Market forces are largely responsible for the changing face of Hindi journalism, particularly the electronic media. That was one of the primary conclusions drawn at a BBC conference on Saturday. The BBC Hindi Service had organised the seminar on the occasion of its 60th anniversary.
Leading personalities of the Hindi journalistic world participated in the conference. The speakers included Ms Achala Sharma, Editor, BBC Hindi; Mr Kamaleshwar, writer and senior journalist; Mr Qamar Waheed Naqvi, joint CEO, Falak TV; Ms Mrinal Pandey, writer and television anchor; Mr Rajat Sharma, director, Independent Media; Mr Parvinder Singh, vice-president, Web Duniya; Mr Ajay Chaudhary, executive producer, Aaj Tak; and Mr Sudheesh Pachauri, media critic.
In an animated debate, the speakers touched upon various aspects of Hindi journalism, particularly the evolving Hindi language in news and current affairs programmes. Mr Naqvi said that gradually it was being found that there's a vibrant market for Hindi news on TV. And based on that reality, the Hindi language was evolving.
Giving an example of how news changed in the perception of the common people in India, Mr Naqvi said that CNN in its coverage of the Gulf War showed to the common man how news can be gripping. So that was news in general catching up in India. Then came series of news programmes and channels in Hindi-Zee, Aaj Tak and the rest followed. With the emergence of Hindi news programmes and channels came the dilemma of using the language in an effective way.
While some thought Hinglish was the right way of expression, some stuck to chaste Hindi, and the rest were in favour of Hindustani. Each speaker gave his/her opinion on what should be the ideal language for news, but the consensus was that market was the driving force.
Some of the gaping loopholes in Hindi electronic journalism also came up. For instance a panelist said after the conference that there was no survey to figure out who watches Hindi news and who's the target audience for Hindi entertainment programmes. Most channels and software houses depend on the common perception that women and news watch entertainment programmes by men.
Although it's not a reality anymore, nobody in the industry is talking about it, the panelist said. Another loophole in Hindi electronic journalism, as pointed out by Mr Rajat Sharma, is that Hindi is a big market but journalists are finding it hard to move away from English. Similarly, Mr Sharma also spoke about a leadership problem in Hindi television journalism.
Another problem, that all the speakers agreed with, was the lack of a model and stylebook in Hindi electronic journalism. At the end of it, there were no answers to some of the pertinent issues. One such issue is that ownership of TV companies is in the hands of English-speaking and elite people, who are either not aware of the ways to promote Hindi or don't care to. Also, to most channels there isn't any clear idea about the target audience. And then, Hindi TV channels want to put up an upmarket image, which is necessarily an English packaging, thus sending a wrong message.