He spoke to ET on the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s approach towards media, social media, media controls and much more.
In terms of communication and messaging, the BJP’s electoral campaign has been termed an object lesson in the field. How can you translate that into the governmental structure?
All communication needs of the government will be handled in our ministry through a social media hub. I am offering this service to all ministers. Their facebook, twitter and other social media outreach will be handled by the new media wing, and the social media and communication hub.
The advantage that the party saw in reaching out through all communication media has been tremendous, and it was felt that the government too use the available platforms. Therefore, this new hub will provide all the help needed by various ministers and ministries for setting up and operating their facebook pages, twitter handles and the outreach throughsocial media. Traditional media is important, of course, but social media vehicles have to be spruced up.
What are your priority areas as far as this (I&B) ministry is concerned?
We have to ensure transparency, make our vehicles more effective. We want to be accessible and accountable too. Now there is a stage three and stage four of digitisation, we will take a call on this only after taking all things into account. The issue is that digitisation increases the revenue of paid channels, but customers want fewer advertisements.
Now 11 crore new settop boxes are required, which provides a great case for indigenisation, rather than just import them. I will take it up with the finance and commerce ministers on how this could be done.
During the elections, an interview of Prime Minister Narendra Modi set off questions on the autonomy of the public broadcaster. As I&B minister, how will you deal with it?
Right off the bat, I would like to say that our commitment for press freedom, and the autonomy of public broadcast is absolute. But freedom or autonomy has its own responsibilities.
Media has the responsibility of being neutral and objective. There’s always a concern that when the government is spending so much, it must reach the public. The public broadcaster is a tool for public awareness. Having said all of this, let me categorically state that we have no plans to enforce controls on the media.
Modi has been described as a “post TV” Prime Minister, in that he reaches out to his audience or voter directly. How would you recast the role of the traditional media?
This is a lesson for everyone on how to put your point across, in the way the Prime Minister does. Minister for law and communications Ravi Shankar Prasad and I have been deputed as spokespersons for the government and we will shortly come up with a communications plan to suit everyone’s needs. This government is different from the way it approaches issues and problems.
For instance, Modiji’s design for the Cabinet. Yesterday, there were some issues related to environment and power. Piyush Goel holds the power, coal and renewable energy portfolio, I hold the environment portfolio, and between the two of us and 10 officials we sorted things which the previous government had tied up in knots in a Group of Ministers (GoM) set up. The emphasis is on synergy. For the media too, there will be things to learn from the new government and its functioning.