Rationalising Architectural Censorship: Examining TRAI’s Recommendations on Cross Ownership of Media
Shashank Singh & Aishwarya Gupta
Volume 7 Issue 2 (2014)
When analysed from an economic perspective, ownership concentration in the media market is a natural phenomenon. Such concentration, when aided by convergence in technology and the digitisation of the media, has had a negative effect on the plurality of opinion available in the marketplace of ideas. This problem has been compounded by decreasing editorial independence, issues of paid news, emergence of private treaties and advertorials. The recent Recommendations on ‘Cross Ownership of Media ‘by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India have tried to tackle the problem of media concentration by placing structural restrictions on ownership. These recommendations have, inter alia, sought to establish an independent ‘media regulator’ which would have jurisdiction over both print and television segments of the media. However, these recommendations have faced opposition from various stakeholders on the ground that they violate their freedom of speech and expression and right to work. They also reason that the concentrative effect of the media is nullified by the growing popularity of the Internet. In this article, we debunk these oppositions to argue that a free market approach to the media market would lend disproportionate power to media houses and would be detrimental to the democratic setup of the country. Thereafter, while specifically scrutinising the recommendations, we provide a limited critique and alternatives to two recommendations-the organisational structure of the media regulator and the use of the HHI for measuring concentration.