Indian Media Ownership: Cock and Bull Stories.

Recently a friend forwarded a message, I have no way to know unless I ask him –if he endorsed it-, that talked of ownership of Indian Media; or more precisely how owners of Indian Media- both print and broadcast- are in bed with Congress Party/ Politicians. It alleged Shobhna Bhartia, proprietress of Hindustan Times group, is a Congress MP from Rajya Sabha. She was nominated MP between 2006-2012, thus she could not be called technically at least a Congress MP, but is no longer so. NDTV’s promoters Radhika Roy and Pranoy Roy were trashed because CPM general secretary Prakash Karat’s (PK) wife, Brinda Karat (BK-“well known for Anti-Baba Ramdev views”), is the sister of the former, while latter’s cousin is Arundhati Roy (AR). AR is labeled as “famous forfar-leftist Maoist Naxalite Public intellectual” and PK is “well-known to prefer Congress”. PK in fact withdrew CPM’s support to UPA-I over Man Mohan Singh’s Indo-US nuclear deal, and forced the government to have a trust of confidence vote. BJP voted against the trust motion along with CPM. Maoist/ Naxalite don’t see eye to eye with CPM. Therefore, what kind of madness is this laborious illogic used here to prove NDTV is in bed with Congress?This message is not a wholesome criticism of mainstream media of which there is lot to find fault with; but is a stealth attack to discredit media as Congress stooge. Idea is to discredit the messenger if he carries an anti-BJP or Pro-Congress message. Didn’t we tell you, then one can cry wolf, that Media is in bed with Congress? Quite obviously such messages have the genetic fingerprint of RSS/ BJP and their numerous offshoots written all over it.
This message was not lone, but one among many. There is another that purports to show that entire mainstream media has been silently taken over by foreign Christian outfits. It seeks to buttress another propaganda plank of the Hindutva Outfits: “Hindus under threat due to the sword of Conversion”. The claims made in this message are so outlandish that some of them need to be produced at some length.

The whole piece is so scurrilous that it hardly deserves a second look. But unfortunately it requires rebuttal because there are many people, who unwittingly fall prey to such cheap propaganda driven by Congress corruption and misrule; or by misplaced fear of threat to their Hindu religion and culture (latter again fed on some other false propaganda by same actors). Now why are claims made above laughable? What is the truth? The ownership of Indian Media is governed by Indian Laws. The field of foreign investment in Print and Broadcast media (see last paragraph in the link) was opened up by NDA government under the stewardship of A B Vajpayee. But even Vajpayee government pegged the FDI at a maximum of 26% of foreign ownership.

1.   Even to this day, despite UPA-II government’s valiant efforts to raise the cap to 49%, it still remains at 26%. ^^30 June 2013. Centre steps up efforts to increase FDI in media: In line with the recommendations made by an official panel recently, the government has stepped up consultations on whether to increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) caps in media… In regard to the media, it suggested increasing the limit to 49 per cent in the radio, print and broadcasting segments under the automatic route, without going through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB)^^.
2.   The print media body gave its approval. ^^01 August 2013. INS okays 49 per cent FDI in print media: The executive committee of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has passed a proposal to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) in print media from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.  There was near unanimity at a meeting of the committee on Monday on the proposal with only Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi striking dissenting notes^^.
3.   The broadcast media was not unhappy either with raising the cap. ^^Shailesh Shah, secretary general of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF), an umbrella body of broadcasters, attended the meeting, and said: “The IBF is overall fine with the government’s proposal of bringing up the FDI limit to 49 per cent through the automatic route”^^.
4.   The nodal agency, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, queried even regulatory bodies like Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for its opinion though latter looks far removed from media business, because evolution of technologies has led to convergence of many fields onto a common platform blurring the traditional distinctions and neat boundaries. ^^TRAI recommends 49% FDI in news channels, FM radio: The regulator has recommended increasing FDI limit for up linking of news and current affairs TV channels and FM radio services to 49 per cent.  It has also been recommended that the FIPB approval process be streamlined and made time-bound^^.
5.   In view of such overwhelming “consensus” the only spoilsport seems to be the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which is concerned over national security issues and how these will be impacted by FDI liberalization. ^^Home Ministry against liberalising FDI in print and electronic media: Government has not liberalised FDI regime in print and electronic media in view of concerns expressed by the Home Ministry, Parliament was informed today. “The Ministry of Home Affairs did not agree to liberalising the FDI caps and/or entry routes in print and electronic media on account of it being a sensitive sector^^.
A little clarification is in order over the last two points above. The 26% cap on FDI (for other caps, existing limits and recommendations, click this link) applied by the Vajpayee led NDA (BJP) government was for print and broadcast media that operated in the spheres of News and Current Affairs, and not as regards to movies, entertainment or sports. It is the field of news and current affairs, where lot of mischief and huge trouble can be created by vested and inimical interests- both native and foreign. It is precisely this segment that was the target of both the above messages as we saw in some detail. It is impossible that the contents of those messages are correct at least wherever the ownership is alleged to be beyond 26% as of now. Therefore, all such messages are careful plants to confuse through crafty canards.
!!Caveat Consumptores Locus!!
Like the famous dictum of ‘Caveat Emptor’, this one says, Consumers of news, beware. Readers, whose appetites are vetted, may read the following links to know more about ownership of Indian Media.

Who Owns Your Media?

One thing has emerged through all my trawling of internet forums and social media. That the pro BJP/VHP/RSS organizations and elements seem to have a dominating upper hand in cyber space (in generating “effective” propaganda messages) over the Congress and its offshoots. Any guesses, why is it so?
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3 Responses to “Indian Media Ownership: Cock and Bull Stories.”

  1. Faraz Ahmad Says:

    This is how the Sanghis spread lies, no mention of Mukeshbhai Ambani or Aditya Birla, just to name two. This illiterate gentleman would be well advised to go through form IV of every journal and publication published once a year, where they have to declare their ownership. No mention also of his friend S Gurumurthy controlling the Southern Indian Express. But I can tell you such people will not just not tell the truth, they will not even accept the truth Faraz

  2. Sadanand Patwardhan Says:

    Hey Faraz,Nor is Rajat Sharma of India TV mentioned (see Modinama by Madhu Kishwar). What is appalling is that several otherwise well meaning persons (but who don’t look beyond their noses) accept it with naive credulity? Would they carry their acceptance to the ballot boxes? Probably, they would. Unluckily, such harm is now reaching even town and mofussil folks with SMS, ‘Whatsapp’ and ubiquitous cell phones. Anyone with an agenda can cause mischief, not just “Sanghis”.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    You should also read another website called mediacrooks.com.

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