The Indian Media Waiting to be Liberated from Owners

Pradeep Mathur
Pradeep Mathur

Prof.  Pradeep Mathur, Delhi 

A few years ago a public school in South Delhi invited me to address its students on media. It was part of an exercise to acquaint students to choose their career option after they completed their schooling. There were also speakers from other disciplines like management, medicine, IT and engineering. Along with the students in the audience were their parents who were keen to know about career prospects in various areas and help their children in selecting the career line most suited to them.

When it was my turn to speak I said I had two problems in talking about media. The first is that media being so much a part of our lives you perhaps know almost all about media. The second problem is that almost 90 per cent of what you know and would believe to be true is wrong as media is certainly very different from what you perceive it to be and what spin doctors tell you .

Almost every educated person in our country is a media user( and media expert too) and our media audience is perhaps the largest in the world. However, our media literacy, if that is the right word, is very low . Even those who participate in media seminars (webinars in the Corona lockdown time) and make loud presentations on media credibility and news management are blissfully ignorant of the objective conditions in media industry. They of course know the product but have no understanding of the process by which it is made. And as all of us should know a product is the outcome of the production process by which it is made.
Therefore, if we have problems with media today, and of course there are many, then we have look at the factories of media products and not at the shops that sell media products.
But what is the problem with media industry per se?

The media industry has been passing through a serious crisis for quite sometime now and nothing has been done to address it. The crisis is not of man, machine or money . It is very much an ideological crisis which can be tackled only when we examine the ownership pattern of media industry and remove the basic conceptual flaws in it . And earlier we do it better will it be for a healthy press and a vibrant democracy.

The basic question is should private media industry function as a profit making venture for those who invest in it or it should be run as a public utility service which should earn just enough to sustain itself and not aim at profiteering and capital formation. And this is the basic question that calls for an answer .
The roots of this problem are in the history of newspapers in India. The early newspapers were started in a spirit of mission to achieve well defined social or political goals. Both the financers who invested in these newspapers and those who worked for them subscribed to these goals.

For long newspapers were financed by the Indian corporate world in the spirit they financed education institutions, cultural organizations and religious places. As long as the job was left to professional editors there was no problem. The problem arose when the new generation of owners realized that a newspaper is a golden hen and it lays eggs of gold.

The increased interference by the owners made dedicated editors and journalists subdued, withdrawn and compromised. The pressure to promote commercial and financial interests of media barons made professionally competent editors vacate their seats for non-professional bootlickers who were too ready to work as power brokers and liaison man with the powers that be.

The increased interference by the owners made dedicated editors and journalists subdued, withdrawn and compromised. The pressure to promote commercial and financial interests of media barons made professionally competent editors vacate their seats for non-professional bootlickers who were too ready to work as power brokers and liaison man with the powers that be.

It is perhaps difficult for the present generation of young media persons to believe that till the other day there were journalists and editors who were sought after by VVIPs though they did not live in air-conditioned farm houses and did not move in big cars. They were respected for their honesty, integrity and professional competence. However, they were pushed into the background not by politicians or power brokers but by their employers, the owners of the media organizations for whom they could not do PR work.

The Indian media world is, therefore, waiting to be liberated from these owners who put their money in the industry but instead of let it grow kill it for their ulterior money-making designs.
A concerted attempt to liberate media from these sharks is the utmost need of the hour. Earlier we do it better for us.

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The author, a veteran journalist and a former Professor at IIMC, New Delhi, is editor of Mediamap, a monthly thought journal on current affairs.

For further reading and comments pleases follow the link http://mediamapblog.blogspot.com

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