The afternoon sessions at the 18th AMIC annual conference, being held in Delhi from July 13-16, saw academics, researchers and journalists from across the world discussing on issues ranging from Information and Communication Technology (ICT), social transformation and accountability of media during times of conflict and crisis.
AMIC is a non-profit NGO with the mission of spearheading the development of media and communication expertise in Asia.
ICT and Social Transformation
The first post-lunch session was on ‘ICT and Social Transformation’. Dr Binod C Agrawal, Vice Chancellor, Himgiri Nabh Vishwavidyalaya, chaired the session. The panelists included Prof Vincent Mosco, Queens University, Canada; Prof Robin Mansell, LSE, UK; Prof M Anandakrishnan, IIT, Kanpur; Prof Ujjwal K Chowdhury, SIMC, India; and Anurag Batra, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group.
Initiating the discussions, Dr Agrawal, who is also the Indian representative at AMIC, gave a brief on the successes and failures of ICT in India, and the nature of social ties in the virtual world and the outside world. He remarked, “This discussion has come at a time when the role of technology, particularly the Internet with its social networking sites, has become very important. We need to carefully examine different models of technology being used in media.”
Prof Vincent Mosco with the aid of a presentation talked about the challenges, opportunities and worries stemming from ICT and social transformation. He said, “After a research in Canada across various ICT projects, we realised that there were challenges, like the tendency for technological determinism, and relationship among social, technological, cultural, political and economic considerations, which posed a big problem.”
He added, “Opportunities are there, but we have not reached the point where the social relations of the Internet have hardened to the point that the genuine social change with and through the Internet is unlikely.” Prof Mosco further said that there worries like concentration of power, demographics of blog power and political surveillance.
After the exhaustive presentation by Prof Mosco, Prof Robin Mansell gave an insightful presentation and talked about the role of Internet media. She too said, “Use of the Internet and other digital technologies has given rise to surveillance, monitoring and control, and at the moment it has spread like a chaotic disorder.”
Prof M Anandakrishnan took the dais with a well-researched dossier with several statistics and criticised the slow growth of IT in India. Lamenting the fact that India stood 50 in the global ICT rankings, Prof Anandakrishnan said, “Social transformation is a very slow, gradual and painful process. It is influenced by social and economic imbalances of varying depths. The role of ICT should be a powerful enabler, and it should make its presence felt in sectors as wide as health, financial services, education, and rural activities.”
Engagement is the key
Prof Ujjwal gave a lowdown on the changing tenets of media. While he made no presentations, he had several anecdotes to share regarding how education, entertainment and information were taught to be the core of every journalistic pursuit. He noted, “Times have changed and three tenets had first changed to edutainment and infotainment, and then further changed. Now, engagement is the key. Media is entirely different from what it was before and there is a genuine mismatch. Because technological patterns have changed, consumption patterns have changed too. And so have the advertising patterns.”
Anurag Batra then started off on a lighter vein, stating that he was the only panel member who did not have a doctorate, but was a regular student of media. On a more serious note, he said, “The role of media is to show hope. It is unfortunate that India stands 50th in the ICT rankings. It is time difference was made in education, health, commerce and so on.” Citing the example of Thomson Reuters’ initiative in rural areas, he remarked, “Media has to play a larger role in literacy and rural development. Spoken web with content and hardware should be the order of the day. RTI is another realm that needs to be further explored.”
Media during conflict and crisis
The next plenary session was on ‘Do Not Cross This line: Media Transparency and Accountability in Conflict and Crisis’. The session was moderated by Cherian George, Assistant Professor, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and had several senior journalists as panelists – Kunda Dixit, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Nepal Times; Aniruddha Bahl, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Cobrapost.com; Manoj Mitta, Senior Editor, The Times of India; and veteran journalist Vipul Mudgal.
Following the opening remarks by Cherian George, Kunda Dixit spoke about his career as a reporter. “After having reported on wars and covering them extensively, conflicts seem to have followed me everywhere. I reported for several years in India and when I decided to return to my native country Nepal in 1996, the war started there as well. And I realised that reporting on war in your own country is different from other countries. One needs to re-invent the rules. The old-fashioned journalism needs to be re-oriented,” he pointed out, stressing that media’s role was to provide objectivity and fairness in reportage and that journalists should not incite or instigate violence or spread cynicism in the society.
Intelligent journalism is need of the hour
Aniruddha Bahl, a well-known senior investigative journalist, had some interesting observations on TV coverage. Citing figures, he said, “Most of the TV channels today occupy their screens with 25 per cent coverage on sports, 10 per cent on crime, another 10 per cent on politics, 10 per cent on business, around 10-15 per cent on entertainment and rest on other news. Sectors like education, health, environment and rural cry out for attention. Rural news is given around 2-3 per cent of the air time. Print is only marginally better, having 3-5 per cent of rural content.”
He slammed the populist headlines of Hindi channels that were often comical and hardly carried the essence of news. Bahl added that his production house had taken several initiatives and was involved in bringing intelligent journalism to the country. “The projects we have been doing include flurosis deaths in Bihar, families savaged by mica, investigation into the BT cotton industry where small children are being exploited in Gujarat and Rajasthan,” he added.
Vipul Mudgal and Manoj Mitta took the discussions further and called for a more sensitised media and sensible news coverage.
The day concluded with AMIC felicitating two senior members associated with the organisation. Dr Binod C Agrawal was given an award for his outstanding contribution and leadership in Asia communication research in India, while Dr Indrajit Banerjee, the outgoing Secretary-General, AMIC, was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for his invaluable contribution to media.
The ongoing 18th AMIC annual conference is being supported by several academic organisations and agencies, including Unesco, Nanyang Technological University, Chitkara University and EMPI. Major partner for the event is Zee TV and Himgiri Nabh Vishwavidyalaya, an initiative of Essel Group of Industries and Zee Telefilms.