Media caught between business and masses

April 17, 2017

New Delhi: Media today is focused more on infotainment than social issues because end-user is more than often seen as a consumer, said journalists at a round table discussion in New Delhi. They added that media is guided more by business interests rather than anything else.

The round table discussion on ‘Business Responsibility and Social Justice: The Role of Media’, was organised by National Foundation for India and OneWorld Foundation India. Apart from senior journalists, the round table was attended by civil society and the corporate spokespersons.

Vinod Sharma, Chief of Political Bureau, Hindustan Times, said that media today is not in a position to play a significant role in promoting social justice. “A large part of media is corporate media. These are publically listed companies, which are run by professional managers, who have to deliver on a quarterly basis,” he said.

He added, “Most of the media people are on contract without proper job security. Today, media itself needs social justice. Media is a derived right from the right to freedom, which guarantees the freedom of speech and expression. With people reluctant to pay for information, this is the media they get.”

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Editor, Economic and Political Weekly, regretted that journalists are not even encouraged to have critical view because it may hurt the advertisers or big players who fund the media houses.

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee, Consulting Editor at Business Standard, said, “We are putting too much onus on media for social justice.  But things are changing very fast, today Facebook is bigger than any geographical country.” Bhattacharjee said that no matter how many news channels are created, it is up to individuals to read or see what they are interested in.

Charanjit Ahuja, Editor-in-Chief at Tehelka, said, “There is no place for corrupt journalism. “Honesty can also survive, as has been shown by some publications.”

Most of the journalists agreed that skill set and the craft of story writing is crucial for making social issues interesting.

Asha Ramachandran, Features Editor, The Statesman, said that media is struggling with the big question of-what to highlight?  “Many editors are constrained by advertisements. At the end of the day, a media house is a business house as well, therefore, there is a very thin line,” she said.

Rakesh Khar, Editor - Special Projects, Network 18, called for a nominal price that should be charged from the subscribers. “There should be no free lunches. Today, news space has grown. News should not be just restricted to a newsroom, there should be a free flow of information,” he said.

Amitabh Behar, Executive Director, National Foundation for India, talked about concept of social Justice philanthropy and the important role that media can play to further the interests of society. He urged media persons to find spaces between the interests of owners and people.

Rajiv Tikoo, Director, OneWorld Foundation India, added that these spaces are best utilised by capacity building of mid-level journalists. He added that journalists could also deliver better with support in bridging information and knowledge poverty in furthering social justice.