As soon as he took charge of the ministry, Prakash Javadekar the new I & B Minister in the BJP led NDA government has been a busy man. Since he is handling two ministries, I & B and Environment, his responsibilities keep him busy from morning to evening attending conference, meeting and making statement on behalf of the government.
His public statements speaks of his mind and surprisingly he is very clear about the path he must take to straight up all the knots the I & B Ministry is struck with due to hurried implementation of the Mandatory Digitalisation.
Day after assuming charge of I & B Ministry he stated about the freedom of press. After a couple of day he said foreign direct investment in media sector. On 30 May he met a delegation of Cable Operators from COFI and NCTA and independent MSOs and assured them that III & IV phase of DAS will only implemented if our locally manufactured STB reaches at a reasonable level and the progress in Phase I & II is satisfactory.
He has also stated about the cross ownerships of media. He also told media about make-over of Doordarshan, ‘the new government would re-energise government media channels and bring back the lost glory’.
Freedom of Press: On the 27th May just few hours after assuming the charge of the I & B Ministry, he said that, freedom of press as it is the essence of democracy and there is no intention of regulating the media. This has brought hopes to the media industry which is currently caught-up in policy hurdles, implementation delays and controversies. "We believe that press freedom is the essence of democracy. And to make democracy a success, we require this press freedom because it gives people the choice in a rainbow of differing opinions," Javadekar said.
FDI in media: In another statement Javadekar said 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in media is matter of discussion and his Ministry is seeking input from various stakeholders to weather to allow 100 per cent FDI in Media sector.
"We want to take the views of all the stakeholders before we take a final decision if we should give a go-ahead for the 100 per cent FDI in news media. We are not in a hurry to go for the same," he said. At present up to 26 per cent FDI is allowed in news and current affairs media and 100 per cent FDI is allowed in non-news and other general entertainment channels.
Cross Media Ownership: Monopolies in the field of media ownership have a severely negative impact on the quality of media freedom and plurality in the country, specifically with respect to news coverage. Issues related to ownership of media entities have been raised repeatedly in the last few years by both private observers and government bodies. Prakash Javadekar has also expressed his view. He said that, cross ownership in media is "a matter of debate" and the government is seeking views of all stakeholders on it.
Digitalisation: With the phase I & II of Digitalisation has over and III & IV in the running mode, the I & B Minister said has given indication that his ministry may extend the deadline for pahses III and IV of digitisation until indigenous set top boxes are available in adequate numbers.
Minister told this to a delegation of Cable Operators from COFI and NCTA and independent MSOs that the matter will be examined only after the local manufacturing of STBs reaches a reasonable level and the progress in Phase I & II is satisfactory. "Before starting third and fourth phase of digitisation, we will have to take a decision on the availability of set-top boxes," Javadekar said.
Indigenous manufacturing of STB: A couple of day just after assuming the charge I & B Ministry he said that his ministry will consult the Finance & Commerce Ministry to bring such policies which will help to manufacture indigenous set-top-boxes for continuing the digitisation process rather than depending on the imports. The minister said the decision on the issue was pertinent considering the starting of third and fourth phase of digitisation where 11.5 crore STBs are required to be seeded.
"Before starting third and fourth phase of digitisation, we will have to take a decision on the availability of set-top boxes," Javadekar said. "We are yet to take a decision whether to import them (set-top boxes) or give a stimulus to the local industry which will produce them", he said. Cable TV networks in the country have been mandated to go digital by December 2014, which entails that TV signals may be received only through STBs.
Abolition of I & B Ministry: Following the footstep of his predecessor Manish Tewari, new I & B ministry also purposes for the disbanding of I & B Ministry. He said that ‘philosophically’ and ‘ideologically’ favoured abolishing his ministry. “Philosphically or ideologically, I’ll be willing to do that,” he said in Karan Thapar show ‘Nothing But The Truth’. In the show when Karan Thapar asked Javadekar whether India needed an I&B Ministry when many major democracies do not have such a ministry. He said that our Prime Minister Narendra Modi says that more governance and less government, so you are actually contributing to the idea of less government and more governance. That's our focus.
Re-energies of government media: The new governments will re-energies government media channels and bring back the lost glory, Javadekar said this while speaking at The Hindu Leadership Summit as part of Goafest 2014. He further said that his Ministry has already discussed the issue with Prasar Bharati officials.
“We want to make DD competitive in the current scenario and add fantastic content.” In a not so veiled, but mild threat to cable operators across the country, Javadekar said he would refuse to listen to their grievance until Doordarshan was being aired by them in the primary band.
Broadcasting to boost in NE: One week after assuming the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Prakash Javadekar asked his officials to prepare a detailed program to strengthen and enhance the broadcasting abilities of Doordarshan in North East states.
The step by the I&B ministry is expected to go a long way in stemming the anti-India propaganda from across the border. Mr Javadekar asked the I&B ministry officials to find ways to promote the Northeast region as a filming destination and featuring films from these region in the various film festivals.
On DTH Operators: Javadekar told DTH Operators, that with digitisation, their subscriber base has increased making their revenue grow. But so far only 4 crore (40 million) STBs have been seeded, which is just 25 per cent of the universe, while 75 per cent are still remain. He said he had no intention in delaying the digitalisation process wherever broadcasters benefited enormously, what is the trade-off for the government. He stated that government was committed for making benefits of digitalisation reach the mass which has not happened.
“Digitisation has resulted in increasing your subscriber base as you have reached up to 4 billion houses and revenues have grown. But what has been done is just 25 percent and we want to do the rest also. But what are you doing for viewers? I am asking for a trade-off. Will you reduce the subscription of the consumer? In a lighter vein, the minister also asked DTH operators to pay at least 50 per cent of the Rs 2,000 crore (Rs 20 billion) licence fee that is due. He also promised to look into the issue of reduction of DTH licence fee while emphasising that multiple taxation was the main issue.
Time-Bound Mechanism a Priority: Javadekar said that Modi government has promised a stable policy regime with transparency and time-bound mechanism and said efforts would be streamlined so as to make the process of clearances speedy and transparent.
“There won’t be any further delays; the word ‘delay’ has now been deleted. This government is about communication and consensus. We will create a process in which a decision will be taken in four weeks which was earlier taking four months,” Javadekar said.
Carrying Doordarshan: He also asked DTH and cable TV operators to sincerely carry Doordarshan channels on their networks. He was unhappy that Doordarshan channels were not reaching consumer on DTH or Cable TV.
News on FM Radio: Javadekar said that the Government is looking into the issue of allowing private radio players to broadcast news. “I am unable to understand the logic that 24x7 news channels are allowed to show news but radio channels are not. We are looking at this issue positively and we will take decision on this soon,” he said.
Cross holdings in media: At a time when an increasing number of corporates are taking control of media organisations and paid media is becoming an issue of concern, Prakash Javadekar said that cross-media ownership is a ‘serious issue that needs to be discussed and debated.
Decency in advertisement: Javadekar said there were issues related to the advertising code which those in the field should address. "Somebody applies a deodorant and all women come running, this is demeaning and not the way an advertisement should be," he said.
"I am not saying that the government is imposing anything but as I have said earlier the industry should evolve a code about what is decent and what is not decent," he said. Conspicuously this time in the Roundtable CII decided to keep Cable Operators and Independent MSOs out of it, which otherwise have been always represented in the past many years. May be CII thought there was a clash of interest between the operators of the event and the cable operators.
Ads on Pay channels: He showed surprise that why channels earn from ads and also want subscribers to pay for them. “Should I (the consumer) pay more and watch more advertisements as well? You say what you can do there," Javadekar told the top executives present.