The good, bad and ugly of the Fourth Estate

Aroon Purie, Arun Jaitley & Jawahar Sircar discuss the opportunities and challenges ahead for the media industry

e4m by Aditi Malhotra
Published: Oct 30, 2012 2:59 AM  | 5 min read
The good, bad and ugly of the Fourth Estate

The second session on Day 1 of the CII Media and Entertainment Summit held at New Delhi, saw the best names associated with some of the best publications in the country take stage to detail, explore and argue the opportunities and challenges ahead for the Fourth Estate.

Aroon Purie, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief, India Today Group chaired this session and posed four pertinent questions for each of the panelists. “Has media been a force of good or evil in the Indian society?” questioned Purie. He then went on to ask whether it was required for media to be regulated. And, if yes, what should be the nature of this regulation. He then asked the relevant question of what the role of a journalist is in the evolving digital milieu, where everyone is capacitated to become a journalist. His final question was around the boundaries of public interest and where do they end to allow the invasion of privacy to begin.

Purie also quickly summed up his take on each of these by declaring that he feels that media has been a great force in the Indian society; that while regulation is needed, these standards must have nothing to do with the government. He also endorsed the fact that journalists today are being ‘out-journalisted’ by people and therefore, it’s essential for journalists today to gather domain expertise and ultimately roll-out valuable information.

“The relationship between politics, politicians and the media is almost akin to a marriage,” said Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition (Rajya Sabha), when he took the podium. “It has its thrills, it has its pleasure moments, its challenges and tensions and therefore, the real test comes when the tense moments begin. Jaitley also opined that the advent of 24-hour television has been responsible for changing the entire landscape of media and has redefined news itself. “News really is what the camera can finally capture. And, the camera has the tendency to capture only certain angles. That presentation of the news, therefore, decides the public discourse,” said Jaitley. In this scenario, felt Jaitley, print media has acquired an opportunity to strike back.

Commenting on the fast growing propensity towards digital media, Jaitley said, that it is going to become a great educational forum and teaching source. Demarcating the primary problems with electronic media, he said that there is the presence of an uncertain financial model existing along with an undesirable quality of recruitment. And while electronic media is slowly losing its sheen, Jaitley reiterated that it is an ideal gap for print media to fill and therefore, go back to its conventional role. “People are desirous to know what the actual news is rather than get different versions and connotations of it,” he said. Further, he pointed out the need for media to realise its own sense of responsibility, ethics and its financial vulnerability and retain, thereby, its credibility. “In the absence of credibility, it becomes purposeless,” said Jaitley.

Following Jaitley, Jawahar Sircar, CEO, Prasar Bharti made a few yet very incisive points in his Special Address. Sircar began by quoting John Stuart Mill who described Liberty, as the "freedom to swing your arms in any direction where your nose begins".  He was further seeking clarity and probing introspection when he said, “Are we looking at the word 'public' in the sense of public responsibilities, public exchequer or public money?” Questioning further, the validity of trial by media, Sircar also posed a question on whether the government per se, needed to be decoupled from the people by such a process. Sircar pronounced the existence of transparency as a movement, dynamic in nature. “It started with social activists and it is RTI which has ultimately helped media reach that level of transparency,” he said.

Taking on Arun Jaitley’s comment on the power of digital media, Sircar said that the days of static news channels were long gone. Digital, he went on to say, caters to the young audience who go back home to their PCs and tablets. There was a need to chase this audience, thought Sircar, which is powered with competitive choices. While summing this point up, Sircar also logged another important thought to ponder upon. He said in an atmosphere which supported the print, electronic and digital media, the question really is of “who chases whom?” While planting a significant suggestion, Sircar said, “Much of what we do by way of competitive denunciation is because footage costs money. Could we think in terms of a ‘footage exchange’? Sircar sounded certain that this would help cut costs and also reduce monotony of content.

Present amongst the panelists, at this session, were Vinod Mehta, Advisor, Outlook India; Ravi Dhariwal, CEO, Times Group; Pawan Agarwal, Director, Dainik Bhaskar Group and film maker, Prakash Jha. Mehta extensively talked about the fundamental crisis of trust that exists between the reader or viewer and the media today. He also said that electronic media, on the whole, is taken far too seriously, not only in India, but all over the world. “We need to regain the trust of our consumer and if we don’t, we’d be committing suicide,” said Mehta. Dhariwal spoke in a similar tone. But, he also said that the mandate is to create a successful media ‘brand’ and, it is here that trust and relevance appear as two key parameters outlining a good brand. Holding tight the supremacy of the audience, Agarwal said that it is for the viewer and the reader, who is becoming increasingly vigilant and aware, that media needs to accelerate its responsibility and have a ‘well-defined purpose’.

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