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Vice President Hamid Ansari stresses need to regulate media, expresses concern over ‘paid news’ phenomena

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By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: Vice President of India Mr. Mohammed Hamid Ansari has stressed the urgent need to regulate media while expressing deep concern and anguish over "paid news" phenomena which has raised its ugly head.

Any discussion on the issue of regulation of media should not avoid "paid news" issue. The failure of the media industry and the Press Council of India in bringing out report on the issue of "paid news" indicated that when it came to self-criticism the entire industry becomes silent and inert. "It is the duty of media to take an initiative to ward off different concerns associated with the profession", he remarked.

Vice President Mr. Ansari, who was the chief guest, expressed the above views after inaugurating the two-day "Language Journalism Festival - Prabhash Prasang", organized in the memory of noted Hindi journalist Prabhash Joshi at Indore on Friday. The 'Prabhash Prasang' was organised by Indore Press Club and Prabhash Parampara Nyas on 75th birth day of late Prabhash Joshi. It was attended by Governor Rameshwar Thakur, Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla, Madhya Pradesh Public Relations Minister Laxmikant Sharma, former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri, Mayor Krishna Murari Moghe, Prabhash Parampara Nyas Chairman Dr. Namvar Singh.

Continuing Mr. Ansari said that the journalism is also undergoing an amazing metamorphosis amid the transformation of technology and economy. It is an urgent need to have a mechanism to review the status and direction of media. He said India is among the few democracies without active media watch groups engaged in objective analyses of the media. With more than 50,000 newspapers and a large number of TV channels operating in the country there is an urgent need to have a regulatory authority for media. The Press Council of India, the only constitutional and quasi-judicial body for regulating media, lacked the powers for punishing those who violate norms or enforce its directives and the civil society also could not regulate it either. He lamented that the ownership of print and electronic media was in the hands of a few. "This monopoly should stop", he added.

He said: "All categories of regulation or binding guidelines must be strengthened with a view to securing and defending public good - by government, the media organization and the industry, civil society, advertisers and sponsors and the audience and the readership of the media".

Mr. Ansari moaned that there was no national media policy. The issues of multiple-ownership of media too had not been debated in the country, he added.

He pointed out that in countries such as the USA and France when intrusive content regulation is minimized people turn to the judiciary that address their grievances in a reasonable time period. Unfortunately, the same cannot happen in India due to sluggish justice delivery system. In most countries rules on cross-ownership are intended to prevent emergence of monopolies and cartels and promote competition. In India a handful of media conglomerates span the entire media spectrum. Its impact on moulding public opinion, and safeguarding public interest is a moot question, he added.

Mr. Ansari sad when media portrayal is of a life that is always good, optimistic, going with the tide of those with discretionary spending power and their causes and pet themes, the role of the media as a defender and upholder of public interest relegates to the background and its commercial persona takes over.

When media space is treated as real estate or as airline seats for purpose of revenue maximization strategies, and when media products are sold as jeans or soaps for marketing purposes, editors end up giving way to marketing departments, he opined.

He said that the country saw a great change in society, economy and state ruling sector in last few years. Recalling the memory of late Mr. Prabhash Joshi, he said that the journalism career of Joshi is an inspiring for all the journalists. He was not only a successful editor but also a voice of common man. He used pen for writing simple language to raise the issues of common man and barely used idioms. He was a strong upholder of moral values and transparency in media.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Mr. Ansari released books “Prabhash Parva” edited by Mr. Suresh Sharma, “Yadon Mein Prabhash” edited by Mr. Anil Jain and Mr. Pravin Khariwal and “Shabdo Ke Darvesh” edited by Public Relations officer and senior writer Dr. Swati Tiwari.

Madhya Pradesh Governor Mr. Rameshwar Thakur, throwing light on the life of late Mr. Joshi, said that the true journalists are path-showers of the country. He said that journalists should maintain credibility and need of their writings. He said that the journalism as of today is so relevant as it was in the past. The journalists should lead the country in right direction and disseminate the national issues to the masses. He also appreciated Indore Press Club for holding such annual function in memory of late Joshi.

Speaking on the occasion Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced a state-sports award of Rs. one lakh in memory of journalist late Prabhash Joshi.

Mr. Chouhan has said that corruption is a big challenge and second is terrorism. He said that development rate is explained in proud manner but a thought should be spared to know whether common man is benefited by this growth or not. That cannot be deemed as development of the country unless common man gets benefit of it. It is big challenge to benefit common man with development. He called upon the media to raise the issue of Aam-Admi.

Mr. Chouhan also made advocacy for holding general and assembly elections together and said that government should bear the expenditure of elections so as to curb corruption. He attacked credibility of media, paid news, objectionable advertisements and T.V serial poisoning culture. He said that central government and media should take steps in this regard.

He announced to rename the road from collectorate to Harisiddhi as Prabhash Joshi road. He said that legacy of Mr. Prabhash Joshi is a heritage of Madhya Pradesh.

Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said that Joshi was a complete journalist who wrote on various issues.

Public Relations Minister Laxmikant Sharma, in his welcome speech, said that the august presence of Vice-President Mr. Ansari made the occasion glorious. He welcomed the Governor, Chief Minister, Union Minister and others.

Former Union Minister Suresh Pachouri said that the function in memory of late Mr. Joshi is an inspiring event. He said Mr. Joshi played his journalistic skills with honesty and without fear. Mr. Joshi brought the laurels to Madhya Pradesh by virtue of his competency in journalism.

On this occasion, BJP State President and Rajya Sabha member Prabhat Jha, Minister of State for health Mahendra Hardia, journalists from the state and outside and eminent persons were present on this occasion.

[Pervez Bari is a Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]
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