On media, the Vice-President speaks up | HT Editorial
Delivering a lecture on Friday, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu became the senior-most constitutional functionary to raise an issue that lies at the heart of India’s information flows, media ecosystem, and, therefore, democratic functioning. He said that the print media is adapting to the digital medium with sincerity, but added that information generated by the print media at substantial cost was being “hijacked by social media giants”. Mr Naidu then referred to how some countries were taking steps to ensure a revenue-sharing model between print media and social media companies, and called for “effective guidelines or laws” to enable print media to get its share of the revenue. He also mentioned how democratisation enabled by social media was welcome, but there were clear downsides in the absence of regulation and protocols.
It is heartening that India’s top national leadership is finally paying attention to an issue that has implications for how news is produced, how it is consumed, how narratives are formed, who become the primary players in the information theatre, and how this, then, enables citizens to access information and exercise their choice. The issue here is not about profit or loss. It is about a principle — can a few digital monopolies hide behind the pretence of being intermediaries while exercising editorial control and extract profits from work done by others? Mr Naidu has triggered an important debate and a bipartisan consensus is essential to rein in social media companies, and treat them as just that, media companies which must follow the law both in their content and their business models.