Should we do away with the I&B Ministry

Bimal Julka

 

It is indeed a great opportunity for the leadership in the I&B Ministry to prepare, plan, articulate its thinking and evolve a media strategy to be skilfully executed in a proactive manner through various media platforms across its rich, diverse, socio-geographical boundaries. There is a vast pool of rich talent in the Ministry to execute and effectively implement the objectives of the Ministry.

The Ministry of I&B is an apex body of GOI for formulation and administration of the Rules and Regulations and laws relating to information, broadcasting policy and administration as enshrined in the transaction of business rules. We are all aware that there is a tremendous growth of private media in all forms including television, FM radio, web portals, web magazines, blogs, twitter, print media, social media, facebook etc. With so much of proliferation in the media world of private players, the government through the Ministry of I & B with its vast information and broadcasting infrastructure should ensure its optimal utilization and engagement with all the stakeholders. The government’s role in making  information available to the people in strategic and inaccessible areas continues to remain paramount. Developing mutually beneficial media relationships is often a key component to the success and implementation of public policy. As the media and entertainment industry widens its reach, it plays a critical role in creating awareness on issues affecting channelling the energy of and building aspirations among India’s millions. The transformation is not just from handouts and government schemes but transformation stemming from ambition and aspiration of the people of the country. We are all aware that social media has become an integral part of our life. 24×7 news channels, expanded citizen consciousness and digital revolution are some of the factors that are impacting our day to day life. Not only does news break and spread on social media, the social media wars that are often dismissed as puerile chatter, shape the action on TV screens, news paper pages, dinner tables, streets and thus the minds and hearts of the citizen, the protest in the wake of any gang rape incident are examples of social media action on the streets. Therefore, the challenges the social media poses to Government are huge, so are the opportunities,. Public perception, public order and national security are very closely interlinked.

The Government needs to shape public perceptions so that they reflect reality and amplify governance effectiveness. Sensationlisation with motives of particular vested interests towards news item and socio-economic issues beyond a point may prove to be counterproductive. Consistently, the role of the Ministry of I&B had been examined and evaluated by Standing Committee on Information Technology and certain very useful recommendations made in respect of its functioning. Presently, the issues engaging the attention of the Ministry relate to, the outreach of All India
Radio and Doordarshan, manpower planning, budgetary requirements, issues relating to Cable TV Network Regulation Amendment Bill, 2011, cross media ownership/cross media monopoly in various segments, the role of DAVP and its spread amongst small, medium and regional language newspapers, FTTI Pune as a centre of excellence in filming, expansion of FM radio network, the spread of community radio services in the country, policy for introduction of mobile television, rationalization of spectrum  requirements for various broadcasting services, conversion of IIMC into International Media University, coordination issues with cable and satellite channels, liaising with IBF, NBSA and BCCC to integrate issues in TV programming and time bands to name a few. Fostering effective and positive media relationship is an integral and intertwined element posing great challenge to the leadership of the Ministry of I&B. Needless to say that for a country like India, the media needs to be more responsible and self-regulated considering the vast sensitivities involved therein. The lessons learnt from 26/11, the interviews by various individuals in the aftermath of hanging of Yakub Memon, other issues relating to portrayal of crime against women and children etc. cannot be silently ignored. Although the press enjoys the legacy of series of judicial pronouncements for supporting economic viability of the press as fundamental to its intellectual freedom, the regulatory inclination of the government keeps in mind these realities while considering any intrusive initiatives. Invasion of page-3 culture, TRP driven displays in newspapers, sensationalism in electronic media on socially irrelevant issues and aesthetically offensive treatment often cross norms acceptable to Indian society.

Thus, considering the vast multitude of issues engaging the attention of the masses and to develop holistic and integrated approach, it is indeed a great opportunity for the leadership in the I&B Ministry to prepare, plan, articulate its thinking and evolve a media strategy to be skilfully executed in a proactive manner through various media platforms across its rich, diverse, socio-geographical boundaries. Let me add here that there is a vast pool of rich talent in the Ministry to execute and effectively implement the objectives of the Ministry. However, there is an urgent need to devise an appropriate scheme to improve professionalism in the IIS Cadre. The apparent inefficiencies should not dominate and override the stated objectives of the Ministry.Thus, considering the vast multitude of issues engaging the attention of the masses and to develop holistic and integrated approach, it is indeed a great opportunity for the leadership in the I&B Ministry to prepare, plan, articulate its thinking and evolve a media strategy to be skilfully executed in a proactive manner through various media platforms across its rich, diverse, socio-geographical boundaries. Let me add here that there is a vast pool of rich talent in the Ministry to execute and effectively implement the objectives of the Ministry. However, there is an urgent need to devise an appropriate scheme to improve professionalism in the IIS Cadre. The apparent inefficiencies should not dominate and override the stated objectives of the Ministry.


The author, Bimal Julka (Former Secretary I&B) is presently Central Information Commissioner, CIC
(The views expressed are personal)

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