating it now.
 
However, on the topic of the Reliance takeover of Network 18, he  ruled out any immediate interference. “It’s a market function – and comes within the deal frameworks . They are not taking over Doordarshan,” he countered, though he said the deal could be examined within the ambit of the cross media ownership debate.

The board of Reliance on 29 May had approved funding of up to Rs 4,000 crore to Independent Media Trust (IMT), of which RIL is the sole beneficiary, for acquisition of control in Network 18 Media & Investments Ltd (NW18), including its subsidiary TV18 Broadcast Ltd (TV18).  The funding includes open offers to be made consequent to the acquisition. "IMT would use the funds to acquire control over NW18 and TV18 resulting in ownership of about 78 per cent in NW18 and 9 per cent in TV18 and to acquire shares tendered in the open offers," it added.

NW18 is the owner of a suite of premier digital internet properties, e-commerce businesses and differentiated broadcast content.This suite includes In.com, IBNLive.com, Moneycontrol.com, Firstpost.com, Cricketnext.in, Homeshop18.com, Bookmyshow.com; the broadcast channels include Colors, CNNIBN, CNBC TV18, IBN7, CNBC Awaaz.

In a stirring keynote address, Javadekar promised to withhold the freedom of expression within the country. The right to criticism is your right, he said.

Javadekar said that the newly elected BJP government is listening in on social media to all suggestions and reflecting on it. “That’s the way of reassessing ourselves every single day. We are crowdsourcing ideas and suggestions,”: he said.

The thrust for the new government is economical revival he reasserted, and the only way to do so is by hard work. “Yesterday I sat in my office from 9 am to 9 pm listening to at least 120 representatives on various issues,” he said.

Among the issues that have come up for the I&B ministry to tackle urgently, he shared are television ratings, the 3rd phase of digitization, 100 per cent FDI in news business. But only after deliberations on these will the government act. AS yet don’t expect me to announce any decisions, he said.
                                             
The minister said that he had met with the Prasad Bharati chairman to discuss the revival of Doordarshan and AIR. “Logon ki pahli pasan honi chahiye DD,” he said, and he was taking it up as his priority task to re-energise both All India Radio and DD. “Transistors ka battery khatam ho gaya to usko badalna padega. We need to give Air to AIR,” he concluded.