Addressing a symposium on News Media Education in India organised by CMS Academy at the India International Centre here, Tewari said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has a "responsibility to see that the industrial environment is stable and conducive to growth so that we do not have a situation where right-sizing and down-sizing become the rule rather than the exception across the broadcasting sector".
The minister said the revenues from digitisation are still to kick in, though the situation is better than a year ago with two phases of digitisation of cable television completed.
Tewari also said last week's massive slashing of workforce at a news channel and the legal recourse against the wage board recommendations by one of the promoters has led him to conclude that "media is a business".
The minister said there was a need to reflect on a "question germane to the media" - whether it is a business as defined under the constitution or any other activity.
He said in the wake of the "down-sizing or right-sizing taking place in one of the broadcasting platforms, and at a time when wage board recommendations have been taken to court by one of the promoters, I cannot but help conclude that it would be fair to say that media is a business".
Tewari was referring to around 300 job cuts, including of some well known names, in a news channel last week in a move at restructuring.
He said that the rights of the citizens and the rights of the media barons "fall in different tracks with the twain not destined to meet".
Describing the question as a "classical chicken and egg one", Tewari said the "conundrum bedevilling the media landscape" today in India is "do we have freedom of the press or freedom of the owner of the press".
The minister hoped media professionals would "introspect" on the issue.
He said it was time for the print media, which has more or less tried to keep rates low over the years, to "reflect and rationalise tariffs".
Referring to leading US daily Washington Post, which was sold off to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for USD 250 million, the minister said the print media globally was under stress and print numbers were declining globally.
He said the heavily advertisement-dependent models of newspapers were "not the way forward" and called for "serious introspection" in the print on how far the advertisement model could sustain them.
On the broadcasting sector, he said of the 798-odd channels, 415 were news channels and they too were "hugely" dependant on advertisements for revenue.
"This has led to addiction to sensationalism, manufactured anger and media trials," the minister said. This, he said, led to violation of privacy and the issue needed to be addressed.
On the subject of the 12-minute ad cap per clock hour that the broadcasters were unhappy about, he said the TRAI could examine the issues raised by the broadcasters to provide a roadmap synchronising with the digitisation process.
He also floated a proposal of a common examination for the media, like that of a bar exam, which would provide a licence to those who qualify.
Asked later if the government was seriously considering the proposal, the minister denied it and added it was just a thought.
--IANS (Posted on 19-08-2013)