“We should become more inclusive in the field of knowledge”: Mrinal Pande – India Education | Latest Education News | World Education News

Bengaluru: “Those who are primarily responsible for shaping and reshaping Indian media policies – the policy makers at the top of the bodies – have rarely experienced the lived reality of the media on the ground. Perhaps even more so in the case of those who implement the policies. A misconception of freedom of expression, and at ground level irresponsible oppression and censorship are the cause, despite policies to the contrary,” said Mrinal Pande, a well-known journalist, author and television personality, during his talk on ‘Unseen Bipolarity at the Heart of Our Media Policies’, at the 4th Foundation Day Conference of the Center for Public Policy (CPP) at IIM Bangalore on 10th July (Sunday), 2022. The event took place online. His speech covered a wide range of issues, including private media versus public media, thought leadership versus fear, traditional media versus new media, politics and law, gender issues, and more. .

Mrinal Pande’s lecture consisted of two parts: She talked about the glut of politics in India, which mostly stays on paper and creates grunts later. This, she explained, leads to a lack of genuine autonomy for councils, as in the case of Prasar Bharati (PB). She observed that there have been huge governance problems since the establishment of Prasar Bharati in 1997, which according to reports still need to be fixed. It should be noted that Mrinal Pande was chairman of Prasar Bharati, the Indian public broadcaster which runs Doordarshan (DD) and All India Radio (AIR).

Ms. Pande began her presentation by sharing her experience with the Indian public sector media. She said her tenure at India’s public broadcaster PB spanned two time segments – first at the dawn of the old and new centuries when she worked as a senior editorial adviser to Hindi news on DD, then a decade later when she was named president. of PB between 2010 and 2014. “The Indian public broadcasting sector controls both Doordarshan and All India Radio. In 1982, the PC Joshi committee report reiterated that an apex corporation should be formed, professionally run to oversee the Indian media. The policy was intended to divert power from the Department of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) to a council. The PB Act received presidential approval in 1990 and became law in 1997, with the aim of giving autonomy to broadcasting in India. It was intended that broadcasting would be interpreted as a public service, and that it would gather and disseminate information, not as propaganda for the government to be consumed by the public.

“However, PB remained a self-governing statutory body instead of becoming a company under the Companies Act. It was supposed to generate revenue for itself through commercial advertising and sponsorship. In 2002, due to the lack of a full-time chairperson, the powers of the Council were taken over by the ministry and have not yet been re-delegated. This has been the source of several clashes and disputes, which have strengthened the case for ministry intervention, while well-meaning policies have failed. There have been various disparities between the ministry and the board regarding manpower, poor HR structure, recruitment, scarcity of running costs – all of which have stood in the way of core PB ideals such as set out in the original law. PB as a supposedly autonomous body, thus reflects the acute bipolarity in the souls of our media policy makers”.

She added: “Over the years, in the name of restructuring, there has been a plethora of data and countless contributions from top academics, but no vital input has been obtained from the PB board and of its officials. An almost total lack of understanding of the increasing volatility of the 24×7 news flow and ever-changing new technologies has deeply affected the PB which is often trapped in differences of opinion between the Board and the Ministry. Tensions between the various departments that PB has to report to for special events have often made PB appear to be an unhappy body. A board should not only be described as autonomous, but also ensure clear functional autonomy.

“Since its inception, the level of reliance on ministry approval has resulted in excessive delays that are avoidable in the information sector. Moreover, broadcasters are saddled with a lot of paperwork and almost obsolete equipment compared to private media,” she lamented.

There is still promise, she stressed. “DD and AIR still have the potential to become public service broadcasting assets. In the 1980s and 1990s, they came up with brilliant talk shows, music shows, soap operas, all of which were watched nationwide.”

She also spoke at length about her four decades of experience with India’s private print media which produced a lot and skilfully transitioned from print to digital, from analogue to digital, but of which there remains today only very few policy guidelines. This, she said, was partly due to its big media family-centric structure, and mainly due to its rapid transformation into corporations and revenue needs. “They all often push the private media into the position of a supplicant before various vested interest groups.”

