There is no foundation funded journalism in India: Shekhar Gupta

MUMBAI:  Social media is the new hub for news breaks.  The role that the platform played during the recently concluded ‘election of the century’ set the tone for the future of journalism in the country.  And stressing on the same was India Today group editor in chief of news properties and vice –chairman Shekhar Gupta at a session on ‘Media and Governance’ at Indian Merchants Chamber.

Gupta said that social media like Twitter will affect governance in India. Calling social media as the new form of journalism that is used to break many stories, he also cautioned that it spreads urban mythologies. He went on to add that  if a war like situation arises, leaders having mass following on Twitter will find it difficult to control a “Twitter storm” from the Twitterati.  Gupta also expects the new government to make phone calls to media owners and it is during this time the media will be tested he said.

Speaking about the turnover of the Indian media industry he quoted  a press article which mentions that the total turnover of the Indian media industry including entertainment is less than that  of telecom giant Bharti Airtel.

He pointed out that India’s demographics and an aggressive literate policy were fuelling the growth in Indian media. He compared the outburst of channels and publications in the media to the 1962 war where the Indian army had expanded suddenly. He also lamented about the fact that today’s TV journalist were inadequately trained in classrooms as well as newsrooms and as such the media is going down the value chain.

At a time when serious discussions are taking place about media ownership with the latest one being Reliance Industries’ acquisition of Network18, Gupta said that the media has always been owned by the corporate and stated, “There is no foundation funded journalism in India”. He also said that large corporate companies are not in the business to milk money out of media organisations as for them the investment is too less.  Gupta said the only worry for him was “funny people” owning the media. He explained how a particular political family at the regional level controls the distribution of media in a north Indian state.

Speaking about the ad revenue of news channels, he explained that FMCG advertisers like soaps, toothpastes and aerated drinks first go to general entertainment channels (GECs) like Star Plus, Colors or Sony where they get high viewership. The second option is sports channels which again have high viewership and last in line are news channels that have no choice left and have to offer ad slots at cheaper rates.

Gupta was previously the editor in chief of Indian Express and a well known host on NDTV for his show Walk the Talk. When asked what will be his new role at India Today group, he said that his essential job was still the same although it was a different universe. “It is still what it was, except it is not a broadsheet daily. This group is diverse as it has 36 titles including magazines and channels like Headlines Today and Aaj Tak,” he said.

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