ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Critical Note

Mapping and Measuring Media Ownership and Control

A response to the paper “Mapping the Power of Major Media Companies in India” (EPW, 21 July 2018) by Anuradha Bhattacharjee and Anushi Agrawal highlights its inability to analytically explain the construct of “media market,” the consequent mischaracterisation of the extant scholarship on the Indian media industry, and engages with the gaps and inconsistencies in collating empirical details in the paper.

Media market power and its implications for the effective functioning of democracy has remained a burning topic of discussion since a long time. Globally, the media and communications research in the 1980s through the 1990s produced an impressive set of studies exploring the links between market and ownership structures, many of which employed frameworks typical of industrial organisation research (Bagdikian 1980, 1992; Goyal and Rao 1981; Blankenburg 1982; Ferguson 1983; Thompson 1984; Burnett 1992). These studies have eminently informed national policies and regulatory imperatives relating to promotion of diversity in media ownership and content, as also to control of economic power of media groups and chains. In the subsequent decades, there was a clear shift in the terms of engagement with the questions of media ownership and control as digital convergence and transnational advance of corporations began to erode and rework the social, economic and technological boundaries of print, broadcasting and distribution sectors (Bulck and Donders 2014). Policy debates increasingly have come to be framed from the consumption and audience points of view rather than from the angle of media market/ownership structure. In most of the developed markets in the world with pervasive presence of digital media, there has been a greater push towards recognising audience choice and agency as the major levers of policy formulation to ensure that media represent diversity and pluralism (Noam 1998; Hitchens 2011).

Such a radical transition in policy discourse, however, cannot be observed in several Asian media markets, including India and China. These markets, while being exposed to digital revolution and transnational media flows, are still characterised by significant asymmetry in access to and consumption of media, particularly in the case of the internet and new media. At least two out of three Indians do not have internet access and despite being home to about 700 television channels, content production in local languages is scarce. Although China has more internet users than any other country, its penetration in rural China is merely 27%. Given such unevenness in media distribution, media ownership concerns are extremely relevant in the policy discourse of these nations.

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Updated On : 19th Nov, 2018

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