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TRAI flags lack of data on media consolidation
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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairperson P.D. Vaghela flagged lack of data on media ownership and consolidation, bemoaning the industry’s reluctance to provide such information
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) chairperson P.D. Vaghela flagged lack of data on media ownership and consolidation, bemoaning the industry’s reluctance to provide such information. “When we ask for data, people go to the court,” Dr. Vaghela said during a TRAI open house discussion held online last week on the subject of issues relating to media ownership.

“I am very sorry to state that the cooperation in sharing the data was not there,” Dr. Vaghela said, following remarks by Vibodh Parthasarathi, a Jamia Millia Islamia professor who recommended that the government should base any regulatory decisions on the media space on a “universe of datasets”. 

The industry broadly argued against government regulation of vertical and horizontal integration in the media industry during the discussion. One media executive noted that the bouquet system of bundling TV channels together when selling to customers, which was highlighted by TRAI in its consultation paper, had helped grow the number of TV channels in the country to 900.

Tejasi Panjiar, an associate counsel at the Internet Freedom Foundation advocacy group, warned that while media ownership was an issue worth examining, regulating it was not a surefire way to guarantee diversity of viewpoints. 

“We agree that there needs to be representative diversity and viewpoint plurality across all sections of media; however, we believe that regulation of cross-media ownership will not necessarily lead to media pluralism,” Ms. Panjiar said, adding that freedom of expression should be protected while regulating media ownership.