What I am writing about today perhaps has been written about before, in fact a google search on ‘Indian media blog’ did not not throw up any Sardesais or Prannoy Roys. Indeed it seems India’s netizens (including me) have quite a bit more vitriol against its TV and movie media. But, Daya Kishan Thussu, professor of International Communication, was perhaps a more rational voice to turn to. Before discussing what he and Smita Gupta had to say about the Indian media, let me recount my experience with the Indian media just today. The BBC reported fairly prominently about the killing of 4 farmers by police in Uttar Pradesh, so did the Hindu, whom Thussu rightfully calls India’s most respected daily newspaper. What do you think the headlines on NDTV and IBN were ? Apparently, an Olympic gold medal and some nonsense resolution by Pakistan are more important than the lives of four Indians.
Thussu compares the case of Star News in India to Fox News in USA (both owned by arch capitalist Rupert Murdoch), which as he correctly points out is “brazen right wing propoganda”, in the case of India right wing is replaced by neo-liberal. He worryingly points out,
When not covering stories about celebrities, Star News focuses on political sleaze and scandal, exposing bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption in PSUs and small private enterprises, but rarely, if ever the larger corporate groups.
So, if you are waiting for exposes of land grabbing and botched resettlement, think again. The Indian farmer, is just an afterthought, the minds of the Indian middle class are in the stock market and hearts in Bollywood. IBN’s recent headline was “The Great Urban Indian family”, the rural households of India are not even obliged this token compliment. Indeed, Thussu quotes P. Sainath,
In 3 days, the big media gave the ‘suffering’ in the stock market more space then they had to thousand’s farmers’ suicides in the past few years.
Thussu, points to the growing Bollywoodization of news, devoting an entire section to it. This is not just trivialization of news, but blatant cultural imperialism. India has a rich and diverse cinema industry, instead of displacing myths that many urban Indians (especially in the North) have about the other regions, it reinforces their belief about their cultural superiority. It is not surprising then that foreign news has all but disappeared from mainstream Indian media and the ‘foreign’ entity covered the most is the ‘NRI’,
Where there is foreign coverage, …. such as … the wedding of the daughter of India-born steel magnate Luxmi Narain Mittal, the richest man in Britain, and the famous wadrobe of Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai …
Unlike America, which has a similar news culture India is not in a safe and secure geopolitical arena, plus the Iraq war illustrates the potentially disastrous effect of a foreign news blackout.
To be fair the TV news ‘market’ is fiercely competitive as Thussu details their National reach,
Network …. All-India reach
Aaj Tak 48.9 %
NDTV India 46.9 %
Zee News 38.0 %
Star News 34.6 %
NDTV 24×7 33.3 %
DD News 32.7 %
Sahara Samay 22.7 %
Headlines Today 19.7 %
It could have been a different story: globalization could have elevated Indian television news to an international level, given the advantage of having emerged from a vigorously autonomous, critically informed and English-fluent journalistic culture, ….. However, the market, Murdoch and Murdochization seem to have militated against such a prospect.