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'Indian news focuses more on celebs'

The future of public media in general worries me, says Daya Thussu, a professor of Indian origin in a UK varsity.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2005 13:26 IST

Daya Kishan Thussu, the first professor of Indian origin in the field of media and cultural studies in any British university, is worried about the future of public service broadcasting in India.

Thussu feels that despite access to information from a wide variety of sources the news networks in India tend to go for what he calls the three Cs - celebrities, criminals and cricket.

He is a professor of international communication at the University of Westminster, London, which is ranked highly for its research and teaching in the theory and practice of journalism, media and cultural studies.

Speaking on key questions facing the Indian media today, he said: "Not just the future of public service broadcasting but public media in general worries me.

Thussu holds a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A former journalist, he has published extensive research on the Indian media in academic journals, edited collections and books.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: You have worked on the thesis of 'infotainment'. How do you view the editorial content in the Indian media today - particularly television news?

A: The concept of infotainment is a relatively new one, which emanates from recent changes in broadcasting ecology around the world. This is manifest in the way broadcasting has moved from public to private, where the private is privileged at the expense of public media.

This also reflects the way the audience is perceived within the broadcasting industry - people tend to be seen increasingly as consumers rather than citizens. As elsewhere, this is visible in Indian media too, with a range of programmes about consumerism, often driven by ratings and circulation battles.

Q: The Indian press has a long history of service to society. What is the contribution of television to Indian society?

A: Unlike the private and professional press, the electronic media, almost from its inception in India has rarely been little more than a mouthpiece for the government. Successive governments have used the electronic mass media, especially television, to promote their agenda.

Mrs Indira Gandhi was on record as saying that unlike her counterparts in other developing countries, she did not own a newspaper and therefore needed to have control on the airwaves to publicise her government's policies.

Indeed, under her stewardship the idea of using the visual media to educate the poor was taken seriously - just think of the amount of money the government spent on creating a satellite infrastructure in India. Satellite television came to India 10 years before it was available in Europe.

First Published: Dec 06, 2005 11:50 IST