Guest Column: Of media menopause and a devil called Corporate
Ashish Kaul holds a mirror up to Indian media & its insecurities and urges the industry not to demonise corporates acquiring media entities, but look at them as a positive push for change & ushering in professionalism
Of late, Reliance is a word Indian media loves to hate. To the extent that the word ‘corporate’ has been demonised by media. Who is the devil that is souring the media dream? Is it the tingeing taste of unassuming power of media that we as ‘media’ fear will go into the wrong hands? Or is it the fear of bidding goodbye to the dear ‘vox populi’?
Though not an expert, but 20 summers down, one has been a silent companion to the dawn of Indian media. Looking back at the glorious advent of modern Indian media with Aaj Tak, Zee News, and NDTV on the one hand, and DNA, INX, and Business Standard on the other, I look at an overwhelming picture of the story ever told. A story that has galvanised masses to action, and the rise and fall of icons. Finally, the voice of God had touched the lives of ordinary folks and the powerful deaf corridors of Indian policy had just started to take note.
With just one takeover, all that media ever stood for seems to have vanished; suddenly all that freedom to change lives seems to been a lullaby. What is the fear? Are we so spineless that anyone can simply ride across the horizon, flash his money and send us packing to our mom’s? What happened to the walk the talks and journalism of courage?
Somehow, I do understand the reason for this fear. Is it not our tryst with reality that is scaring us? Can we cross our hearts and say that all of us have done our jobs and swear so by the blood of our inks and the bones of our pens? The fact is, we haven’t been entirely honest to our professions. By far, Indian media is the most pampered lot. Our research and approach to news is not driven by journalism and society, but by greed and hunger for a breaking news, laced with sensationalism. Most of us have always believed that bad news is good news.
India media has been known to slip over scotch and graduated to foreign trips, thus leading to biased tones in their reportage, and now we are clamouring for death of democracy. Having worked with global media, especially in the US and the UK, I do say this with great conviction that we are scared of losing the frills, the privileges and the display of arrogance oozing from ignorance. Let’s accept it, it just happens in India that we conduct a virtual court and often destroy lives – something unheard even in most uncivilised media nations. We don’t like to be questioned or even restrained and neither do we like people who know more than us. Google and ‘leaks’ are our best friends as we discarded research and hard work years ago.
Of course, not everyone in media can be painted in the same brush stroke; Indian media has produced shining beacons of exemplary journalism across the spectrum, and some of them are the ones I know have believed in absolute honesty and integrity. The sad part is that these beacons of integrity are fading away and are overshadowed by the glitz and the sham of new age journalism bejewelled by fancy phones and perks.
That is why we are scared, because corporates are not media; they are people, ordinary people risen with extreme determination, diligence and courage. It is these corporates who keep a billion dreams alive and inspire a million start-ups. This nation is the nation of underdogs, with just about 30,000 entrepreneurs feeding a billion desires and often producing Tatas, Birlas and Ambanis. Corporates are a disciplined and hardworking lot, they believe money is fire and one has to be careful and stay profitable to feed a billion souls. It is these corporates who support mega empires, and in the present times, even the media houses.
So, what is the hoopla about? How different is a corporate acquisition from media-annihilating-media acquisitions? Have we forgotten how bitterly media houses have fought each other – perhaps people who have been in journalism for over 15 years will understand what I am referring to.
Let us not demonise someone else to bury our own insecurities; let us all rise in faith and integrity and just do the jobs that we believe will change this nation. I once heard a great actor say “Eventually, we all drive ourselves to the precipice of extinction and then we change” – if we believe freedom is a commodity on the verge of extinction, then I guess it is time for us to change too.
(The writer is a media and entertainment professional with over 20 years of experience in managing transnational businesses and marketing pioneering brands globally. The views are personal.)
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