August , 2017
Change in media was inevitable, but not in its values
13:43 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

While we describe the 21st century as theInformation Agewith the boom in news and information bombarding us through its varioussuperhighways’, we find, quite regretfully, that the media houses are killing themselves through uncalled for internal squabbles.

The editor of The Economic and Political Weekly (EPW) has been asked by the controlling Trust to step down for publishing twoinvestigative articleson a business house who has consequently sent a legal notice to the Trust. The two articles were removed from the journals website and the editor was accused of proceeding against the legal notice without informing the Trust. The news of accusation of tax evasion against NDTV has now attained national stature; but it all started with the sacking of an internal auditor. Hundreds of journalists are losing their jobs because of technologicaldisruptionthats happening in the industry. But the way these events are being handled internally callsfor some introspection.

It is common knowledge that the media industry has changed phenomenally in the last two decades. Some say that the changes came so fast that everybody was caught unawares. But twenty years is a pretty long time; and even if thechange may have come as asurpriseinitially, the industry and the people involved should have re-adjusted themselves by now following the changing trends. People tend to believe that theprint mediais dead; and the socialmedia and the mobile media are the future. But this is not wholly true. The social media and the mobile media have opened up a host of new avenues both in terms of revenue and human skills. Someone who has worked in the print media has the advantage of becoming a bettercontentwriter for the web or the newer versions of the television media. All he needs is a slighttweakingof his skills and thecourage to face newer challenges. If the print media house has not changed itself with the evolving
media environment, then there is bound to be conflict as it  happened in many such organisations in India and abroad. Those houses which could merge their print media serviceswith that of the web and of otherstreamingmedia, did quite  well in the changing industry; while others, however exalted  their brands maybe, moved towards extinction. The subjects oftheir contents did not change nor did their technology. Internally, there was bloodshed; hundreds ofworking journalistslost their jobsfor faults on both sides. Neither the journalists (who shouldhave adjusted to newer skills) nor the management were agreeable to change.

While change is inevitable and - to a large extent - acceptable, dilution of values is not. Along with the will to change, what was necessary was the affordability to adapt to change. Changing technologythe offset press, the computers, the digital cameras and the netwere costly, at least initially. The investment asked for greater revenue; and the values changed. Themarketing team took charge- of course with the full backing of the owners - and the editors took a back seat.

The need for greater investment made the media houses vulnerable. If NDTV wanted to make money by cheating the government of taxes, surely the owners will be punished. But that has to be proved at court. The indirect pressureof the government through tax officials creates doubtswhether money or political power can or should bend the medias rights. Similar is the case with the EPW. Has the Trust yielded to financial or political pressure or did the editor overstep his limits?



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