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Media pluralism and media cross-ownership

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Curator: Pritika Rai Advani, Student, B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), National University of Juridical Sciences

Contributor: Arun Mal, National University of Juridical Sciences

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Theory

Edwin Baker, Media concentration: giving up on democracy, 54 Fla. L. Rev. 839, 841 (2002).

This paper tries to identify the permissible scope for regulation aimed at reducing ownership concentration in the media in light of the constitutional guarantee of free speech and expression. It argues that an exclusive reliance on antitrust law is unlikely to solve the problem because it fails to account for non-economic media-specific concerns. Finally, the paper lists out various problems associated with the increasing trend of ownership concentration and rejects popular arguments that concern over concentration is overstated.

Michal Bartoň, Pluralism of media as a constitutional principle, VIIIth World Congress of the IACL, Workshop 3- Media and Constitutional Principles (2010).

This paper argues that plurality of information and competition in the media are essential for the functioning of a democratic society. It argues that media pluralism could be considered an objective constitutional value, which binds the regulatory activities of the state. The regulation of cross-ownership and ensuring transparency in media ownership and funding is therefore essential.

Douglas Gomery, The FCC’s newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule: an analysis (Economic Policy Institute, 2002).

This is a summary of a book written in response to the FCC’s decision to initatite a review of the cross-ownership ban on newspapers and broadcast stations in the same local market. It argues that the efficiency-maximising free market economics approach that seems to underpin most demands to reverse the ban is inappropriate for measuring the impact on public welfare. It shows how both the print and broadcasting media in the US may still be considered monoplistic/oligopolistic and that plurality will only be further undermined with the dilution of the cross-ownership rule.

Michael J. Copps, Statement on promoting diversification of ownership in the broadcasting services, Re: Promoting Diversification of Ownership in the Broadcasting Services, Report and Order and Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, MB Docket Nos. 07-294, 06-121, 02-277, 01-235, 01-317, 00-244 and 04-228.

This is the strongly worded statement of Commissioner Michael J. Copps where he partially dissents from an order of the FCC. The statement seeks to debunk the logic that a reversal of the cross-ownership ban is necessitated in light of the poor state of local newspapers and rapid technological transformation. The statement spells out how such a move will exacerbate the problems of concentration and leave audiences with fewer choices, apart from undermining commitments towards minority and female ownership and localism of news.

Barak Obama & John Kerry, Media consolidation silences diverse voices, Politico (2007).

Obama and Kerry are of the view that the ownership of traditional media in the US is more consolidated today than it has been ever before. They argue that those in power can only be held accountable if diverse viewpoints are exchanged and this in turn requires the protection small, minority-owned or women-owned media outlets.

John F. Sturm, Time for change on media cross-ownership regulation, 57(2) Federal Communications L. J. 201 (2005).

The author supports the FCC’s decision to reverse its blanket ban on cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations in a local market. He argues that newspapers and broadcasters can provide better informational services if they can combine their newsgathering resources. He also points to evidence showing that cross-owned media outlets in the US tend to air more local news and public affairs programming than others. The paper maintains that it is time to do away with cross-ownership rules in light of the rapid proliferation and diversification in print, broadcast, radio and internet media outlets.

Slate, Big is Beautiful, (2000).

Written in defence of the AOL-Time Warner merger, this blog post argues that the degree of plurality and decentralization in the media has increased because the cost of information processing has been on the decline. This comes at the expense of entrenched media empires and has the effect of leveling the playing field. The author believes that this is the golden age of journalism as big media houses have managed to pair editorial quality with financial success. It lists various benefits of big media while highlighting  several problems with smaller, independent outlets.

Christopher Yoo, Architectural Censorship and the FCC, Regulation 22-29 (2005).

The paper argues that structural regulation (aimed at restricting cross-ownership, regulating pricing and prohibiting vertical integration) of the media undermines the diversity, quantity and quality of speech by prohibiting media outlets from realising crucial efficiencies. It characterizes such regulation as a form of architectural censorship and presents a case for subjecting it to the highest standard of judicial review (strict scrutiny) under the first amendment. It maintains that a lower standard of scrutiny would pay excessive deference to the legislature, which favours such architectural censorship. In doing this, the paper analyses relevant jurisprudence, legislative efforts and regulation in the US.

Benjamin Compaine, Newspaper slant comes from readers, not from owner, Ben Compaine’s who owns the media? (2006).

To further his argument against the ‘rhetoric’ that large media companies stifle plurality, Compaine has written a blog post explaining the results of a study undertaking market analysis, which shows that news bias is demand driven, i.e. it comes from the readers and not from the owners. In his view, empirical evidence from the US increasingly shows that not only do cross-owned media outlets produce better quality news, but also that they have a limited impact (if at all) on plurality.

Mark Thompson, Protecting Media Pluralism in Europe, Open Society Foundation, December, 2012.

This piece starts on the premise that media pluralism is essential not only to maintain the democratic process but also for ensuring tolerant and holistic debate on complex issues. In the face of growing disagreement over how to measure and protect such plurality, the author details EU initiatives in this respect and argues that the EU seems to speak in numerous voices over the protection of media plurality.

Núria Almiron et al., External pluralism protection in five EU countries and the US: the regulatory authorities’ views, 6(1) Observatorio 129 (2012)

The authors have interviewed media regulators in the US, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy and presented their answers to a common set of questions. This paper highlights the differential approaches on issues such as regulating internal versus external pluralism and the use of audience concentration instead of the media outlet’s economic power as a measure of the degree of concentration in the market. It also highlights interesting similarities such as the perceived lack of autonomy on the part of the regulators in the six countries.

