Journalists Demand for Third Press Commission, Indian National Congress Reluctant

At a program to mark the 76th birth anniversary of late Prabhash Joshi, well known columnist and former editor of Nayi Duniya, Jansatta and Indian Express, speaker after speaker demanded the formation of Third Press Commission. The program was organised on July 15 at Satyagrah Mandap, Raj Ghat by Prabhash Parampra Nyas and Gandhi Smriti awam Darshan Samiti.

It has come to light that the efforts of senior journalists like Ram Bahadur Rai, Ram Sharan Joshi and Kuldeep Nayar have been demanding setting up of the Third Press Commission from the Manmohan Singh Govt but due to resistance from the de facto head of the state, it has not been constituted so far.

Press Council of India in its report of 2001 had also recommended setting up of a Third Press Commission during Justice PB Swant's tenure. Justice G.N. Ray, the Press Council chairman also recommended it in his speech in 2009 in Kolkata.

In July 2011, at a function in Indore too, journalists marched in the streets demanding Third Press Commission.

Ist Press Commission set up Nehru Govt, 2nd Press Commission set up by Morarji Govt and
reconstituted by India Gandhi Govt, it relevant to inform that discussions are underway for the 3rd Press Commission.

In 2007, South Asia Free Media Association, a SAARC-recognised body of journalists had announced the formation of a Press Commission for India in 2007 but one does not know its outcome.

Journalists deliberated on the need for Third Press Commission in New Delhi on 29th May and 12 June, 2011.

In an interview, Nayar has revealed that Manmohan Singh was ready to set up the Commission. Nayar had submitted its Terms of Reference twice but the same has not been set up till date. He apprehended that Third Press Commission is not being set up due to the influence of Sonia Gandhi and Indian National Congress.

This must be seen together with what the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology has observed on cross-media ownership and its adverse impact on "democratic structure”.

Meanwhile, Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited, country's biggest private corporate entity with a turnover of Rs. 2,58,651 crore in the financial year that ended on March 31, 2011 entered into a financial arrangement that involved selling of its interests in the Andhra Pradesh- based Eenadu group to the Network 18 group and also funding the latter through a rights issue of shares. This happened on January 3, 2012.

The deal makes the combined conglomerate India’s biggest media group. It is claimed that it has become bigger than the Bennett Coleman Company Limited.

In a related development, Aditya Birla group announced that it had acquired a 27.5 per cent stake in Aroon Purie's Living Media India Limited on May 19, 2012. Living Media acts as a holding company. It also owns 57.46 per cent in TV Today Network, the listed company that controls the group’s television channels and publications.

Earlier, on December 21, 2011, Oswal Green Tech, formerly Oswal Chemicals & Fertilizers, has acquired a 14.17 per cent stake in television broadcasting major NDTV Ltd for about Rs 24 crore through open market transactions.

These developments can only be probed comprehensively by a Press Commission that can examine the ownership pattern in print, electronic, radio and web media and its impact on freedom of expression, communication and democracy.

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