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In there any hope for Press in India

Sunday, May 10, 2020 14:45 [IST]

Last Update: Sunday, May 10, 2020 08:57 [IST]

In there any hope for Press in India

Window Seat

Mrinal Chatterjee
In India Media and Entertainment Industry (M&E) is in a paradoxical situation. As per records it is growing at a brisk pace. The business is growing. So is revenue- at least till the covid 19 struck the world.
But when it comes to news media- press- the situation is bleak. It has been turning bleak from globalization days. Post globalization days the situation only worsened. The politicians, political parties and corporate money bags  with their own opinion and agenda have almost taken over media ownership in India leaving little space for independent voice. It happened across the country in almost all states- all regions.
Many media academicians and pundits feel digital could be the solution, as it less capital intensive. It takes much less capital and logistical hassle to run a news site than running a newspaper or television news channel. Digital news consumption is also increasing. But even there, survival is a big question. In India, press began to explore cyber space from only the fag end of last century. In twenty years- the space is so crowded that it is now an uphill task for all of them to stay afloat. And in a crowd- it is difficult to make one’s voice distinctive. Social media and citizen journalism on one hand and proliferation of fake news on the other made the news ecosphere to murky- that the audience is confused- whom to rely.
And then, almost out of the blue came Corona pandemic. The world knew about it on the last day of 2019. By mid-March four out of 5 of all countries of the world were fighting the pandemic. Several countries effected complete lock down. It impacted world economy so badly that as per a report published in 2 April 2020 in Economic Times- the UN has said that the global economy could shrink by up to 1 per cent in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, a reversal from the previous forecast of 2.5 per cent growth. UN has further warned that it may contract even further if restrictions on the economic activities are extended without adequate fiscal responses.
Covid 19 has brought a peculiar kind condition for the press. It is the biggest pandemic in our living memory- and therefore a big opportunity for the press to disseminate information, make people aware and educate them. It also almost spells doom for media, especially print media world over as newspapers can hardly be distributed in this locked down period. This might have a domino effect. Once a reader unsubscribes a newspaper, he may not again resume it, as by the time he is used to read the digital copy, which is largely free. Newspaper distribution as a business is increasingly becoming non-remunerative. As circulation plummets- so does advertisement revenue. Digital news consumption is increasing. Compared with the week of Feb. 10-16, 2020 visits to websites and mobile apps in the “General News” category increased by 61% in the week of March 16-22, 2020. But news consumption did not bring in money to run the business. Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in their letter dated 24 March 2020, sought two-year tax holiday after “triple whammy” of Coronavirus, falling ad revenues, and customs duty on newsprint.
Several media houses resorted to salary cut, lay off and retrenchment. On March 16, the Mumbai Press Club released a statement condemning the firing of journalists across the board.
Overall, news-media is passing through a very bad phase in this decade made worse by the spread of Corona pandemic. On 3 May 2020, Press Freedom Day UN Secretary-General AntónioGuterres said in his message:
"As the (COVID-19) pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis."
The silver lining is people have understood the menace of fake news and the importance of getting credible news, which the traditional kind of journalism with old values- press- can provide. Therefore there will be a demand for credible news and news that contextualize and explain, makes a meaning of the mass of data.
Rabindranath Tagore
May 8 was the 159th birthday of Rabindranath Tagore, popularly known as Biswa-kabi, world poet. Hw was born on 25 Boisakh in the year 1268 — as per the Bengali calendar — or 1861 AD, as per the Gregorian calendar.
A poet, composer, artist, thinker, philosopher, institution-builder, Rabindranath was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
He is the only person whose songs are used as the national anthem for two countries. Besides India’s ‘Jana GanaMana’, Bangladesh’s anthem ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ was also Tagore’s creation. He may have also influenced/inspired the lyrics/composition of Sri Lanka’s National anthem 'Sri Lanka Matha'
He was the first public figure to publicly protest against Jallianwala Massacre in 1919 and return the knighthood conferred on him as a mark of protest.
Dhenkanal-based Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) has published a monograph on the 101 anniversary of JallianwalaBagh massacre in which there are two very well documented essays on this. E-copy of the monograph could be sent on request.
He envisaged to develop an alternative system of education aligned to Indian philosophy. Visva Bharti, which is now a Central University and a Centre of Excellence was his dream project. A study of the evolution of Visva-Bharati during the lifetime of its founder, Rabindranath Tagore, offers an insight into what this institution was intended to achieve. Rabindranath founded a school for children at Santiniketan and it was around this nucleus that the structure of an unconventional university developed through careful planning.
It had its beginning in Rabindranath's school Brahmacharyasrama which started functioning formally from December 22, 1901 with no more than five students on the roll. From 1925 this school came to be known as Patha-Bhavana.
The school was a conscious repudiation of the system introduced in India by the British rulers and Rabindranath initially sought to realize the intrinsic values of the ancient education in India. The school and its curriculum, therefore, signified a departure from the way the rest of the country viewed education and teaching. Simplicity was a cardinal principle. Classes were held in open air in the shade of trees where man and nature entered into an immediate harmonious relationship. Teachers and students shared the single integral socio-cultural life. The curriculum had music, painting, dramatic performances and other performative practices. Beyond the accepted limits of intellectual and academic pursuits, opportunities were created for invigorating and sustaining the manifold faculties of the human personality.
It gradually grew into a University.
Here is an excellent pictorial tribute to Rabindranath by Telengana based cartoonist Mrityunjay.
Tail piece: Songs strictly avoidable under current circumstances
Lag ja gale kephir ye hasinraat (strictly forbidden )
Bahonmeinchaleaao (no question at all )
Tum pass aye yunmuskuraye (absolute no no )
Musafirhoon  yaaron, ... mujhechaltejanahai ( aren’t you reading govt instructions ? Just lock down )
Hold me now touch me now (are you mad! )
However, some (WHO) approved songs can be freely sung ...
Teri duniya se hokemazboorchala (absolutely safe)
Teri galion me narakhengekadamaajkebaad (that should be the spirit )
Chahungamaitujhesanjhsabere, lekinkabhinaamkotereawaz main nadunga (within moral code of conduct )
Chupgaya koi re door se pukarke (your real well-wisher)
(Courtesy: Social Media)

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Journalist turned  media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He can be contacted on mrinalchatterjeeiimc@gmail.com

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi