Current Indian media business lends itself to state capture

Tamil Nadu finance minister decries degradation of national media

Tamil Nadu state finance minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan Photo via Internet New Indian Express
Tamil Nadu state finance minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan Photo via Internet New Indian Express

In his opening remarks at a panel discussion of a virtual event, ‘The State of Indian Media’ organized by the Dravidian Professional Forum on 24 March 2022, the Tamil Nadu finance minister Palanivel Thiaga Rajan said, “At the national level, the media is dominated by the ruling party and we have seen the degradation all the way from alleged speaking truth to power, to keeping quiet, to becoming acquiescent tools, to becoming blatant tools of misinformation and propagation of false news.”

Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire said that the current business model of the media industry lends itself to state capture of the media in one way or the other. A vibrant and independent media requires a change in governance that ensures the media’s financial independence.

Siddharth Varadarajan
Siddharth Varadarajan
File photo Indian Printer and Publisher

“If a government or a polity is committed to empowering its citizens then it should also be in favor of supporting a vibrant and free media,” he added. “Of course, a prerequisite for a vibrant media is that media should have adequate financial resources to be able to discharge its solemn obligation of providing information to citizens, readers, and viewers allowing them to form informed opinions.” He noted that the growing tendency of criminalizing journalists’ work and the government’s intent to control media through new rules as two major dangers to the Indian media.

‘No excuses for not standing up and doing your job’

N Ram director The Hindu Group Photo Alchetron
N Ram director The Hindu Publishing Group
Photo Alchetron

N Ram, director of The Hindu Publishing Group, said that the Indian media industry, especially newspapers were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, due to a sharp decline in circulation and advertising, which took a heavy toll on the finances of media groups. Nevertheless, he added, “The whole industry has shrunk a little bit but it has become more resilient. But given the current recovery, there are no excuses left for not standing up and doing your job.” 

Highlighting the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) data, Ram said a total of 52 journalists have been murdered in India since 1992 in connection with their work or to prevent news coverage or commentary. “What is equally horrifying is the impunity that is attached to it. None of these cases has reached its final conclusion.”

(Based on inputs from Business Line.)

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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