Questioning the insistence of the Indian media on self regulation, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chief said there were serious issues of monopoly involved in media ownership, what constituted limits of market dominance and how mergers and acquisitions impacted the free market of ideas.
“If one newspaper controls all contents of opinion through cross-media ownership, if one TV group owns both channels and cable distribution, it could pose grave danger. No democracy can survive if you do not have plurality and diversity of opinion,” Rahul Khullar said at an ASSOCHAM event on Friday in his first public speech in his new assignment.
Underlining that monopoly in media was “completely different” in its impact from monopoly in products and services, the TRAI chairman said in the former the attempt was to influence opinion and ideas while in the latter it was only in getting market leadership.
What media put out was not the same as ice-cream, shoes or bed linen in their impact. “Media products are competing to influence you. So both horizontal and vertical integration in media have a different context,” he said.
“Should a broadcaster here swallow the distributor?” Khullar said. “Surely it needed to be regulated” as self-regulation in such a context was not the right way “when such monopoly affected the plurality of sources of information and ideas that constituted the bedrock of democracy”.
Cross-media ownership and control needed to be regulated for the survival of democracy, he said.