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NBF formed to take on the Lutyens media hegemony of NBA: Is Editors Guild next?

Will we see an alternate association take on the motivated and biased Editors Guild? Will we see like-minded digital news platforms come together to challenge the power structure of the Left? Only time can tell.

The media landscape is going through a sea-change. There seems to be a clear divide between Delhi based ‘Lutyens’ media and the rest of the media fraternity, be it the National media or regional players. The long-held hegemony that a few players exercised has not only been challenged by the alternate media but now, the broadcast channels are also organising themselves to break the stronghold of the few.

Over 50 channels have now formed a National Broadcaster’s Federation (NBF) to challenge the hegemony of National Broadcaster’s Association (NBA).

Among the founder members of the NBF are the following: Republic Media Network (Republic TV and Republic Bharat), Puthiyathalaimurai and V6 News (Tamil Nadu), Orissa TV (Orissa), IBC24 (MP and Chhattisgarh), Asianet News Network (Asianet News and Suvarna News, Kerala and Karnataka), TV9 Bharatvarsh, Newslive and Northeast Live (Assam and Northeast), First India News (Rajasthan), Kolkata TV (West Bengal), CVR News (AP & Telangana), Polimer News (Tamil Nadu), Khabar Fast (Harayana), Living India News (Punjab), Prag News (Assam), NTV (AP & Telangana), Maha News (AP & Telangana), TV5 News (AP & Telangana), MKTV (Tamil Nadu),  Vanitha TV (AP & Telangana), DNN and IND24 (MP), Shri Sankara TV  & Ayush TV (Karnataka), A1 TV (Jaipur), Power TV (Karnataka),Raj News (Tamil Nadu), Flowers TV (Kerala), CVR News Network (AP&Telangana), National Voice (Uttar Pradesh), Nirman News (Gujarat), Anaadi TV (MP&Chattisgarh), VRL Media (Karnataka), Calcutta News (West Bengal),News 7 (Tamil Nadu), DNN & News World ( MP & Chattisgarh), M H One ( Haryana), Mantavya News (Gujarat), Gujarat Television ( Gujarat), S News ( West Bengal) Bansal TV ( MP) and Onkat TV (West Bengal).

This is the first time in Media history that broadcasters have come together to form an alternate regulatory body that will be based out of Delhi. In fact, the strong presence of regional media is a welcome move to break the hegemony of a select few.

In an interesting development, the government too welcomed the formation of NBF. Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said that India has more than 700 channels and if more associations are formed in genres like news, it is a positive development. He also said that the government believed that the media should self regulate.

“I am very happy today that more than 50 news channels have come together to form the News Broadcasters Federation. These members of the NBF are from various regions and broadcasting in various states of India. India has more than 700 channels and if more associations are formed in genres like news, then it is a very positive development. We don’t believe in censorship but believe in self-regulation. I am very sure and confident that the News Broadcasters Federation will be a platform to discuss matters relevant to the TV News Industry. I also hope that NBF gives its recommendations and ensures discipline in broadcasting where truth does not become a casualty. I wish the NBF all the very best”, he said.

The NBF is a body that is set to function independently from the NBA which has exercised a stronghold on broadcasting media since its inception. The NBA has exercised the sole privilege of negotiating with the government and dealing with all issues concerning the broadcasting fraternity thus far. The board of directors interestingly has members only from a select group of channels that often peddle fake news, including NDTV which not only peddles fake news but is also under investigation for financial irregularities.

According to the NBA website, their mission is, “To serve as the eyes and ears of the private news & current affairs broadcasters, to lobby on its behalf and to act as a central point of joint action on matters of interest”.

However, while they aim to serve the interests of broadcasters, it is intriguing to note that there aren’t many representatives from smaller regional channels. The newly minted NBF seems to challenge the stronghold of not just the select players, but also the notion that large English and Hindi news channels are the only ones who deserve the right to lobby for and speak on behalf of the entire broadcasting fraternity.

Other than the lacking representation, the NBA also seems to be rather politically motivated and biased. One recalls the treatment met out to Republic TV journalist who was heckled and manhandled at Jignesh Mevani’s Hunkar rally by his hired goons. The NBA insisted that Republic TV apologises on air for referring to the goons as… goons. In fact, they made the journalist face her harassers in the most shameful manner possible.

For long, the NBA seems to have exercised disproportional power in negotiating with TRAI, other regulatory bodies and the government, with the minimum presence of regional channels. NBF has challenged that organisational supremacy by getting regional channels together. One of the national channels that is involved in NBF is Arnab Goswami led Republic TV. This, when Arnab Goswami was a founding member of the NBA itself.

When OpIndia spoke to Arnab Goswami, he said that the hegemony of the NBA is now being challenged by NBF and this association will not have a ‘UN security council’ sort of permanent body. He also said that he welcomes other channels joining NBF and there is no restriction that members of NBF cannot be members of NBA as well.

What the NBF does it to ensure that when there is a discussion to be held with the government or any regulatory body, the several regional channels which are mighty in their own states, have an equal seat on the table and the discussion will no longer be dominated by the very same Delhi based Lutyens lobby. The NBF, unlike the NBA, will have no permanent body.

With the NBA’s monopoly being challenged and how one wonders if the Editors Guild would be the next to be challenged. The Editors Guild has often shown massive bias and is led by Shekhar Gupta, who himself has been caught peddling fake news and motivated agendas several times. Under the garb of speaking up for journalists, one saw how the Editors Guild could not even bring themselves up to name the journalist killed by Naxals but had no problem vociferously lobbying for an official communist mouthpiece. In fact,

While alternate media has already posed a challenge to the information flow, one wonders if associations likee NBF are only the beginning in challenging the larger power structure within the media fraternity.

Will we see an alternate association take on the motivated and biased Editors Guild? Will we see like-minded digital news platforms come together to challenge the power structure of the Left? Only time can tell.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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