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Essays on the Indian Media

These essays - by media personages and activists - set out to examine the media of today.

india Updated: Jan 28, 2006 19:14 IST

The Indian Media: Illusion, Delusion and Reality

Essays in Honour of Prem Bhatia

edited by Asha Rani Mathur

Hardcover

Rupa & Co.

Price: Rs 395

ISBN: 81-291-0884-4

The Indian Media: Illusion, Delusion and Reality is a volume of essays to honour the memory of the late Prem Bhatia, an outstanding journalist who was widely admired for his intellectual integrity, courage and commitment to truth.

Beyond this purpose, the book brings together journalists, media professionals, scholars and activists in a series of lively and candid articles that examine various aspects of the media. Today, print and TV have set a scorching growth rate; never before have we witnessed such an explosion regionally and nationally. But to what avail? In a society and economy buffeted by simultaneous forces of tradition and modernity, what role does the media play and how does it address the many issues that confront us daily? Has the media broadened its reach only to narrow its focus?

These are a few of the larger questions this book raises, and it does so through some of the most distinguished figures of our times. Veteran journalists and authors Ajit Bhattarcharjea, Sir Mark Tully and the late Dr Rafiq Zakaria, internationally known activists Medha Patkar and Bittu Sahgal, award-winning writers P. Sainath and Raj Chengappa, strategist K. Subrahmanyam: these are only some of the more than thirty contributors to this book. Between them, they consider the gamut of the media, from politics and ideology to cartoons and sports, from development issues to the digital divide, from broadcasting to broadsheets.

Critical and thought-provoking, the contents of this book will be of as much interest to a general readership as to media watchers.

Here is an excerpt:

"'Bigger, established newspapers are caught in a web of ruthless competing strategies in which marketing is more important than content...' - Ajit Bhattacharjea

'Treating news media offerings like soap does not enhance their value... is our media, as it stands now, really exercising its role and responsibility to society, people and the country?' - S.V. Sista and Jagdish Rattanani

'The media is important... but cannot be a prime concern of the (NBA) movement. We have to care first and foremost for our people... The people's movement does not function according to the convenience of the media, it is the other way around...' - Medha Patkar and Sanjay Sangvai

'Today you have McMedia. It tastes the same everywhere.' - P. Sainath

'While... readers do tend to be taken for granted, the fact is that they have the power to shut down the most powerful newspaper by the simple expedient of not buying it.' - Bittu Sahgal.

There you have it. A small sampler of the many voices in this book, taking a good, hard look at the Indian media, particularly the print media. It could be argued that media-bashing is a popular pastime anywhere in the world; on the other hand, as the website theHoot.com says, 'The more the media matters, the more we must track what it does.'

Today, more than ever, it does matter. In the decade following Mr Prem Bhatia's death, there has been an explosion the likes of which we could never have imagined. Indian newspaper readers are expected to exceed 20 per cent of the population in the next three years. Official data pegs the total number of newspaper copies sold at over 142 million last year, compared with 55 million in the US.

This explosion has simultaneously broadened the media's reach and narrowed its focus. Why? Because in its wake it has brought about all manner of convergence -- though not as we conventionally understand the term. I refer here to the convergence between information and entertainment (infotainment), between the once-hallowed and separate spaces of advertising and editorial (advertorial), between the reader and the consumer. If, indeed, the reader or viewer is a consumer, simply that and nothing else, then why tare we surprised by lowest common denominator journalism, by the trivia fed to us daily under the guise of "breaking news"? The orientations of the media, what it chooses to tell us ("the product"), ahve undergone a series of market-driven filters that we, the public, should be acutely aware of."