New Delhi: Issues such as licensing, policy, credibility and censorship in the context of the media industry were extensively discussed and debated at the opening day of a two-day international media conference at India Habitat Centre here.
“Minding the Media”, one of the key sessions of The Media Rumble, organised by Newslaundry and Teamwork Arts, threw up quite a lot for the discerning audience as it touched upon a wide range of issues facing the Indian media industry in contemporary times.
Moderated by Apar Gupta, the panel included Nikhil Pahwa, Founder and Editor of MediaNama; Manish Tewari, former Minister of Information and Broadcasting; S.M. Khan, retired senior civil servant and former Press Secretary to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and distinguished public policy professional, Subi Chaturvedi.
Pahwa brought up patterns of content consumerism and highlighted how increasingly lower percentages — as low as 20 per cent of advertising budgets — are going to traditional media like print and TV.
The traditional media, therefore, Pahwa pointed out, tries to generate “sensational” news which could border on fake news.
The panel further discussed that while licensing was no longer a control mechanism for the government, the hardware of the digital media is still used discreetly by governments to control news about political unrest.
Tewari pointed out “the vast abyss of grey”, which still dominates India’s laws on cybersecurity and the internet.
In another session “Sleeping with the Adversary”, the panellists sought to answer whether or not journalists should take up public offices and if doing so tarnishes their credibility.
Pankaj Pachauri, a founder of GoNews, said that the news media has become “self-serving” and “subservient” to the government of the day. Ashish Khetan, an investigative journalist turned politician (with the Aam Aadmi Party) and now a practising lawyer, asserted that “as a journalist, you cannot express your allegiance”.
In an attempt to find a more nuanced view, veteran print journalist and digital commentator R. Jagannathan said that one should not be of the opinion that journalists are absolutely neutral or absolutely aligned.
In another session during the day “Is There A Post Advertising Revenue Media Business Model?” the discussion veered around how innovation is the key to disruption in media revenue possibilities.
The new avenues of revenue, felt the panelists, place power in the hands of the consumers who are in a frenzy of demanding content which is forcing the industry to pay attention to what the consumer wants and make connections between content and people.
The last session of the day, ‘Patriotism vs Journalism’, started off with the moderator, Shiv Aroor mentioning the problems faced by journalists on social media who have a discerning point of view and how often the patriotism of a journalist is brought to question.
Commenting on the theme of the session, Maria Ressa said: “I think journalists are patriots. We have to talk when people are being manipulated when thousands die in a drug war. This is precisely why we do journalism.”
Diplomatic editor of The Hindu, Suhasini Haidar stated: “Each time someone tries to stand up to a government policy, they have pushed aside as anti-national.”
The Media Rumble also featured interactive masterclasses and presentations on covering parliament, the state of healthcare reportage in India, freelance journalism, among others.
The long day of deliberations ended with a special performance of “Aisi Taisi Democracy” — part stand-up comedy, part-musical and part-biting diatribe on socio-political issues — by Indian Ocean’s bassist and vocalist Rahul Ram, Delhi satirist Sanjay Rajoura and lyricist/comedian Varun Grover.