Dr. Subhash Chandra on News Neutrality, PM & more
At an IAA event last evening, Dr. Subhash Chandra, Chairman, ZEE Media and Essel Group reflected on a myriad of critical topics related to News Media. His address encompassed News Media Neutrality, Ownership, Digital Media Impact and FDI in News Platforms among others.
He commenced his address with one of the most important points about the neutrality of the news media. In an interaction with journalist and author, Shankkar Aiyar, Dr Chandra said, “I have always told publishers and colleagues that we are in the business of giving information, not opinion. However, everyone starts giving their interpretation of facts and as an outcome news is no more neutral today. The principle of news business is to inform not to reform. When we become arbiter of society, then it starts going wrong.”
Shankkar Aiyar also asked Dr. Chandra as to how Zee News keeps the basic norms safeguarded. Responding to it, Dr. Chandra stated, “One of the most truthful facts remains that even there is a price on social service. We are taking steps to prevent journalists from violating the citizen rights. Effective January 2016, we will be monitoring each story being taken by the journalists and will be able to control it.”
Dr Chandra opined that news neutrality of a news media platform to a large extent stems from its ownership - whether it is corporate or political. He stated that about 70% of news media organisations are owned by people who are not eligible to own it whereas the ownership in the media domain remains very opaque. He also highlighted the fact that the execution and implication of law is very weak in India.
Talking about collision ownership, he stated, “Collision ownership or collision reason for news is wrong. At least I can say that in our media we are not having it.” He added, “In keeping with today’s need, we are launching an English News Channel in which certain advertisers are partners. However, we will always look to maintain the neutrality of news.”
Dr Chandra also addressed the issue of being labelled as pro BJP. He said, “I have been part of this industry for the last 40 years and have seen many Prime Ministers. However, I do feel that current PM is the hope of the country and we need to give that man a chance by extending our support to him. He wants to make a change. Even if I say I am pro BJP there are a number of media personalities who have been pro Congress or pro BJP.”
He then touched upon Digital media and its impact on news industry. He said, “The significance of digital media would increase in the coming times. Social media or digital media has in a way given a tremendous help to the news media. As social media is limited to 140 words, we pick relevant issues from there and give adequate information on that. Some decisions on what to pick and what not to pick come from there.”
Next topic he discussed was FDI in broadcast sector, specifically increasing the FDI limit to 49 per cent for uplinking of news and current affairs on TV channels. He said, “I am not against 49% foreign ownership of news media or even 100% so to say. But as a sovereign nation I would like to voice that America should also reciprocate by giving 100% ownership in that country. As long as the response is from both sides I have no issue.”
Dr Chandra’s address was insightful and enthralled the audiences. The topics discussed were pertinent and suggestions valuable.