TRAI wants corporates, political parties barred from media business

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed restrictions on entities including corporates, political parties, religious bodies, government-funded entities and affiliates entering the media business, in order to avoid ''conflict of interests''.

The broadcast regulator today stressed that editorial independence of the press and the electronic media must be safeguarded through a regulatory framework.

"On grounds of the inherent conflict of interest, ownership restrictions on corporates entering media should be seriously considered by the government and the regulator. This may entail restricting the amount of equity holding or loans by a corporate in a media company viz. to comply with provisions relating to control," TRAI said in its recommendations.

TRAI said it had recommended keeping that political and religious bodies must be included in a pool of those to be "barred from entry into broadcasting and TV channel distribution" and six years have passed since it made that call "without any concrete action being taken by the government."

It also recommended a single independent media regulatory authority comprising eminent non-media persons for TV and print media to check and impose penalties for ''paid news'', ''private treaties'' and issues related to ''editorial independence''.

With respect to the ''media regulator'', TRAI said: ''Government should not regulate the media; There should be a single regulatory authority for TV and print mediums; the regulatory body should consist of eminent persons from different walks of life, including the media. It should be manned predominantly by eminent non-media persons.''

The regulator has also said that the arm's length relationship between Prasar Bharati and the government must be strengthened. It wants measures to be taken to ensure functional independence and autonomy.