By Sheeba Naaz and Kinley Tshering

“I am not optimistic about the Indian media...Today the type of journalism that is practiced is sticking the mic on someone’s face and getting the byte,” declared Tarun Tejpal in his keynote statement during a one-day seminar on “Does the media care?” held at Jamia Millia Islamia on August 28. The seminar was organized by AJK MCRC in collaboration with the BBC World Trust Services.

Having worked with several national and international media organizations, Tarun Tejpal is currently associated with Tehelka. In 2001 Asiaweek listed Tejpal as one of Asia’s 50 most powerful communicators, and Businessweek declared him among 50 leaders at the forefront of change in Asia.

Addressing the seminar, Tarun Tejpal gave an overview of the grim media scenario in India that bordered on pessimism. He talked at length about the numerous issues that were haunting the national media, supposedly decreed as the fourth estate.

According to Tejpal, media in India is failing in its journalistic duties and is reluctant to take up real issues. Driven by economic and commercial interests, the Indian media has lost its ‘cause and crusade’, he stated. “The economic metabolism of the Indian media is badly skewed.”

He further added: “None of who consumes media actually pays for it. The person who pays for the media is the advertiser and the media you get is the media the advertiser wants.”

Supporting his argument, he said no media has ever done any expose on the corporate sector as they are the ones who are providing the funds to these media organizations. More than half a dozen media organisations in India are involved in private treaties with the corporate world, he added.

“The media is getting narrower and narrower in India. Rural bureaus and reportage have all died,” he opined, adding that media is no more the voice of voiceless. “Media in India flex their muscles. They run with the rabbits but hunt with the wolves.”

Tarun Tejpal also said that the national media cares very less about the issues concerning common man. “All of Dalits get less attention than Kareena Kapoor,” he said.

According to Mr. Tejpal, Indian media is losing its ground especially the Hindi news channels. “See the Hindi news channels, they are embracing humbug and superstition and turning their back on the grand ideas of modernity that were in some sense the founding principles of this country.”

The second session was commenced by the veteran journalist Prem Shankar Jha who is a an author of several books and a columnist with publications like The Hindu, The Hindustan Times, The Business Standard and Outlook.

“Journalism was not a celebrity profession or glamorous profession in the 60’s. Those people who joined journalism were from rural background and rural issues were addressed in plenty,” he said. Those were the times when newspapers had different pages for development, social and gender issues, he recalled.

But today, because of the change in the nature of society, there has been a shift in the emphasis laid by the media, he added. “The intensity of coverage is more in big cities and even the advertisements are urban centric. This society has become more aspirational and has less time to empathize with those who are affected.”

Predatory pricing, a deliberate outcome of pressure of competition for circulation, has also affected how the media works today. The increasing focus on advertisement and circulation has forced the marketing departments to dictate editorial content, he opined.

“Media today cares a very less deal. Does it really not care is the question?”
Mr. Jha stated.

At the end of each session, both the keynote speakers agreed that the Indian media has somewhere shifted its focus from developmental issues to cinema, crime, and cricket. They also emphasized that the young journalists should have depth and proper understanding of social and political issues.