The concluding day of the 18th Asian Media Information and Communication Center Ltd (AMIC) annual conference, held in Delhi from July 13-16, saw interesting sessions on ‘Analog Media, Digital Context: The Challenges for Newspapers in the 21st Century’, and ‘Public Service Broadcasting in the age of New Media and Globalisation’, among others.
In the first session, the changing role and challenges of newspapers were discussed. The session was chaired by Cyril Pereira of ABP Media, while the panelists included Govindraj Ethiraj from UTV Business, Rajesh Kalra from Times of India Online, Kunda Dixit from Nepali Times, Rudrangshu Mukherjee from the Telegraph, and MG Parmeshwaran from DraftFCB Ulka Advertising.
Govindraj Ethiraj raised the issue about whether mainstream is really playing its role of being able to help the ordinary person during calamities, and spoke about the importance of social media in providing information. “We have the Right to Information Act, and it is important that information is available to us. It is here that social media plays an important role,” he said.
At the same time, Ethiraj also spoke about the dichotomies of citizen journalism. “Someone once told me how if there are citizen journalists, there can also be citizen doctors. Journalism, too, is a skilled profession. It is not something that anybody can undertake, because there are specific requirements and skills that are important to it,” he pointed out.
Responding to a question from the audience on regional language newspapers, Rajesh Kalra admitted that language papers did record some of the highest growth rates. “Navbharat Times has grown 400 times recently,” he said.
In the second session, Arun Mahizhnan of the Institute of Public Policy, Singapore and Board Member, AMIC, chaired a discussion on ‘Public Service Broadcasting in the Age of New Media and Globalisation’.
Speaking at the session, Thepchai Yong, Thai Public Broadcasting Service Ltd, said that the objectives of public service broadcasting included encouraging public awareness with public interest. “It is important to educate, inspire, identify and reflect social diversity,” he said, adding, “New media should provide opportunities to reach out to sectors that earlier could not be reached by traditional media.”
Savyasachi Jain remarked, “Although on the face of it, new media and globalisation look like threats to public service broadcasting, it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. Public service broadcasting is like bringing up a child – you want to give it values, ethics, rights and wrongs, and make it successful,”
“Public service broadcasting is accountability towards the public and not to the government,” he pointed out. Jain also spoke about how audiences today were more niche. “We now talk of smaller audiences – the young people, the people from a certain segment, etc. – we no longer talk about the nation as a whole,” he noted.
So, if with the outbreak of these smaller audiences it is diversity that is being achieved, that was exactly one of the criterions that Mahizhnan spoke about, which belonged to public service broadcasting.
According to him, “The four criteria of public service broadcasting are universality, diversity (and niche, smaller audiences as Jain pointed out), independence (something that a lot of public service broadcasters have lost), and distinctiveness.”
The panel also included Andrew Taussig from the International Institute of Communication, UK, who spoke about BBC’s work, and Usha Bhasin from Doordarshan. Bhasin defended the government channel when questioned about why it was not being utilised to its fullest. “People go to other private channels mostly for entertainment; it is in the rural areas that the channel has really been able to reach out,” she said.
Jain, however, disagreed with this. He said, “There is only 4 per cent of audience share that goes to the Doordarshan channel, which includes the rural population that does not have access to cable television. Obviously, Doordarshan is not being able to capture the public interest as it is its responsibility to do. Broadcasting cannot be left only to commercial interests.”
Mahizhnan concluded the session by saying, “In keeping with the need for diversity, perhaps then, it is not just public service broadcasting, but ‘publics’ service broadcasting.”
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