Siddharth Varadarajan, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Public affairs and Critical Theory, New Delhi and former Editor, The Hindu delivered a talk on “The Crisis in the Indian Media” at the University of Hyderabad (UoH) on 23 July 2014. The talk has been organized by the College for Integrated Studies, UoH.
Addressing a packed audience of students, faculty and staff, Varadarajan stated that in recent months, many people have presented different views on crisis in media in India. The topic has vital bearing on the democratic framework, the fact that the journalist work in India today is facing crisis in one manner or other can’t be denied. He further said that in India there are 200 plus Television News Channels in all languages, and 24 hour business news channels in English, Hindi, Telugu and other Indian languages. Registrar of Newspapers for India(RNI) lists more than 8000 titles for periodicals. In print media, there are about 150 newspaper dailies in India at present. Largest Hindi dailies Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagaran have circulation of 6-7 million copies. The English Newspaper The Times of India has a circulation of 2-3 million copies today. However, all of them are facing severe competition because of internet penetration in mass media, and rapid growth in internet compatible devices, he added.
Varadarajan said that with massive use of smart phones and internet, media has seen phenomenal increase in its access. However, there are serious concerns at the ground level. No television news channels business are profitable in today’s scenario. In US, Japan and other places, the business model of online news media is complex and can’t be replicated easily in Indian case. The only form of media that is able to make money today is print media. Newspaper price in India is lowest in the world. Indian readers derive maximum value from the newspaper subscription. Newspaper remains to be only commodity that has not seen any comparable increment price over almost three decades. The cover price of newspaper covers hardly any cost of the production and majority of the revenue is made through advertisements and it’s to the tune of 90-95%. In countries like US and Japan, share of advertisement revenue is 60% and the rest comes through subscription price, he stated.
Vardharajan also said that the newspapers are resorting to generating money through paid news for generating revenue. Also, the owners of media houses are developing interest in other business. For news gathering, they are not giving enough wages to reporters and that is a serious problem in getting quality and accurate news to the readers which is leading to journalism being compromised. He opined that the main factors contributing to limiting the independence of journalism are paid news, competition from online players and financial health of advertisers.
Life blood for healthy journalism is good governance and this can be maintained only by including others inputs, deliberate discussions and variety of views. However, this is not happening; decisions are influenced by media house owners on editorial content and editors are no more solely responsible for this very important activity. Media in society should play a good role but it’s not able to deliver on its responsibility. Above points presents bad health and compromising unethical practices in Journalism. This can be stopped only when readers are prepared to pay for quality journalism. Only if financial dependence on heavy advertisements and increasing monopoly can be checked, we can expect a professional and ethical media, submitted Varadarajan at the end of the lecture.
– By Kumar Ashish, Research Scholar, School of Economics, University of Hyderabad