New Delhi: Union Minister Manish Tewari today favoured setting up of a separate “techno-commercial” regulator for the rapidly expanding broadcasting sector, even as he maintained that government had no intention to control media content.
Addressing the first meeting of an expert committee on Prasar Bharati here, Tewari said he felt that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India which currently serves as the broadcasting regulator was not originally supposed to carry out this function.
“Government has no intention of putting a regulator in the statutory space. When I talk to my friends in the media, I tell them I spent a fair amount of time in telecom courts, I am conversant with the TRAI Act, and I find it a bit of oxymoron, though some of my colleagues don’t agree, that broadcasting was never supposed to be a part of the TRAI remit,” Tewari said.
“But be that as it may broadcasting the whole universe has grown and expanded in such an exponential manner that maybe the time has come to look on the techno-commercial side – I underscore, underline, put in inverted commas – on the techno- commercial side, the need for a separate broadcasting authority,” he added.
Tewari noted that these ideas were not policy pronouncements of government but his personal views.
Tewari said Parliamentarians in the past had made an important distinction between the freedom of press and the freedom of press ownership.
“I think that is something which also requires the consideration of such an eminent audience as we deliberate on the role of the public broadcaster,” he said addressing members of the Sam Pitroda-led expert committee on Prasar Bharati here. The I&B Minister said he would be “more than happy” if the relationship between Prasar Bharati became like what exists between the CAG and the ministry of finance.
“That there is an administrative ministry for administrative purposes, otherwise Prasar Bharati is really on its own,” he said. The minister added that two-thirds of the budget of his ministry went to Prasar Bharati yet they were supposed to have an arm’s length.
“I am not God,” he said. “If the country needs a public broadcaster, let it be answerable directly to the parliament, as it is mandated in the Prasar Bharati Act,” Tewari said.
Tewari said the government should be given the liberty to have a full spectrum communication agency which could take its point of view in the public space.
Technocrat Sam Pitroda, who also spoke on the occasion, said there social media is in its early days and it would have a greater impact in the coming years.
He advised the panel members to suggest 10-15 point programmes on the various aspects related to Prasar Bharati.
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