Saturday, March 01, 2008

Indian media-Leader oriented, Reader neglected

'Freedom of media' is a relative term. It is just not limited to the freedom enjoyed by the media to report everything without being stopped forcefully but also obliging the members of media fraternity so as to stop them from giving out a true picture. The term "obligation'' assumes enormous proportions in the backdrop of media ethics. The modern media is like the now banned ‘Mumbai's Bar Clubs’ with Market guiding them in all respect. Editors have become Bar Girls? .

All major Indian newspapers with few exceptions have now turned into what is popularly known as "Response run" rather than "editorially run" papers. There was a time when management people were given independent responsibilities to generate revenue and the editorial wing was consider sacrosanct. Now the most of the editors of these papers have to cut a sorry figure in face of a Harvard, IIM or any management institute educated manager, and wisely they have now learnt to buckle under the demands and whims of the Response. These days an MBA has more say than an editor in deciding the contents or colour of a newspaper.

As a result of this approach content and quality wise these newspapers are heading southwards and there is nothing astonishing in it as when Ad and revenue generation becomes important the priority than the quality of newspaper goes down. This is a cardinal principle which is always true. The newspapers and magazines have now become any consumer product with perishable value.They have lost their retention capacity by the readers.

The Correspondents are now given the additional responsibility of procuring state sponsored advertisements for their respective newspapers. There are examples of the state and district level or even block level stringers being asked to collect advertisements for special supplements to be brought on Republic Day, Independence Day, State Foundation Day and even foundation Day of the newspaper itself. This is happening even in the villages of Bihar, UP and Jharkhand, where Hindi readership is very large.

This is true for almost all the publications, and in this context it would be foolish to expect that a newspaper will encourage the correspondent to report against the same government which is providing the publication with advertisements that runs into crores.

The 'old lot of journalists' who started their career in the 60s or 70 now find it increasingly difficult to function in this comparatively new Response oriented market environment which demands from them a lot more than just good writing skills.

Everyone knows that Vinod Dua, Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt recently accepted the state sponsored Padma Shri but not many are aware of the fact that Pranoy Roy declined the same when it was awarded to him just after the UPA came into power.

There was a time when even the fear of state sponsored prosecution was not able to stop media from speaking out against Indira Gandhi and emergency. Sadly the times have changed.

Readers who have been committed readers of the the self proclaimed Leader of newspapers ,particularly those preparing for the Civil Services now do not subscribe the paper as they are getting better contents in other newspapers .They are getting thought and views from non-leader newspapers as the Leader has lost its serious reader value contents. The Leader is growing in the Market, but not among the Minds as its has lost its "Retention Value". The Leader is more concerned about its TRP now giving good bye to quality reading materials and news. The Response oriented editorials are not liked by the serious and committed readers.

Readers loyalty has shifted from the Leader as the paper has now turned into a 'skin-friendly' paper of the establishment of the Day. The Leader's editorial page which perhaps was its best part too has deteriorated and as for the Sunday pull-out page the less said the better. It is neither interesting nor entertaining leave alone educative.

This nexus between media-politicians, media-industrialists has always been there but earlier it was healthy interface and the media always knew that being the fourth estate it is under the obligation to keep a check on the other institutions of democracy. And I don't deny that the checks and the controls are still there but now it is more of a "manipulated checks''.

The Freedom of Press is meant only for the Leader and its subsequent followers and not for Readers is now confirmed.

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