Social media an audacious experiment in anarchy, says Manish Tewari

(From L-R) Partho Chakraborty, Programme Executive DDK, Patricia Mukhim, Editor, The Shillong Times, Dr Sukalpa Bhattacharjee, English Department NEHU, Manas Chaudhuri, Managing Director, The Shillong Times and former MLA, Dr Mukul Sangma, Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Paul Lyngdoh, UDP working president, Manish Tewari, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, David Laitphlang, president, Shillong Press Club, RG Lyngdoh, MLCU Vice Chancellor, Pradyot Manikya Debbarma, Editor, The Northeast Today and Shobha Chaudhuri, General Manager, The Shillong Times pose during the 69th Anniversary Celebrations of The Shillong Times at Pinewood Hotel in the city on Tuesday. (ST)

Union Minister of State (Independent charge) for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewariwhile pointing at the proliferation of mobile phone and internet users in India said the world wide web is today the largest ungoverned space on planet earth. Pointing to the potential for abuse through social media Tewari said social media is fracturing social relationships hence Government should have an institutionalised presence in that space.

As far as traditional media is concerned Tewari said that it is best for the media professionals and media houses to devise their own regulatory mechanisms which are both credible and sustainable.

“We would not like to come down on the media for violating its mandate and begin to regulate it for this has other ramifications which are undesirable in a democracy,” Tewari said while delivering a talk on “A Case for Media Check and Balance’ during a function to commemorate the 69th anniversary of The Shillong Times here on Tuesday.

While stating that the media is best left unfettered he also suggested that a carefully crafted self-regulatory regime is the need of the hour.About social media and its unedited, non-mediated news and views the Union I & B Minister said it is an impossible task to regulate social media.

According to him, this new media rides on the back of the World Wide Web with 86.7 crore mobile phones and 12.4 crore internet users, which is expected to grow to 37 crore by 2017. There are 8 crore Indians on Facebook and another 1.8 crore on Twitter. He admitted that there are unwanted messages and information which are being put in the social media network since it is a free for all space..

“What is required is to have an inherent system within the Government for channelizing more credible information at a very fast pace. This would be help to tackle the flow of false information through social media networks,” he said.

Tewari said his Ministry has established the new media wing which would address the communication and dissemination requirements of the Centre on social media platforms. The wing would integrate the communication tools horizontally and vertically through various social media stages. This is where the tyranny of hidden people can be combated, he observed.

He advised the state governments and district administrations to have an institutionalised presence in the social media pool.

Tewari warned about the danger in democratisation of the information space in a situation where the rules of engagement have not emerged. “Nations need to agree to the common rules of engagement in the virtual civilisation to prevent any cataclysmic impact it could have on the physical world,” he said.

“The common rules of engagement in modern virtual space are fortunately not emerging and my apprehension is that if these rules do not emerge swiftly and are agreed to by nations as we saw the emergence of the world wide web we will also see the Balkanisation of the web,” he added.

The Union Minister also informed that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is planning to take corrective measures on the Television Rating Points (TRPs) which are actually a skewed way of deriving viewership percentile.

It may be mentioned that the TRP is a tool provided to judge which programmes are viewed the most.

“The TRAI is trying to fix the TRPs which they feel is a broken system. They (TRAI) are really serious about fix this,” Tewari said.

Talking about radio Tewari said his Ministry is attempting to revive the radio industry in a big way.

“The resurgence in the radio industry is mainly due to the huge success of the FM radios. At present, we have a total of 839 radio channels spread over 234 cities,” Tewari said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma also said that the media must develop the capacity to regulate itself and retain its credibility to become a sustainable venture.

“The survival of media houses would all depend how they are able to provide credible news,” Dr Sangma said.