Rachel Craufurd Smith et al., Regulating media plurality and media power in the 21st century, LSE Media Policy Project, Policy Brief 7 (2012).

David Skinner & Robert Hackett, Media diversity requires structural pluralism, OpenMedia, July 27, 2007.

The author argues that apart form merely placing caps on the concentration of media ownership, the interests of plurality further require regulatory bodies to actively encourage the creation of and investment in new broadcast systems apart from ensuring citizens’ access to broadcast networks. The guiding principle is to not only maintain but also develop diversity. Even in cases where consolidation is permitted, base line criteria on journalistic independence, local programming requirements etc. may be put in place.

Paolo Mancini on the different kinds of media pluralism, 2012 video by the Free Speech Debate [open access]

India

Ammu Joseph, Who’s media are they anyway?, India Together, August 20, 2007.

This piece argues that both the government and the media in India are reluctant to address crucial issues arising from ownership concentration. While the proposed clauses on ownership in the Broadcast Bill 2007 reflect a failure to adequately address underlying concerns, the media has opposed regulation arguing that it will make the industry financially unsustainable and has cited inaccurate examples of deregulation from the West in its support. The paper argues that as a result, public interest is neglected and the ownership of Indian media becomes ever more concentrated.

Sashi Kumar, Cross Media Currents, FrontliMarch 22, 2013.

This piece regrets the laziness and lack of will on the part of the government and its regulators when it comes to the media sector as a result of which monopolies have become entrenched over the last few decades. It details the recent steps taken by the I&B ministry and TRAI in this regard and shows the various problems with the consultation paper on issues relating media ownership.

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, India needs cross ownership restrictions (The Hoot, 2012).

This is a good summary of the ASCI report suggesting the imposition of cross-ownership restrictions and other regulatory measures. It describes the differing positions taken by the I&B Ministry, TRAI and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on IT, and believes that this debate is far from concluded in India.

Thakurta, Paranjoy Guha. “Curbing Media Monopolies.” Economic and Political Weekly 48, no. 16 (April 12, 2013): 10–14. [subscription required]

Discussion of the cross-media ownership restrictions proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, and what effect it is likely to have on freedom of expression and media pluralism.

Newslaundry, Who owns your media?, 2013

This chart contains details about the ownership of 6 Indian media outlets: Zee News, Network 18, Hindustan Times, Deccan Chronicle, NDTV and the Sun group.

ASCI, Study Report on Cross Media Ownership in India, 2009. (Click on ‘Documents’ and then ‘Broadcasting’)

TRAI, Consultation Paper on issues related to media ownership, 2013 [open access]

TRAI, Consultation Paper on issues related to media ownership, 23 September 2008 [open access]

Standing Committee on Information Technology, 15th Lok Sabha, 32nd Report: demand for grants, May, 2012.

Standing Committee on Information Technology, 15th Lok Sabha, 47th Report: Issues related to paid news, May, 2013.

PRS, Draft of the proposed Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2007

Iskra Panevska, UNESCO speaks about media pluralism and community media in India (open-access YouTube video)

International and Comparative

Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union [open access]

This discusses Freedom of Expression and Information. Paragraph 2 of Article 11 states that ‘The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.’

Resolution 4.3 adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO at its twenty­-sixth session in 1991 [open access]

This resolution recognizes that a free, pluralistic and independent press is an essential component of any democratic society. You will need to scroll down the document to Resolution 4.3., which is on page 68.

Declaration of Windhoek, adopted by the participants at the United Nations/UNESCO Seminar on “Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press”, held in Windhoek, Namibia, from 29 April to 3 May 1991

This declaration was endorsed by the General Conference of UNESCO at its twenty-sixth session – 1991. It holds that the establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation. It explains what is meant by pluralism in this context and offers some ways towards protecting it.

Declaration of Alma Ata, which emerged from the UNESCO Seminar on Promoting Independent and Pluralistic Asian Media, held at Alma-Ata in 1992, and which was later endorsed by the UNESCO General Conference at its 28th session in 1995

Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to Member States
on Media Pluralism and Diversity of Media Content
,  Council of Europe, CM/Rec(2007)2 adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 31 January 2007
at the 985th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies, Council of Europe [open access]

Measures promoting content diversity and measures promoting structural pluralism of the media are among the recommendations in this document.

Miklós Haraszti, ‘Media Pluralism and Human Rights’, an issue discussion paper commissioned and published by the Commissioner for Human Rights, Strasbourg, 6 December 2011

This paper reflects on media freedom in Europe. It provides an introduction to the key issues involved, and to the international instruments that discuss media pluralism.

‘A free and pluralistic media to sustain European Democracy’, January 2013 Report of the High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism established by European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes in October 2011. [open access]

See also video of European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes speaking about Media Pluralism and Freedom in a Connected Europe, as part of the guest speaker series at the Institute of International & European Affairs.

The video includes a discussion of the importance of media pluralism.

The ‘Mapping the Digital Media’ reports [open access]

This is a global research project supported by the Open Society Foundations, which documents how countries around the world are dealing with the transition from traditional to digital media. Many of the country reports contain a discussion of media ownership. It is a wonderful resource to gain a comparative perspective.

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