At the 66th annual general meeting of the Indian Language Newspapers’ Association (ILNA) that was held in the Capital on October 3, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured the language newspapers that the Government would redress issues raised by small and medium-sized newspapers. At the inaugural session of the AGM, the Prime Minister said that it was the solemn duty of the Government to help these newspapers in their expansion and development.
Addressing the congregation, the Prime Minister said, “The Hon’ble I&B Minister P R Dasmunsi has assured me that he will himself look into working on the development of your sector. But I think that if more is needed, the Government would be happy to sit together with editors and journalists from your sector to find out what are the genuine difficulties, which we ought to be seeking to redress. I assure you that our Government will do whatever is necessary to help the development of the Indian language media. I hope your association will articulate the hopes and aspirations of the Indian language media and guide us as to how we could be genuine partners in progress in years to come.”
The Prime Minister also honoured 13 representatives of leading language newspapers for their outstanding contribution in the field of language journalism. These include Sarvinder Kaur for the Punjabi newspaper Ajit, Ashok Agarwal for the Hindi newspaper Amar Ujala, Jayant Baruah for the Assamese newspaper Asomia Pratidin, Pawan Agarwal for the Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar, Mahendra Mohan for the Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran, P D Ramakrishnan for the Tamil newspaper Dinakaran, Shreyansbhai Shai for the Gujarati newspaper Gujarat Samachar, Rajendra Darda for the Marathi newspaper Lokmat, Sachidanand Murthy for the Malayalam newspaper Malayala Manorama, Arvind Chopra for the Hindi newspaper Punjab Kesari Delhi, Aziz Burney for the Urdu newspaper Rashtriya Sahara, P M Mahta for the Oriya newspaper The Samaja, and Mohit Jain for the Kannada newspaper Vijay Karnataka. The Prime Minister also honoured Chetanya Kashap from the Hindi newspaper Chetna, who was also Chairman of the Reception for the Special Session of the AGM.
The Prime Minister said that there is concern all over the world that the growth of television and Internet is threatening the survival of print media. “In India, we have witnessed an unprecedented growth both in readership and viewership of media as a whole. Rising literacy rates, growing political awareness and rising levels of incomes, along with processes of urbanisation, have contributed to this phenomenon. It may be no exaggeration to suggest that we are living through a golden era of Indian media. The expansion of the language newspapers market has contributed to greater employment opportunities, as well as the growth of other media-related industries and services. I compliment you for your spirit of adventure, enterprise and creativity,” he said.
The Prime Minister added that an onerous responsibility is placed on the shoulders of the Indian language media as a vast majority of the people sees the world through their eyes. “They see changes taking place in our country and in their own regions through your coverage. Their thinking is shaped by the opinions you express through your newspapers. The challenge before you, therefore, is to help take India forward by changing the mindsets of our population. Modernisation is not just about better infrastructure, not about mere more creative comforts, or the way we dress and live. Modernisation in the final analysis is an attitude of the state of the mind of our people,” he said.
The inaugural talk by the Prime Minister was followed by a panel discussion on the topic ‘Language newspapers -- roles and challenges’. The panel comprised Salil Kapoor, Head-Home Appliances Group, Samsung; Samir Verma, Director, Myriad Management Services; Jaideep Karnik, Content Head, Webdunia; and Prakash Pohre, Editor, Deshonnati. The discusion was moderated by Anurag Batra, MD and Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media.
Revenue generation through advertising in newspaper remained the main focus area for discussion. ILNA members from across the country were curious to learn about ways to compete with the English newspapers. A significant point raised was about the qualities that language newspapers might lack in for attracting advertisers.
Samsung’s Kapoor said that in self-sufficiency is essentially required today. “Advertising is very important because only 30 per cent of revenue comes from circulation, and the rest is from advertising. The main challenge is about bringing in advertising revenue. Time has never been so good and never been so bad as well. It’s good because as far as economic progress is concerned, money is not only limited to the top of the economic pyramid, but also percolates to the lower segments as well. Major events are no more limited to big cities only. The time is also bad because it is time for media war -- pumping of money into business and increase in the number of editions.”
“The challenge now is that advertisers would either ask for a network that is available across different media types like print, television and web or across different markets, or they would demand of one media that has dominance over a large area. Newspapers need to locate their audiences because language audiences are limited,” Kapoor added.
Verma was of the opinion that language newspapers need to see opportunities in their difficulties. It is more expensive for the English press to reach the regional audience, as compared to language newspapers. “Newspapers should try to sell the potential of the area and not the media itself. There is a need to expand business, need to get young readers back into reading. They also need to fight new media input and generate readers likeable content,” he said.
“There are a lot of myths about readers because there are readers, but newspapers fail to reach them. The buying capacity of the language newspapers are also often misunderstood by advertisers. The English newspapers have not been able to tap the segment touched by language newspapers because they cannot converse in their language, which could be an asset for the language newspapers,” said Karnik.
Meanwhile, speaking at the AGM, Sunil Dang, President, ILNA, called for the
formation of a committee so that the newspapers did not leave the missionary
zeal. He also appealed to the Prime Minister to start a single window system
so that all the documentation work needed to run a newspaper could be done
Highlighting the challenges that language newspapers were facing today, Dang
said, "The language newspapers are not able to put their case strongly to
the clients in order to get advertising revenues. The challenge is to
educate them on how to brand their products. They also do not know much
about technology, the benefits of new software, the Internet, etc. Bigger
groups getting into multi-editions is also a big challenge. This does not
allow level playing fields to the small and medium newspapers. The big
players slash their prices at will, while some even offer their products
free of cost. This is not fair. There has to be some criterion which would
decide the price factor of all newspapers."