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Innovations on the anvil in media policy

Source: The Hindu, 31 July, 2012

The government could soon produce a common audience measurement system for all media, create a public service broadcasting fund and a media education council, and reboot media licensing reforms, if it accepts the recommendations recently made by an innovation council.

As part of the Sam Pitroda-led National Innovation Council initiative, sectoral councils were set up to brainstorm fresh ideas and inject them into mainstream policy initiatives. Not all the recommendations made by the Information and Broadcasting Sectoral Innovation Council, headed by the former Secretary of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I∧B) Asha Swarup, are out-of-the-box measures. But they could provide momentum to government policy in this quickly-changing sector.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni has promised that the council’s report would act as a road map for the future.

To start with, the council suggests a comprehensive media policy to integrate all segments. Keeping with this theme of convergent policy for a diverse media landscape, it recommends that “reliable single source data on all mediums of advertising should be made available by the government so that advertisers are able to take decisions on key data.”

Currently, advertisers look to varied sources for reliable data on different media: the National Readership Survey for newspapers, the TAM Media Research peoplemeters for satellite channels and FM radio, and still evolving audience measurement and behaviour systems for the fast-growing online media.

The council now seems to be suggesting that the government create a system to collate such data and make it available to advertisers. It also emphasises the importance of developing an alternative to the TAM system. The council spells out the need for national policies on film, animation, gaming and VFX as well.

Public sector broadcasting fund

The council makes a serious bid to create a sustainable source of funding for public sector broadcasting, suggesting that once Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) complete the digitalisation process, the airwaves thus released could earn money for an exclusive fund. This would be on the same lines as the universal service obligation fund of the telecom sector, it says.

The council also suggests that community radio stations could provide local, grassroots content for AIR. In return, AIR could provide the much-needed capacity building and training in both content creation and station management to community radio workers.

In order to bring novel content to radio, the council says the government must come up with a separate licensing model for niche channels. In fact, the government needs to relook at all existing licensing procedures and requirements “to ensure further liberalisation and reforms” in the broadcasting sector.

The council also seeks the regulation of the rapidly expanding realm of media education. “Like medical education and technical education, media education [should] be regulated by a new organisation known as Media Education Council.” Media courses need a standardised curriculum and a national accreditation system, it suggests.

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