“Digital India is now a very important market globally. However, the new media ecology faces various challenges with constantly evolving new technologies, new devices, emergence of new platforms, etc. Yet all of this must co-exist with the socio-political structure of an ancient hierarchical society and bureaucracy. There are also issues with various state institutions and their relationship with India’s legacy media, controlled, promoted and funded by a few cash-rich families, political parties and big corporations. This often makes much of the media a vehicle for shaping its news in less objective ways and promoting specific interests. While multiple business and political interests are nurtured by various large media empires, most media outlets have biased policies against women, Dalits and vernaculars”.

She also highlighted the element of intermediary liability, a legal concept that governs the liability of all online platforms for user-generated content. “There is the phenomenon of paid news, the threat posed by fake news and videos, pervasive campaigns via social media apps, etc. As digital news consumption surged, print’s share of total media revenue began to decline, giving online media an uptick. . Their credibility and trust become big issues.”

In this context, she referred to a recent issue by a Silicon Valley giant who challenged them for a sharp increase in withdrawal orders from the Center. “The draft report released by the government last year flagged issues of abuse of freedom of expression by individuals and interest groups that affect the future of all digital media in India.”

Listing the new challenges, she continued, “The media and government are both realizing that the web is a very complex series of paths for raw data. Business models are advertising driven. Also, the biggest driver of a news story is gossip. But removing massive amounts of content requires specialized handling and sufficient time given to the middleman to verify the claims made. This gives the question of the liability of intermediaries a different color and importance. Globally, a huge fragmentation of media is occurring, challenging information as we know it. As the big newspapers cannibalize the smaller ones and the big media giants buy up smaller platforms, the traditional media model becomes more complex and more money-driven. This often hides the fact that there are invisible fault lines in the media landscape in India which, coupled with the somewhat colonial mentality of our bureaucracy, often create instability in our media scene. While the state seems happy to take on the media when it questions policies and begins to see dissidents and whistleblowers as a threat, the media is taking a beating from inside and out. outside.

“The proposed regulations for on-court intermediaries may mean a ban on entry for small players, create multiple unworkable demands to remove huge amounts of material deemed objectionable, and a fear of legal retaliation hovers above, as well “The challenges seem insurmountable. One of the main reasons for this fear and mistrust is that the government has yet to put in place enforceable SOPs for media and law enforcement agencies,” he said. she pointed out.

She recommended that first and foremost we need to protect the integrity of our platforms and the news industry. “Social media certainly needs to be brought under control with new policies, but given the nature of the beast, there can be no quick fix and it won’t be easy. Information must be collected, organized and verified before it is uploaded and consumed by the general public. Accountability is therefore essential. But let’s recognize that social media today is a social and political institution, which has significant legal rights issues. We need to recognize this and a few others, including the relative freedom of speech and expression for vernacular media and outside groups, biased gender issues, etc.

“Media policies cannot and should not be designed or used to settle political scores. When formulating policies, India must be democratic and inclusive, especially in the area of ​​knowledge. At this point, besides the media giants, it is also up to the legal community and the executive to do some soul-searching and protect the invaluable freedom of expression. Strong arm tactics cannot work here. The problems must be seen not only as legal or political, but as socio-political human rights problems. »

“Will we ever see a digital Geneva Convention for global media, I wonder,” she observed as she said she wanted to see healthier media in our country.

Earlier in the evening, Professor MS Sriram, President and Professor of the Center for Public Policy, in his welcome address introduced the speaker and set the context for the conference. He also moderated the Q&A session, which followed Mrinal Pande’s presentation.

The final CPP Foundation Day lectures were given by Steven Wilkinson, Nilekani Professor of Indian and South Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Yale University; Tridip Suhrud, Writer, Translator and Famous Gandhian Scholar, and KK Shailaja, Former Minister of Health, Social Justice and Women and Child Development, Government of Kerala.

Donald E. Patel