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.)

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels 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. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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