Regulators

India media needs to look within: I&B minister

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NEW DELHI: Is the Indian media aggressive enough? Without doubt, yes, but it also needs to temper the aggression with intelligence. Is television corrupting popular taste? Debatable. Simply because revenues and ratings drive programming decisions despite honest intentions to highlight socially relevant fare.

nd, information and broadcasting minister Jaipal Reddy couldnt have agreed more. Pointing out trivialisation, sensationalisation and glamourisation of issues is becoming rampant in the media, he asked, ''I am not opposed to entertainment, but where is the information (in newspapers and television)?''

But for the BAG Films-promoted The International School of Media and Entertainment Studies (ISOMES), its inaugural Big Idea seminar today on Media Concerns of the Day, attended by print and TV stalwarts, not only whipped up ticklish and serious issues, but also provided entertainment.

The government was represented by Reddy, his cabinet colleague in planning and programme implementation ministry Suresh Pachauri and bureaucrat-manager Tripurari Sharan, head of the government-backed film and TV institute in Pune.

Prof. Roger Gafke, a practising academic from the University of Missouri and international dean, ISOMES, gave an insight into the functioning of the US media.

If iBN chief editor Rajdeep Sardesai had a ball lampooning `stalwart editors of yesteryears who frown down on the young brigades aggression, saying they primarily did stenography journalism compared to todays go-getting newshounds, original sting operator and editor of Tehlka Tarun Tejpal felt that journalism (and presumably media) had just one cause to keep in mind: public interest.

What added spice was when he said that quality and honest journalism cannot be had if people continue to buy newspapers and magazines at highly subsidized rates, which, amongst other things, forces media owners to keep their business interest in mind (read, advertising revenue from big corporate houses).

That made adman-cum-theatre& movie personality Suhel Seth, moderator of the session Is The Indian Media Aggressive Enough?,quip Tejpal was trying to market his newspaper Tehlka, which is priced higher than normal national dailies. It is another thing that Seth spared none from his caustic and, at times, incisive observations.

Star News CEO Uday Shankar defended the aggressive media, but did point out that selective aggression targeted towards softer targets is something that bothers him at times --- an issue that was echoed by Sardesai too when he observed, Far too much back slapping is going on in the media.

If almost all the speakers for this session were for aggression, tempered with intelligence, Outlook magazine editor Vinod Mehta felt that the media has failed to investigate adequately the wrong doings in the corporate world.

That India is not unique in these respect as it undergoes a change --- hopefully for the better and a more matured outlook --- became evident when Prof. Phill Brooks of the Missouri University of Journalism in the US and international faculty of ISOMES said the Vietnam war and the Watergate scandal changed the primarily passive US media into an aggressive one that now looks at things more skeptically, especially those issues that are related to public figures.

But, Brooks said, in the process, it has gone so much overboard that the American public is loosing confidence in the media.

Aggression was also written all over the other session, Is TV Corrupting Popular Taste?. Moderator Anil Wanvari, Indiantelevision.com chief editor, felt that though ratings and business interests might take precedence in programming-related decision at times, ample choice is available today for intelligent and more discerning viewers.

If anybody brought out the dichotomy of the programming world --- weighed down on one side by the urge to have higher returns on investments and a commitment towards society on the other --- it was BAG Films MD and film & TV producer Anurradha Prasad.

Pointing out that good and socially relevant programmes and entertainment dont bring in the ratings, Prasad said, I have made programmes like Haqeeqat (aired on Sahara One), Rihaee (on Sony Entertainment TV) and Siddhanth (on Star One), but believe me these shows have brought me awards and accolades, but not adequate ratings for channels to justify their long run.

The respective channels have pulled the plug on both Rihaee ( a women-empowering show) and Siddhanth (based on the legal profession). On the other hand, a BAG-produced crime show, Sansani, on Star News has the ratings chart rocking. Ditto for a mushy family drama on Star Plus.

Pawan Shankarr, the lead actor in Siddhanth, made a spirited defence of popular programming on TV saying any new art form would be criticized as the industry goes through a dynamic phase of change where a fine balance between crass commercialization and intelligent programming will be achieved over a period of time.

Similar thoughts were also expressed by Sharan, Screen editor Bhavana Somaaya and former programming head of Sony TV Rekha Nigam. Ratings drive business, which drive motives (of channel managers), Nigam concluded

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