New Delhi, Feb 16 (UNI) With the ownership of media networks increasingly coming under the control of corporate houses in India, the print and electronic media had become crass commercial ventures, reducing news stories to saleable industrial products, said eminent columnist Kuldip Nayar at a seminar here last evening.
The only antidote to the fast commercialisation of media is immediate intervention of the government through setting up of a new Press Commission with the mandate of restricting the media industry from using newspapers and TV channels as vehicles for earning huge profits and political clout while throwing journalistic ethics to the winds and disowning any social responsibility altogether, Mr Nayar added at the seminar presided over by Mr Surendra Mohan, MP.
Participating in the seminar that followed the release of a Hindi book authored by Vimal Kumar, a UNI correspondent on 'Satta, Samaaj Aur Bazaar', another columnist, Praful Bidwai, said Indian media had become a big money-spinning industry with an annual turnover of over Rs 30,000 crore. Some top national newspapers are now openly following the global media magnate Rupert Murdoch's model of using the media industry as crass business enterprise and have been selling editorial pages to companies seeking publicity to promote their products, Mr Bidwai said.
Under this ''imported model,'' the newspapers and TV channels have introduced ''contract employment system'' for journalists, flouting the Working Journalists Act that guarantees job security to the presspersons and also ensures freedom of the press, Mr Bidwai said.
''Now the journalists on contract are being told to avoid writing stories on social and economic repression, gender discrimination for the front page... and they have no option but to oblige their management,'' he added.
The book was symbolically released by four UNI employees who are struggling against the corporatisation of the news agency and for retaining its independent character.
Another senior writer on media industry, Ram Saran Joshi, said the government seemed to have left the field completely open to the media industrialists who have reduced the journalists to ''mere industrial manpower'' and were using them to earn maximum profits for their listed media companies to raise the value of their stakes in the stock market.
Prof Anand Pradhan, who teaches at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), Delhi, said it was most unfortunate that newspapers were now carrying advertisment material as news stories in favour of candidates in lieu of hefty amounts. This practice was noticed and pointed out by the Election Commission in last year's Assembly polls in Punjab, said another senior journalist Anil Chamdria who compered the seminar.
Prof Pradhan wondered why India was shy of enacting a law imposing restrictions on ''cross-media'' ownership similar to those prevalent in USA, European countries and other developed democracies. A Bill on imposing ''cross-media restrictions'' was introduced in Parliament long back but the government had succumbed to the pressure of media houses and delayed the legislation.
A large number of mediapersons attended the seminar and expressed their concern over the unhealthy trends in media which, they said, would have an adverse impact on democracy in the the country.
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