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Strict ownership entry checks needed for TV news media: Subhash Chandra

MUMBAI: Disturbed by the dubious intentions of several news channel owners, media mogul Subhash Chandra has called for stricter and transparent regulatory norms of ownership structure to create entry checks.

According to Chandra, the granting of news channel licences should be governed by strict eligibility criteria that check the source of funds, much the way the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) does in case of financial institutions.

Dr.-Subhash-Chandra,-Chairman“The need of the hour is to have a media council with robust media ethics and code of conduct, similar to the due diligence provided in the banking sector by the RBI,” he said.

The RBI applies ‘fit and proper’ criteria before issuing permission to entities entering the financial services sector. The RBI criteria probe the whole corporate entity and search for the sources of funds as well as the relationship of the promoters in a vertical and horizontal manner as these services impact the common man.

Chandra wants the government to introduce such a screening process before issuing licences to news channels.

“I have written to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) and am yet to get a reply. Other publishers are joining in and we hope to get united in this exercise. It is critical that the industry players come together to raise a joint voice on these crucial issues,” he said.

Citing the entry of real estate builders and even history-sheeters into the TV news media business, Chandra said that he would not be surprised if some of these news channels are owned by underworld elements.

Amid the growing load of news channels and security licence issues, there is a dire need to screen out illegal players through a defined framework of rules under the media regulator. “Sun TV Network’s security clearance issue only reaffirms the fact that law is not transparent and clear,” said Chandra, who owns and operates a wide spectrum of news and entertainment channels.

There are too many news channels in India. “I am reminded of 2004 when I mentioned to Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi and Dr Manmohan Singh (then Prime Minister) that licences (news channels) should be issued after proper checks. But no one was listening to me,” Chandra said.

Some of the media owners are using news business as a shield for illegal activities. “The media houses were started by our freedom fighters, like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, to inform and empower the people. However, today, a few entities have started news media businesses as a shield for their illegal activities,” Chandra said.

He emphasized that the government should go to the ultimate source of funding before issuing media licences. “India has got 368 news channels. No other country has so many TV news stations. It is important to trace the source of funding and have strict entry checks,” said Chandra.

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