Manipal, March 20, 2017:Rohan Samarajiva, the founding chair of LIRNEasia, an ICT policy think tank and Chair of Communication Policy Research South, has said that the communication space has been transformed by the attention economy.
Delivering the keynote address on ‘Communication Policy in the Age of Facebook’ at a two-day international conference on ‘India’s Communication Policy and Strategy for Development’ organised by Media Research Centre, School of Communication, Samarajiva said the thinking on policies has changed with policy expected to set the ground rules for all participants rather than just define the role of the state.
“Operational challenges are significant given the difficulties of delimiting the scope of communication policy. What is even more challenging is that theory has not caught up with practice. What is happening now is like driving by looking in the rearview mirror. It is when policy is informed by theory it accurately reflects the world as it exists. Media should do a better job so that people behave better. A ‘new man’ would produce a developed economy,” he said.
“Today there is little evidence of opposition to national policy per se. There are of course significant disagreements about what the content of national policies should be and how they should be implemented and there is wide variation on the quality and comprehensiveness of policies and their implementation,” he said.
“Almost all developed market economies periodically adopt communication policies or strategies. In the ideal case such policies are broadly consulted and have the buy-in of most if not all government and non-government stakeholders. In India, especially in the Central government, telecom policies tend to be developed through consultative processes and are taken seriously,” he said.
Stating that Bangladesh and Sri Lankan policies are threadbare and have become obsolete long ago, he said efforts to replace them with more modern documents have failed to go the distance though some kind of policy appears to have been slapped together in Bangladesh.
He added that the practical aspects of formulating and implementing policy in the communication space have become increasingly challenging. “Earlier the scope or coverage of policy was narrow. Print media were distinct and separate from electronic media. In recent decades, convergence on a scale that was difficult to envisage in the 1970s has occurred. Television supplanted newspapers as the primary source of news only to be overtaken by social media at least in developed market economies and even in some developing ones. Television programmes are being watched not only on desktop and laptop computers but even on the small screens of smartphones,” he said.
He said that mainstream media and new media compete for finite amounts of attention that are available and said that though it is difficult, it is possible to develop a comprehensive, modern policy for the communication space through diligent consultation and the involvement of multiple agencies of government.
It would, however, suffer from fundamental instability because the media is no longer just a segment of the economy. They are at the core of the economy. It is difficult to define the bounds of communication policy which keep shifting and expanding, Samarajiva concluded.