Digital platforms must be held accountable like other media cos: Vineet Jain

MUMBAI: Times Group MD Vineet Jain has said that the digital platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp should be held accountable for the content they carry on their platforms just as the traditional media companies.

“India must take a more pro-active stance by holding digital platforms accountable for the content they propagate, just as any other media company is held accountable for what it publishes or broadcasts. This is not a simple issue, but it is a vital one to protect the world’s largest democracy,” Jain said in a speech at the 15th Asia Media summit.

He further stated that digital media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube have become hotbeds for misinformation, propaganda, and the spread of fake news. These platforms, he added, have realised that unverified content can attract attention and revenues.

Jain also said that the credibility of print media is being valued as line between real and fake news is being blurred especially on social media. He also noted that the business model of newspapers is under threat with rising newsprint prices and cut-throat digital advertising.

“As business leaders, we must innovate to maintain relevance, and the government must work with the industry to ensure that we maintain a strong and healthy press, which is vital for a thriving democracy,” he stated.

He also said that India’s digital economy has become an extension of US and Chinese companies rather than a strong standalone ecosystem. “These companies now dominate digital businesses in India. They can leverage larger balance sheets and resources from their home markets. Unlike traditional industries, for these companies, expanding into India is as simple as flipping a switch, requiring little investment in India to succeed,” he stated.

Jain also said that China’s digital economy is one of its major strategic advantages today as China has supported local digital businesses, which now contribute more than 20% of the country’s GDP growth.

He also said that the Indian media industry can realise its full potential if the regulatory reforms are carried out across the board to make it easier to do business.

Jain also noted that the rise of e-commerce companies, telecom operators and social networks has major ramifications for the media industry.

“Consolidation in the telecom industry has left just three serious players standing. With mobile becoming virtually the only screen, telcos will control what you watch, read, consume and transact – leading to a near-monopoly situation. The government must discourage further mergers & acquisitions in telecom because that would drastically limit consumer choice. For the same reason, it should bring laws against telcos owning and favouring its content over others – just as TV channels are not allowed to own majority stakes in cable networks. India needs a healthy, diverse and competitive media ecosystem,” he said.

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