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Need to regulate cross-media ownership: TRAI chairman
Newly appointed chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Rahul Khullar has stressed on the need to regulate cross-media ownership and control for the survival of democracy and plurality of views in the Indian context.

WHILE SEEKING views, opinions and suggestions of the industry at a roundtable conference on ‘Cross Media Ownership’, organised by the industry body The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), TRAI chairman said that the regulator will soon come out with a consultation paper on the issue of cross media ownership.

Questioning the media insistence on only self-regulation, Rahul Khullar said there were serious issues of monopoly both horizontal and vertical in ownership, what constituted limits of market dominance and how mergers and acquisitions impacted the free market.

“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,” said Rahul Khullar as per the statement issued by the Assocham.

Khullar said the very reasons that denied banking license for industrial establishments also worked in the case of cross-media ownership. Freedom to form one’s own opinion is denied is such monopoly, he pointed out quoting from the serious threat  UK Parliament saw in the monopoly ownership of media in UK by newspaper baron Rupert Murdoch of the News of the World.

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 cautioned.

Talking about the global scenario the chairman said there are three areas in which most international experiences can be clubbed where regulations are being imposed – entry, M&As and growth in size. “We are also viewing the international experience, where there are certain embargoes vis-à-vis cross media ownership - restrictions if you are a foreigner, restrictions on ownership across platforms and restrictions imposed on ownership arising from mergers and acquisitions,” said Khullar.

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