Media is the most powerful tool for empowering the masses and facilitating development: Bimal Julka

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Central Information Commissioner Bimal Julka addressing the Third National Media Conclave at Bhubaneswar on 21 November 2019

Bhubaneswar: Central Information Commissioner Bimal Julka has emphasised the importance of media by underscoring the point that “Democracy can thrive through vigilant eye of Legislature but also care and guidance of public opinion and press par excellence”.

Julka was addressing the Third National Media Conclave – 2019 held at Bhubaneswar on Thursday 21 November 2019.

Freedom of Speech and Expression

Julka said that freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution is a bulwark of a democratic form of government. Freedom of speech—the right to express opinions without government restraint—is a democratic ideal. This right is, however, not absolute and it allows Government to frame laws to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency and morality and contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence.

This restriction on the freedom of speech of any citizen may be imposed as much by an action of the State as by its inaction.

Failure on the part of the State to guarantee to all its citizens the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression would also constitute a violation of Article 19(1) (a). Over the years, judicial creativity, judicial wisdom and judicial craftsmanship have widened the scope of freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of Press being one of them.

Every freedom comes with responsibility and press is not an exception to it. So, press should enjoy this freedom with responsibility and should not misuse it. It should not sensationalise any news unnecessarily. It should help people to form opinion on any issue by exposing all the facts to them.

It should not dictate people’s mind to think in a direction but to help understand the truth. If the press is making a person guilty using its freedom of speech before the law takes its own course, it could be construed as a violation of the human right of that person.

Importance of a Free Press

A free press is very powerful as it is considered as the fourth estate. Over the years, media has become more active. It is media which reminds the government of its unfulfilled promises, educate masses in rural areas through television, radio and internet and exposes the loopholes in the system. It is the most powerful tool to fight against socio-political evils and injustice in our society, while bringing empowerment to the masses and facilitating development.

M&E Sector

Julka further said it is evident that the Indian media and entertainment (M&E) Sector is poised to kickstart a new era of growth. The Foreign Direct Investment Policy for the M&E Sector including Direct to Home (DTH) Sector was revised to 100% since 2016. Besides this, the Government has also revised advertisement rates in different segments of print and electronic media. The issues relating to WIPO Copyright Treaty, 1996 and WIPO performance and Phonograms Treaty, 1996 are being addressed appropriately by the Government.

As far as the major developments in the M&E Sector are concerned, the privacy and data protection has been a key driver to jurisprudence. We are all aware that in the Right to Privacy judgment justice K.S.Puttaswamy (Retd) in August, 2017 upheld the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution. Justice B.N.Srikrishna (Retd.) Committee recommended data protection frame work and Personal Data Protection Bill 2018 (PDP Bill) alongwith its corresponding report in July, 2018. The SC judgment on AADHAR also had a significant impact on privacy law in India. The E-Commerce policy of February, 2019 also lays emphasis that data generated in the country is a national asset and seeks to impose restrictions on cross border data flow. It proposes a restriction on the transfer outside India of certain types of data including data collected by internet of things (IOT) devices installed in public places, data generated by users in India on E-Commerce Platforms, social media websites and search engines. TRAI in February, 2019 has released a White Paper on the deployment of 5G technology in India by 2020 alongwith rest of the world. It also inter alia discusses the architecture of 5 G network as also regulatory challenges that need to be addressed particularly Over the Top (OTT) platforms as it would enable high resolution and very high speed download of video content using 5G network. The National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) dated September, 2018 aims to unlock the transformative power of digital communications networks to achieve the goal of digital empowerment and improved well being of the people of India.

Various technological interventions are showing no signs of slowing down. Artificial intelligence offers the possibility of more personal and relevant news services, new ways to uncover stories as well as more efficient ways of packaging and distributing contents. The block chain will ultimately open up new forms of payment and verification while voice assistants could become a major gateway for accessing media of all types.

Digital Media

Digital media is considered as the harbinger of freedom of speech and expression where users have the opportunity to express themselves and reach out to the world with their opinion without any hindrances. It allows the free flow of information with great speed which has made the media more powerful and effective with enhanced reach.

With more 850 TV channels and over 17,000 newspapers, the country is one of the most diverse and vibrant media markets globally. The Head Room for future growth is significant advertising, the lifeline of India’s M&E Industry, remains amongst the lowest in terms of spend as a percentage of GDP. India has the world’s second highest number of internet users after China with around 570 million internet subscribers growing at 13% annually. There has been a strong focus by global streaming platforms in the last year to invest in local content and originals to gain scales the content creators therefore, have an exciting opportunity to innovate and create local streaming services to give a boost to volumes of content. In television India is the second largest pay TV market in the world in terms of subscribers after China with 197 million TV households growing at 7.5% YOY. The interest and consumption of sports in India is continuously changing to support multiple professional sports leagues in addition to cricket.
Nonetheless, cricket continues to dominate significant interest from global players. Increasing usages of digital media as accelerated video consumption has also increased piracy threat. The M&E Sector is ripe for consolidation and is going to continue to see the digital media, multiplex, radio and TV distribution segments acquiring strong business verticals to expand and compliment their existing businesses. The focus of M&E activities is likely to concentrate on consolidation, consumer centric, convergence.

