GoM Plans Roadmap to Address Government Communication Through Media Engagement

One of the GoM recommendations include neutral journalists or those journalists who are "supportive of the government", who have lost their jobs recently can join various ministries.

New Delhi: The Union government is working on a new strategy to address “government communication” and public outreach through media engagement, with a group of ministers (GoM) comprising nine Union ministers recommending how criticism can be addressed and positive messaging can be spread, Hindustan Times reported.

One of the suggestions recommended by the GoM include developing Prasar Bharati News Service as a key news agency of the country and developing DD International along the lines of “best international public broadcasters”, the report said. Apart from this, neutral journalists or those journalists who are “supportive of the government”, who have lost their jobs recently can join various ministries, the GoM recommended in its report, a copy of which is seen by the Hindustan Times.

“The deliberations of the GoM focused on evolving multipronged strategy to take these 10 big narratives to the people by various means including direct connect by elected representatives and state and district level representatives, engaging with media houses and academia at national and international level, utilising all types of media, feeding them with positive stories and testimonials, developing institutional mechanisms for structured engagements, developing DD International on lines of best international public broadcasters and strengthening a resource pool of domain experts,” the report said.

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The 10 core narratives include projecting India’s soft power, the country’s standing in the international community and marquee government initiatives such as Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Digital India, the report added.

The key recommendations by the GoM also include setting up a new communication wing and a strong ‘fact check unit’ to more effectively use the social media for targeted communication. A research unit to collate all information for easy and timely retrieval was also part of the GoM’s recommendations.

“The GoM was formed to streamline communication strategy a few months ago. We felt that there was a need to assess how we could reach out in a more effective manner. Various ministers were part of it to remove gaps in government communication. During Covid, small media outlets found it difficult to collect information and get videos. We figured out we needed to share videos [too],” an official aware of the discussions told the Hindustan Times, on the condition of anonymity.

“This process has been underway for some time now,” a second official told the Hindustan Times, on the condition of anonymity.

According to HT‘s report, the group has met six times since June 14 and its recommendations will now be sent to the cabinet secretariat.

The GoM includes cabinet ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar, S. Jaishankar, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, and Union ministers Kiren Rijiju, Hardeep Singh Puri, Anurag Thakur and Babul Supriyo.

The group has made its first presentation to the prime minister, who guided the GoM with his insights and gave vital inputs, the GoM report noted.

The recommendations also highlighted some points on ensuring digital media reporting “is not biased”.

“Steps have been taken to ensure that the news reporting on digital media is not biased primarily due to its foreign investment component. It has been decided to cap the foreign investment to 26% and the process to implement the same is under way,” the report said.

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While raising concerns over foreign media coverage, one of the members suggested there be curbs on interacting with foreign journalists. “International outreach is an important component in putting government’s stand properly in an international forum”, the report concluded, adding that “regular interaction with foreign media journalists would help disseminate correct information and perspective of the government, especially on sensitive issues.”

To ensure local level outreach, volunteers of National Service Scheme (NSS), National Cadet Corps, National Youth Corps (NYK) and party leaders should be involved, it said.

The GoM suggested, according to Hindustan Times, that every ministry should identify two major public outreach programmes in a year along with one day of pre-event publicity and one day of post-event coverage. “This way, for around 300 days in a year, there will be coverage of one or the other government programme.”

“There is nothing wrong in the government planning better media outreach. Any entity whether public or private is entitled to do so. However it is a little disconcerting that people might get influenced to be more pro-government to gain favours now that they know they will be tracked,” said Pradyuman Maheshwari, editor-in-chief and founder of MxMIndia, a media and advertising analytics firm told Hindustan Times.