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June 2018

RAJYAVARDHAN RATHORE - NEW I&B MINISTER


In a surprise cabinet reshuffle, a year ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Smriti Irani was removed as head of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. Rajyavardhan Rathore who has served as Minister of State (MoS) for 4 years, was finally given independent charge of the portfolio.


MEITY CHANGED TOO

Simultaneously, KJ Alphons, who was a Minister of State in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology was shifted to the Tourism Ministry.

SS Ahluwalia has been promoted to head MEITY, and has given up his portfolio as MoS at the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation.


SMRITI IRANI

Smriti Irani retains the relatively lowprofile Textile Ministry.

She was earlier removed as the HRD Minister and was replaced by Prakash Javadekar making this the second time that she has been shunted out of a ministry after being embroiled in controversy.

Irani was removed from the high-profile HRD ministry soon after the JNU and Hyderabad University controversies and was moved to the Textile Ministry in 2015.

She made a comeback to the big stage by taking charge of the I&B ministry after Venkaiah Naidu's appointment as Vice-President in 2016.



IRANI - QUEEN OF QUARREL?

Smriti Irani's tenure as the I&B minister has been anything but smooth. She has been involved in a number of rows.

A former TV actress, Smriti Irani took over as I&B minister when former Minister M.Venkaiah Naidu resigned to take part in Vice Presidential Elections.

Irani's brief tenure saw several controversial decisions including scrapping FreeDish auctions, stopping the issue of fresh TV channel licenses, framing new uplinking and downlinking guidelines, pressure on TV channels to shift to ISRO satellites, and more.

The recent move to control media via draconian laws against fake news met with an uproar and was withdrawn after reported a missive from the PMO's office.

Irani withheld Prasar Bharti staff salaries, in a move that was seen as an attempt to disrupt the public broadcaster's autonomy.

A couple of weeks before her termination, Irani set up a government committee to regulate and control online media platforms.

Apparently, there was a move to change the I&B minister, that began atleast 7 to 10 days ago. Irani was to have led a delegation to Cannes but cancelled her visit.


RATHORE: NEW I&B MINISTER

On 14th May 2018, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore - a former sportsman and army man - was elevated to take charge of the MIB, from his 4 year position as Minister of State in the same ministry.

Rathore has addressed both houses several times and has always presented a restrained and considered view, displaying immense maturity. Having served under 4 different I&B ministers in as many years, Rathore has displayed not only maturity, but also a firm understanding of the issues concerning the media sector.


ABOLISH I&B MINISTRY?

The thought of abolishing the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting may seem outlandish, but the idea was proposed by Prakesh Javdekar, a day after he was appointed I&B minister, in May 2014. He said he was 'philosophically' and 'ideologically' in favour of doing away with the Ministry as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's mantra of 'less Government, more governance.'


No Advanced Democracy - Western Europe or North America, Has An I&B Ministry.


Javdekar's statement was received with shock by most and was never repeated again. Javdekar was moved out of the I&B ministry, after a brief spell of less than 6 months.


Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (born 29 January 1970) is a former professional shooter. he has won a silver medal in the 2004 Olympic Games & multiple medals at the Commonwealth and Asian Games. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2005.

Rathore was appointed as a Cabinet minister with independent charge for Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in 2017. he continues to hold that portfolio.


NEW I&B SECRETARY

Jharkhand state development commissioner Amit Khare has taken over from NK Sinha, as the new secretary of the MIB.

Amit Khare is a 1985 batch IAS officer. An upright civil servant, he is credited for unearthing the 34,000 Crore fodder scam 2 decades ago in Bihar for which then, Bihar chief minister Lalu Yadav & 500 others were convicted.

The media industry expects a breath of fresh air with Rathore & Khare taking charge. They will hopefully end power games within MIB and actually work to live up to PM Modi's promise of easing norms for doing business in India.


No advanced democracy, be it in Western Europe or in North America, has a Ministry for Broadcasting. They have independent commissions.

In the U.S.A. the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been effective in regulating television & broadcasting for more than 50 years.

The UK Has OFCOM, (Office of Communications) its communications regulator. OFCOM regulates the TV, radio and video-on-demand sectors, fixed-line telecoms (phones), mobiles and postal services, plus the airwaves over which wireless devices operate.

OFCOM's role is to "make sure that people in the UK get the best from their communications services and are protected from scams and sharp practices, while ensuring that competition can thrive."

Others independent regulators include:

 Australian Communications & Media Authority


It remains to be seen if the DD channel will be able to book any significant ads during the 1 hour delayed telecasts, since the deal with Star was struck just a day before IPL- 2018 commenced.


LIBERALISED I&B ?

Within a day of assuming charge, the new I&B minister emphasised that media has to opt for self-regulation and the government has no plans to regulate news portals and media websites.

He said most publications and TV channels are already self-regulating at various levels, first at the reporting journalist's level and then at the editor's desk. He added that this was a model that the government was more than happy to continue with and support wholeheartedly.

The prime minister is very clear that the media in our country is one of the very important pillars of democracy and they have to self-regulate, Rathore highlighted.

He said Prasar Bharati will be strengthened and high priority would be given to better and informative programmes.

He said "it is about a collective responsibility that media becomes the voice of the people, whether it is Prasar Bharati or private network or channel. We will work in this direction."

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 Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

 Bundesnetzagentur in Germany

 Federal Communications Commission in Switzerland

The argument to do away with the I&B ministry is that Public broadcasting services are autonomous in every democracy. No ministry should oversee this function or pull purse strings.

In vibrant democracies, there are a large number of private TV channels, that should not be throttled or over regulated.

"If a Minister is there for the portfolio, he/she cannot sit idle; they poke their nose into the functioning of such institutions by way of self-employment. Hence, the urgency to abolish this portfolio," said Jaipal Reddy - former I&B minister, in an article in The Hindu, on 18 May 2018