Efforts are afoot to encourage initiative in nurturing animation segment in various States to explore technical, creative and artistic resources for co-productions in animation.

In this age of technology, we are bombarded with information. The perfect blend of technology and media has left no stone unturned in unearthing corruption and politics in our society. Media has strength and ability to change both social and government attitude towards various key problems.
The main and most connected version of media currently is the Social Media. We live in a time and age where information is just a button click away. We are swayed by information all around us.
With these positives also come negatives that need to be guarded against like the quality reporting is declining and on various platforms, it is difficult to distinguish between gossip and news. We must take responsibility for the way in which we engage with online content. The definition of old media vs. new media is also getting blurred. The handicaps of the old media are getting substituted with the links of the new media which is opened to all and accessible online.

These days, we want to know, read, understand and then speak about any issue. That is where social media comes into play. Social media is one of the biggest elements that we live with and cannot ignore it. The advent of user-generated content marked a shift towards media organizations from creating online content by providing facilities for amateurs to publish their own content.

User Generated Content in the age of Digital media

User-generated content has also been characterized as citizen media as opposed to the ‘packaged goods media’ of the past century. Citizen Media is audience-generated feedback and news coverage. People give their reviews and share stories in the form of user-generated and user-uploaded text, audio and user-generated video.

In the age of digital media, consumers are considerably less passive than they used to be when it comes to advertising. They’re now more active in the decisions they make, who they listen to, and who they choose to buy from and engage with. These days, buying traditional ads both on external media and online is a competitive game (and, even if you pull out the big bucks, you still might not catch the attention of your customers). With anything positive comes a line of negative impact as well. Media with its growth has seen a growth in fake news which is impacting not only India but also the global audience. The dissemination of information through smartphones and affordable internet has slowly changed the traditional role of the media, leading journalists to continuously adapt to newer technologies. Digital media if used correctly has the ability to engage with consumers far more effectively than traditional media. One can now have the opportunity to produce contents for your client or employer and disseminate that information to a very broad audience.

As smartphone and internet proliferates in the country, more organizations will concentrate on giving a consistent shopper involvement with promo offers, mobile updates, events and contents based on the conduct and interests.

Moreover, with the ascent of WhatsApp and Facebook for organizations, brands will concentrate on additionally improving their advertising efforts to speak with clients specifically where they are destined to be discovered i.e. on their smartphones.

The normal Indian spends over 28 hours of the week online, which is because of immediate access to the world of data and media being readily available. For using the web for different purposes in life, Indians will keep on relying more on digital mediums to search for news, and other items associate with brands on the web. Digital media is a two edged sword and one should consume it mindfully.

Fake news in Digital Media

The fake news issue is called the public health crisis. The Indian election saw the most of fake news circulating across the country across the social media. Fake stories are spread by legions of online trolls and unsuspecting users, with dangerous impact. A rumour spread through social media reaches wider audience who have limited knowledge on the gravity of the issue.

Digital platforms are filled with fake news and disinformation aimed at influencing political choices and other opinion.


Ethics is the practice of making a principled choice between right and wrong, revolving around how people ought to act, not how they do act. And whilst the topic has in the past, struggled to gain acceptance from the business community, things are thankfully, very different now.

Ethics is not just an important consideration within an organisation, it represents a key differentiator in a highly competitive market where reputation and values are now as important as products and services. The digital transformation is, of course, enabled through technology, these observations should remind us that the human dimension is as important as technology.

What we stand for and how we behave represents the fundamental concepts of ethics and, if organisations want to deliver enduring success in a digital world, they will need to ensure that above all, they understand the need to act ethically.

Whilst ethics is clearly something all organisations with a digital transformation agenda should actively embrace, the most difficult challenge will be at an individual level – organisations do not make decisions, individuals do. Digital professionals at all levels will need to determine what is the ‘right’ thing to do is from an ethical perspective.

Notwithstanding the level of ethical awareness or ethics training that may or may not already exist within organisations, what is considered ethical can vary across individuals, groups, religions and cultures, and in a global and fast-moving digital society, these leave considerable room for interpretation.

Julka went on to assert that all efforts need to be made to orchestrate the exposition in growth to match up to the predictions of a growing and vibrant India catering to the needs of a common man in India and globally. Nonetheless, we must not forget our responsibility, commitment and duties towards the younger generation.

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