Lack of ‘adequate financial model’ challenge for many media houses: Jaitley
New Delhi: Absence of an “adequate financial model” is a real challenge faced by many media organisations, Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley today said, adding that this situation not only affects news content but may even lead to ills like paid news.
“What is the financial model behind the digital medium, it’s still struggling for it… The aberration in the electronic media is that the cost of distribution is more than the cost of content,” Jaitley said.
Speaking further, he said that with cost of distribution being so high, there is an obvious compromise on the cost of content as the quantum of advertising available is almost stagnant or maybe growing marginally.
He said that in this situation, news organisations may begin competing for eyeballs, resulting in hype and “shrillness”. In a shrill debate, he added, the other side of the picture is not known.
He further said that while a large number of organisations will maintain priorities, some others may compromise and that is how the problem of paid news may arise, which particularly during elections seems highly prevalent.
“Is there a way we can check it or the Broadcasting (Content) Complaints Council can check it? I have very serious doubts,” Jaitley said.
He said that a decade-and-a-half ago, Supreme Court in a judgement decided that commercial speech is also free speech.
“So those who market paid news might find this interpretation of the Supreme Court coming to their aid if the Broadcasting Complaints Council were to proceed against paid news because that is commercial speech,” he said, adding that the particular judgement was in the context of advertising.
The minister averred that the viewer or reader can dissect various versions of news and see which is the closest to reality and here was an opportunity for conventionalists to hit back.
The I&B minister was speaking at a seminar organised by the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) on the ‘Establishment of a Communication University’, where BCCC chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and I&B secretary Bimal Julka were also present.