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Media Ownership and the Marketplace of Ideas

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's recommendations on concentration of media ownership alone will not address the need for plurality of views in the media. The author argues that a regulatory framework must go beyond diversity of media ownership and the marketplace of ideas to ensure that there is space for diverse citizen voices to be heard.

The popular media in India has largely ignored the recommendations on media ownership by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released in August 2014. Yet, for citizens of a democratic polity, the issues raised in the recommendations are worth noting. With ownership concentrated in a handful of influential individuals with myriad interests vested in mass media, the question of how knowledge and information is made and disseminated to other less influential, common citizens becomes a deeply political issue.

In its recommendations, TRAI has proposed regulations for scope of ownership of media. The recommendations are divided into questions of internal plurality addressing questions of plurality of media content via issues of paid news and private treaties; and external plurality addressing questions of plurality of media ownership. The plurality of media ownership recommendations largely focus on the definition of ownership and cross-media ownership, including the much welcome reporting requirements for media companies concerning transparency disclosures.

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