The Union government is working with a group of ministers (GoM) to plan out a brand-new strategy revamping its media and public outreach.
The recommendations by the group of nine Union ministers will emphasize 10 key areas with detailed ways to address criticism and spread positive messages to a wider audience.
A part of the report that was accessed by Hindustan Times laid out recommendations that were made after comprehensive sittings with the GoM. The discussion included “Government Communication” and evolving a multi-dimensional strategy to amplify messages through media engagement, outreach programmes at the level of states and districts, and working with influencers.
“The deliberations of the GoM focused on evolving multi-pronged 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.
A group of secretaries has also been set up to monitor each of the key areas identified in the report. Following are the 10 core narratives-
– India @ 75 (2022) and Republic @ 75 (2025) celebrations
– $5 trillion economy plans
– Aatmanirbhar Bharat Initiatives
– Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas Initiative
– Digital India Efforts
– Swachh Bharat, Swasth Bharat
– Naari Shakti Programmes
– Skill India Initiative
– Sustainable development focus
– Projecting India’s soft power globally
The report also included recommendations that were made by the GoM in the discussion. One such recommendation spoke about the previous measures of the government at ensuring that 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.
The recommendations have also focused on social media discourse stating the need to constantly track ‘negative influencers’ and to engage with ‘positive influencers’ so that the ‘government’s viewpoint in the right perspective’ can be placed.
The GoM also suggested identifying journalists and putting to use their services by various ministries, who are supportive of the government or are neutral and have lost their jobs recently.
With concerns over foreign media coverage, one of the members suggested that curbs on interacting with foreign journalists should be placed. However, the report opted the opposite after decisively concluding that international outreach is important in putting forth a government stand on an international platform.
“Regular interaction with foreign media journalists would help disseminate correct information and perspective of the government, especially on sensitive issues,” the report added.
For local level outreach, the report added that volunteers of the National Service Scheme (NSS), National Cadet Corps, National Youth Corps (NYK) and party leaders can be involved.
The GoM suggested that two major public outreach programs in a year should be identified by every ministry 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 program,” the report said.
Furthermore, the recommendations included a call for a new communication wing along with establishing a strong ‘Fact Check Unit’ to use social media for more effective targeted communication. The GoM also suggested a research unit to systematically organize all information in a proper format for easy and timely access.
“Based on the agreed/approved action points, the timelines for each one will be drawn and then these will be implemented. A review and monitoring mechanism also needs to be put in place. Either the same GoM can be entrusted with the responsibility to review and monitor the progress on a quarterly basis or a separate mechanism in the cabinet secretariat can be established,” the report added.
Two officials have confirmed these deliberations and have asked to be not named by HT.
They told HT that the process has been underway for some time now. “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,” said one of them.
The GoM includes Cabinet ministers, Prakash Javadekar, S Jaishankar, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Union ministers Kiren Rijiju, Anurag Thakur, Hardeep Singh Puri and Babul Supriyo.
The report stated that the GoM has made its first presentation to the Prime Minister who has guided them with his insights and vital inputs.
The recommendations will now be sent to the Cabinet Secretariat and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting awaits inputs from the group of secretaries on the action plan to implement the above recommendations, said HT.
Pradyuman Maheshwari, the editor-in-chief and founder of MxMIndia, a media and advertising analytics firm has said, “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.”