How do you see the media evolving in India?
Evolution is a continuous process and in the case of Indian media, this process has been rapid so far. Newspapers, Radio, Doordarshan, TV channels, and now digital platforms — media has come a long way in 70 years. The current decade will be defined as the “age of innovation in media” in terms of format and content both. Newspapers are coming up with WhatsApp editions, those who don’t have access to media are conducting video shows and FB lives themselves, Youtube channels and social media have spiced up the media space as never before. Every citizen with a smartphone is a journalist now. Shelf value of the good stories and expose has gone up. Media houses don’t mind following exclusive stories broken by others giving them the due credit. Two-way communications on a digital platform have helped readers to callout journalists and media houses for their flaws, mistakes, and hypocrisy publicly.
What is your take on the mushrooming publications and TV channels?
There are stringent norms for approval of the publications and TV channels. However, they are largely ignored as politicians, government officials and media owners are hands in gloves in looting public money in the name of government advertisements.
What according to you is the narrative of the fourth estate?
Media should follow people’s narrative, not the one set by politicians.
As a responsible citizen of this country, if given a chance, what corrections you want to make in today’s journalism?
Some organisations make money by extortion and blackmail. They get away as they are either supported or owned political parties. To maintain the credibility and neutrality of the fourth pillar of the democracy, all such dubious operators shall be punished. Those who don’t follow the basic principles and ethics of journalism should be ousted from the profession. Most organisations make profits by grabbing government advertisements, subsidised paper, inflating the circulation figures and offering much fewer salaries than the prescribed norms. The balance-sheets of all media houses should be made public.
There’s an uproar that democracy is in danger. What is your take on this?
Major institutions in the country such as CBI, ED, Income Tax, NITI Aayog have been heavily politicised which has dented their credibility to some extent. Some statistical parameters such as calculation of GDP has been changed which is being questioned by the experts. Some data like employment figures have not been released which further raises questions over the intentions of the government. So far, the government has not been able to justify these anomalies. Those who speak out against the government have often found themselves in trouble. Students have been jailed for showing black flags to ruling politicians. Media is largely under pressure or has adopted self-censorship. A democratic system doesn’t work like this.
What’s your message to our readers?
At a time when TV channels and social media are increasingly occupying space, newspapers are still the first choice of all serious readers. It is the same awaken lot which watches the budget speech or a cricket match on TV channels, but look for the newspapers next morning to gather fine details, in-depth knowledge, and anecdotes. Keep reading the newspapers.
How do you want us to improve as a Parallel media after all these years of the successful journey?
Connect with the readers and engage them in as many ways as possible. Ground reporting, coverage of hyperlocal issues, and incorporating readers’ views in major stories can help in this regard.