Day 3 at the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) annual conference took up myriad topics concerning media and its effects for discussion. In the session ‘Media and Broadcasting,’ the audience got an insight into the television and radio industry of India, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. Dr Kiran Thakur, Mudra Institute of Communications Research, India; Asoka Dias, Sirasa TV, Sri Lanka; Mei Ning Yan, Shantou University, China; and Dr Parveen Pannu, University of Delhi formed the panel. Dr Andrew Taussig of International Institute of Communication, UK, chaired the session.
The panel offered varied perspectives on a wide gamut of topics ranging from a study of Indian religious channels with reference to Aastha; community radio in India and Hong Kong to public service broadcasting on commercial television in Sri Lanka. Asoka Dias stressed on the commercial viability and sustainability of public service on commercial television by drawing on examples from Sirasa TV, a free-to-air, terrestrial broadcaster from Sri Lanka. “There is a perception that public service is the responsibility of public broadcasters only. My argument is that public service is the responsibility of all broadcasters, whether state-owned or privately-owned,” he noted. Dias mentioned about a daily discussion programme on Sirasa TV that highlighted the problems faced by Tsunami victims, which earned it respect in addition to ratings.
From Sri Lanka, the audience traveled to Hong Kong with Mei Ning Yan. In her presentation, Yan elucidated the stifling radio policies that were clipping the sector’s growth in the country. “We have 13 radio channels, which are all analog and there are no community radios,” she said. The government, according to Yan, argued that all FM frequencies were occupied and since Hong Kong was small and compact, it already had adequate broadcast services.
Dr Parveen Pannu took an in-depth look at the Indian radio landscape. She observed, “For sometime, radio had been relegated to the background as there was more concentration on television and the Internet. However, now it is making a comeback as it has become an integral part of most people’s daily routine.” Dr Pannu pointed out that liberalisation of policy, convergence of media and entry of private players were some the factors that were boosting the fortunes of the radio industry, particularly FM stations.
She made some interesting observations on the burgeoning community radio and reflected on the challenges of private FM stations that had become too Bollywood-centric.
The next session, titled ‘Media and the Indian Television Scenario’, aimed to highlight the Indian television industry. The audience got a dose of everything – from Constitutional guarantees and threats to freedom of expression to economic compulsion of news content, the growing trend of reality shows and effects of spiritual channels. This panel was also chaired by Dr Andrew Taussig. The panelists included Dr Sundeep R Muppidi, University of Hartford, USA; Dr Kiran Thakur, Mudra Institute of Communications Research, India; Dr Binod C Agrawal, Taleem Research Foundation, India; and Pallavi Majumdar, Amity University, India.
In his presentation, Dr Sundeep R Muppidi spoke about Constitutional guarantees and freedom of expression and the threats from increasing commercialisation and vested interests. Drawing examples from Andhra Pradesh, he explained how media was being manipulated by politicians, advertisers or the channel owners themselves. “Media is used to put across political views and propaganda as well to promote some vested interests. We have seen a conflict of interest with stories getting slashed if the owner has a financial stake, and channels do not come up with any stories that portray their parent company in the wrong light,” he said.
While Dr Muppidi and Dr Binod C Agrawal both reflected on economic compulsions that curtailed freedom of expression, Pallavi Majumdar looked at the inception and growth of reality shows in India. She pointed out that these shows came packed with drama, emotions, thrill, and people could connect with the participants, who were mostly common people. She remarked, “Reality TV is changing social aspirations, pushing boundaries of sex, changing conventional beliefs and career choice. A complete shift can be seen with ordinary people tasting overnight success and becoming celebrities with these shows.” Majumdar gave the examples of some well-known and popular Bollywood playback singers like Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal and Kunal Ganjawala, who are all products of reality shows.
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