Govt forms body to check ‘negative’ price increase news

Asif Showkat, NewAge, August 30, 2008

The government has formed a media committee to see how ‘negative news’ on commodity prices can be thwarted as reports on price hike have been seen as factors that fuel market volatility.

Experts, however, see it as a tool for controlling the media and feel that there is no use of such a committee. ‘The print and electronic media are not giving the real reports on declines in prices of essential goods, so consumers are being deprived of positive outcome of price fall,’ said an information ministry official.

The ministry will take initiatives to ensure that the media play a ‘positive’ role in letting people know when prices fall as they do in case of soaring prices, said the official.

The eight-member media committee, headed by a joint secretary of the information ministry, had its first meeting on August 23 and analysed the media reports on the local commodity market.
 Most of the members agreed that the media, both print and electronic, reported elaborately when prices of some items had gone up, but they were often reluctant to even have a mention in their reports when prices declined, the information ministry official said.

The director general of Bangladesh Betar, the principal information officer and the chief editor of the state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha are members of the media committee, which will hold its next meeting on Monday at the information ministry.

Regulatory Reforms Commission chairman Akbar Ali Khan has said there is no necessity to control the media reports on price hike of essentials. Rather, the government should allow the media to publish real news on price hike of essentials across the country so that necessary interventions can be planned and made on time.

‘The government has taken certain programmes in the budget to keep prices of essentials in check. If the programmes, like official import and procurement of food, are implemented properly, prices of essentials will be automatically stable in the market,’ Akbar, a former finance secretary, told New Age.

AAMS Arefin Siddiqui, professor of journalism at Dhaka University, rejected the contention that media reports on price hike have negative impact on the market.

‘Our media reflect the real picture of commodity price situations across the country,’ he said to New Age, adding that the interim government might want to control the media in the name of checking ‘negative report’ by forming a media committee.

In its first meeting, the committee found that the country’s major newspapers were downplaying or ignoring the news of significant reduction in prices of many items.

It suggested that the state-run Bangladesh Television could easily show sales of commodities at the BDR fair price shops and open market sale outlets of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh and the food ministry.

Newspapers should publish price chart of essentials so that the people can know the real prices of goods and bargain with the traders effectively. Private televisions and radio channels can air programmes like Bazarer Bag [shopping programme], a reality show run by BTV, to update the viewers on market prices, the committee said.

It entrusted the Press Information Department with making official price charts available to all newspapers routinely, sources close to the committee said.


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