8 Sep 2010

Mandatory disclosures by the media of its stake in corporate sector

In as much as we find this SEBI action quiet in line with the required spirit with which the media should operate in this democratic and accountability set-up we are reproducing in full the recent SEBI press release on the issue of "Mandatory disclosures by the media of its stake in corporate sector".

The Press Release informs as under;

SEBI had taken up with Press Council of India its concerns on practice of many media groups entering into agreements, such as ‘Private Treaties’, with companies. Typically, such arrangements are with companies which are listed or which proposes to come out with public offerings.  These, in general, entail a company giving stake in it (shares, warrants, bonds etc.) in return for media coverage through advertisements, news reports, advertorials etc. in the print or electronic media.
It was felt that such agreements may give rise to conflict of interest and may, therefore, result in dilution of the independence of press. This may consequently compromise the nature, quality and content of the news/editorials relating to such companies. Needless to say, biased and motivated dissemination of information, guided by commercial considerations can potentially mislead investors in the securities market. Such journalism would not be in the interest of securities market.
SEBI, given its legal mandate to protect the interest of investors felt that such brand building strategies of media groups, without appropriate and adequate disclosures may not be in the interest of investors and financial markets. There are prescribed norms of Journalistic Conduct that require journalists to disclose any interest that they may have in the company about which they are reporting. However, there are no equivalent requirements in the case of media companies holding a stake in the company which is being reported / covered.
Press Council of India has informed SEBI that in its meeting held on 22.02.2010 at New Delhi, it has accepted the following suggestions of SEBI and has mandated the following:
1)      Disclosures regarding stake held by the media company should be made in the news report/ article/ editorial in newspapers/television relating to the company in which the media group holds such stake.
2)      Disclosure on percentage of stake held by media groups in various companies under such 'Private Treaties' on the website of media groups should be made.
3)      Any other disclosures relating to such agreements such as any nominee of the media group on the Board of Directors of the company, any management control or other details which may be required to be disclosed and which may be a potential conflict of interest for media group, should also be mandatorily disclosed.
The copy of the Press Release sent to SEBI by Press Council of India in the matter, is enclosed.
We hope that this mandate would be followed not just in the letter but also its fullest spirit by media personnel.  

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