Media landscape across the globe is experiencing a tectonic shift with the spurt of electronic and digital technologies, which is changing the way media is consumed. While growth of television channels and blogs, Wikis, and social media has thrown up new opportunities as well as fresh challenges for media barons, it has also made governance more democratic.
The 18th annual conference of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), titled ‘Media, Democracy and Governance: Emerging Paradigms in a Digital Age’, discussed the issues confronting media, as well as its role as the fourth pillar of democracy in wake of the changing media dynamics.
AMIC is a non-profit NGO with the mission of spearheading the development of media and communication expertise in Asia.
The conference began with the inaugural session that had among its panelists, Dr Ang Peng Hwa, Chairman, AMIC, Singapore; Dr Paul Pasch, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Malaysia; Dr Binod C Agrawal, Himgiri Nabh Viswavidyalaya; and Professor KE Eapen. The session was chaired by Dr Indrajit Banerjee, Secretary-General, AMIC, Singapore.
In his address, Hwa stressed that AMIC was about ethic and effects of communication. After spending a year in India, he noted that the country still had a lot of room for advancement in communication and research, and that it was missing support for conference travel.
Eapen, who has been associated with AMIC since its days of infancy, said, “Though today technology seems to be dictating communication, let’s not get lost in the notion that technology has all the answers for communication.” Going back in time, he said, “I was involved in research during Gandhiji’s time and we didn’t have any technology then, yet everyone knew his name in Kerala, which is at the southern end of India.”
The inaugural session was followed by a keynote address by Punit Goenka, CEO, Zee Entertainment Ltd. He opened his address by drawing an allegory between Sanjay, who had painted a live picture of the Battle at Kurukshetra for King Dhritarashtra in the Epic Mahabharata with his narration, and modern day media that picked up, processed and delivered news to the audience hooked to television, print and the Internet. While giving a bird’s eye view of the new media scene, Goenka said, “The future lies in engagement between the consumer, technological designers and broadcasters.” He further said, “The future will see personalisation of content, and shift from content buying and selling. There will more intense focus on content creation and delivery.”
As Goenka took the audience through the journey of Indian and global media scene in the Fifth AMIC-FES Distinguished Forum chaired by Dr Prannoy Roy, President, NDTV India, the panelists further explored the intricacies of the topic. The panel comprised Dr Kiran Karnik, Independent Director, Satyam Computers, India; Javed Jabbar, Vice-President, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Pakistan; Dr N Bhaskar Rao, CMS Academy, India; and Barun Das, CEO, Zee News Ltd.
Kiran Karnik observed, “In the process of evolution, we have seen privatisation and commercialisation of media and marginalisation of public service. But there has been an upsurge in creativity and segmentation of audience. The advantage of information technology is that it can aggregate even the smallest audience from length and breadth of the country.”
While Karnik talked about the new possibilities of digital technology, Barun Das brought to floor the challenges that new media posed. He said, “The Internet is blurring the boundaries with terrorists using the cyberspace and social media to spread their propaganda. Thus, societal responsibility, checks and balances are essential, and as for media, self-regulation is the only tool that will allow it to prosper.”
Javed Jabbar wondered if proliferation of information and media alone were enough to challenge the structure of power and governance. Dr Prannoy Roy wrapped up the session with insightful observations on the role of media and the ‘tabloidisation’ of television news.