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Indian media conglomerates have registered a double-digit growth year on year and have been consistently outpacing India’s GDP growth rate. The Indian media industry is a behemoth in making. Currently valued at USD 28 billion, it is considered the fastest-growing media industry globally and is expected to reach USD 100 billion by 2030. One would expect that for a sunrise industry registering such impressive numbers, the product would be worthy of the hype. Unfortunately, much is left to be desired when one analyses the Indian media landscape.

First, there exists not one news channel, newspaper, web portal or podcast that may be considered to be even worthy of competing in the international arena. For a country of 1.3 billion people, that is a damning indictment of the mediocrity that is being served under the guise of ‘news’. The Indian media’s remarkable consistency in their absolute commitment to mediocrity is reflected in the absence of full-time foreign correspondents by most major organisations in key areas. Independent creators on video-sharing platforms too appear to rarely be interested in articulating an Indian viewpoint on global happenings.

The result is obvious. While India strides ahead in her march towards playing a more decisive role among nation-states, the country is left alone to articulate her viewpoint and counter the barrage of misinformation and propaganda. Dynamic countries are built on the foundations of powerful institutions and that strength should be reflected both in economic capability and geopolitical reach. While one or two news entities do seem to have taken the initiative to fill this vacuum, their coverage remains ordinary which is expected with nascency in the arena.

Second, the visible lack of diversity and pluralism in the Indian newsroom is glaringly obvious. Everyone looks the same, speaks with the same tone and tenor of overdone put on authority and discusses almost similar topics. That there is no representation from marginalised communities in top positions of media houses has been well documented previously, however, not much seems to have changed on the ground.

The lack of diversity in the boardroom too has shrunk the space for free media as most major media houses are owned by a handful of major entities. Coupled with the fact that major print newspapers rely on advertising to make up to 80% of their monthly revenue, this interplay between the fourth pillar and business conglomerates has had severe implications in so far as human-centric storytelling is concerned.

Third, the consistent dumbing down of news and the warped priorities of news selection is a reflection of the state of affairs. Ask any senior in an Indian family about the news when they were growing up and they would fondly reminisce about the good old days when the whole family would gather around to listen to All India Radio or Doordarshan. News then was an inseparable part of their daily existence with significant value. The credibility of news is an unspoken, invisible handshake of faith between the audience and the news organisation. Compare that to the situation now when every piece of information transmitted by the news channels is viewed by the audience through the spectrum of political ideology. The sanctity of news has been compromised and the mad run for TRPs has played no small part in that. For a country with the geographical, political and cultural diversity that India boasts of, the news sadly remains focused primarily on the happenings in and around the national capital. Major developments in far-flung areas are given a miss under the pretext of ‘tyranny of distance’. If such media organisations with burgeoning coffers are unwilling to invest in domestic stories, are we being hopeful and naive to expect they would represent India in the global arena?

Fourth, the overreliance on sensationalism and the culture of ‘breaking news’ every ten seconds has negatively impacted the credibility of information. The transaction of news that started off as a sober affair now borders on being farcical. The loudness of the environment, the shrill over energised anchor, the bright flaming overlays on the screen - it would be amusing if it weren't insulting. The Indian audience, especially the youth, deserves better.

The information thirst of India in terms of facts, opinions and insights is an untapped market, especially, given that mainstream news organisations seem unwilling to take on this mantle of responsibility. The media as it exists today is simply incapable of understanding the changing dynamics of society and the balance of power between different groups and sub-groups, let alone presenting a definitive analysis of the structural shifts that define India’s relationship with other global partners.

Add to that, the audience is also left bemused when the journalists and news anchors of the day bemoan the ‘lack of free speech’ or peddle some other tale of doom and gloom. That a lot needs to be done to protect the institution of the fourth pillar in a democracy is cause for serious introspection and analysis, however, one would take the issue a lot more seriously than coming from a set of individuals comprising celebrity editors caught striking deals with lobbyists and news anchors who are more pliable than well-kneaded dough.

One cannot dispute the economic growth of the Indian media industry. However, it does not take into account that news, like entertainment, will eventually become individual-centric. That, in the age of podcasts and platforms, new impactful individual voices will proliferate and prosper and will eventually eat into the large pie of this industry. It has happened in the West where individual broadcast networks, owing to loss of credibility have been discarded by the audience in favour of individual voices. The same will happen in India too unless the ‘self-regulated’ media industry wakes up from this comfortable slumber they are in.

Is anybody listening?

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1 comentário

Ash Jay
Ash Jay
10 de jun. de 2022

This is quite well written. Crucial pointers have been covered well and in holistic fashion. I look forward to reading more of such content. Regards.

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