The Bill of Media Rights

The Bill of Media Rights ostensibly concerns the media situation in the United States.
But please do read the Bill. We in India too are in need of a “free and vibrant media”. While for media owners the rising newspaper circulation figures are indicative of markets unexplored, it cannot be the view that the readers, or for that matter, the worker bees, the journalists, share. “[C]orporate consolidation” is happening here as well. Indeed, family businesses are turning to the markets and probably waiting for the flooded-gates of foreign direct investments to flow into the newspaper sector. Television, and lately the FM radio segment, is being dominated by private capital.
Doordarshan and All India Radio have valiant fought to do well commercially, despite intense pressures from private interests and governmental interference. That’s the rosy picture of course. The other side of the struggle has involved significant dilution of the public broadcaster’s constitutional mandate. Nevertheless, increasing autonomy and staying power in a vast country like India will certainly ensure that public broadcasting in India will not die without a good fight. Why, it will never die.
But the disconnect of privately held media from the concerns of the citizens of this country requires that people have to be vigilant, and there is a fight before long to establish independent, citizen media in India.
We as a nation are proud of our multi-cultural heritage. The elite “consensus” permitted a certain element of “diversity” of views. But things have changed in the recent past. We are now wedded to a neo-liberal policy. There-is-no-alternative is the only view that can be heard in the media – the basis of the middle-class’ sellout, to some extent. The disconnected with the majority is complete. Tokenism is as good as we can get.
These might sound like controversial and unsubstantiated views. But that’s something those who own the media can argue against. IOJ offers this space for them to refute these views.
Before it is too late, “policymakers must ensure that the Constitutional rights of present and future generations to freely express themselves in the media” must be protected. For that we need a “coalition of consumer, public interest, media reform, organized labor and other groups representing” the majority to get for ourselves a Bill of Media Rights. What would that involve? Let’s borrow from the aforementioned Bill.
The Indian public has a right to:

  • Journalism that fully informs the public, is independent of the government and acts as its watchdog, and protects journalists who dissent from their employers.
  • Newspapers, television and radio stations, cable and satellite systems, and broadcast and cable networks operated by multiple, diverse, and independent owners that compete vigorously and employ a diverse workforce.
  • Radio and television programming produced by independent creators that is original, challenging, controversial, and diverse.
  • Programming, stories, and speech produced by communities and citizens.
  • Internet service provided by multiple, independent providers who compete vigorously and offer access to the entire Internet over a broadband connection, with freedom to attach within the home any legal device to the net connection and run any legal application.
  • Public broadcasting insulated from political and commercial interests that is well-funded and especially serves communities underserved by privately-owned broadcasters.
  • Regulatory policies emphasizing media education and citizen empowerment, not government censorship, as the best ways to avoid unwanted content.

Media That Use The Public’s Airwaves To Serve The Public Interest
The Indian public has a right to:

  • Electoral and civic, children’s, educational, independently produced, local and community programming, as well as programming that serves Americans with disabilities and underserved communities.
  • Media that reflect the presence and voices of people Dalits, women, labour, immigrants, people with disabilities, and other communities often underrepresented.
  • Maximum access and opportunity to use the public airwaves and spectrum.
  • Meaningful participation in government media policy, including disclosure of the ways broadcasters comply with their public interest obligations, ascertain their community’s needs, and create programming to serve those needs.

Media That Reflect And Respond To Their Local Communities
The Indian public has a right to:

  • Television and radio stations that are locally owned and operated, reflective of and responsible to the diverse communities they serve, and able to respond quickly to local emergencies.
  • Well-funded local public access channels and community radio, including low-power FM radio stations.
  • Universal, affordable Internet access for news, education, and government information, so that all citizens can better participate in our democracy and culture.
  • Frequent, rigorous license and franchise renewal processes for broadcasters and cable operators that meaningfully include the public.

These principles are not meant to be all-inclusive. Rather, they illustrate an Indian media structure that is the Indian public’s present and future right under the Constitution of the India.
‘Do we need a Bill of Media Rights?’,
‘Do to citizens of India deserve a Bill of Media Rights. If so there is a battle ahead to, first to stem the tide of commercialism and then to wrest the media from the elite.