By Mrinal Chatterjee
Challenges before the Media in India in the Digital Age
November 16 is observed as National Press Day. On this day in 1966, Press Council of India started functioning as the custodian of press. Half a century later, challenges before the press has grown, particularly as digital technology and the Internet arrived in the mediascape in a big way.
News-media in India have faced several challenges since its beginning in 1780 with the publication of the first newspaper Hicky’s Bengal Gazzete like State repression, poor investment, weak infrastructure, non-professional leadership and indifferent management, lack of trained manpower, poor business and revenue generation. However media survived the challenges and managed to grow- both horizontally and vertically. The growth accelerated in 1980s thanks mainly to the technological advancements and more so in 1990s thanks to liberalization, globalization and further technological advancement in information and communication technology ICT. Internet was introduced in India in mid 1990s and gradually digital era dawned. Initially it tremendously contributed to the growth of media. However, as the technology began to be accessible to almost everybody with the help of cheap and user friendly devices and everybody started using social media (the term was coined in 2004) new and unforeseen challenges began to raise its head before mainstream news media. So much so it is now seemingly threatening the right practice of Journalism and its very existence.
The challenges could be grouped under three heads:
- Concept of News
- Authenticity of News
- Business of Newsmedia
Meanwhile the concept of news has undergone some changes. In earlier era journalists used to be the custodians of news. They used to define and mark what news is. What the readers ought to read and ought to see. They used to be the gatekeepers. In the digital era, with social media becoming the major platform to access news- that, gradually is changing. In absence of a gatekeeper, anything and everything is going by the name of news. Credibility and accountability- the two hallmark of journalism are being brushed aside. This in alignment with the post-truth mentality is posing a huge challenge to the old school journalism.
With improved technology for creation and distribution of media content and social media providing easy platform at a global scale, anybody can create news or what appears like news. Fake news has become a big menace. As public opinion becomes more important to determine who rules the country and what should the policies be- the tools to impact public opinion also has become most sought after. This precisely is the reason for the proliferation of fake news. It is eroding the credibility of news and in a queer way public faith on journalists. There is a need to contain this menace. The challenges pertain to – who will do it, and how? Will the State do it? Will the companies providing large digital platforms like Facebook or Google do it? Should they be allowed to ‘dictate’ what is news? And how will it be done?
Digital technology has made copying and distributing content easier. This has severely impacted the business of all media, which rely on monetising the content for its survival and growth. This has also raised serious questions on issues like copyright, source credibility and authenticity.
Every challenge is also an opportunity to explore new ways and possibilities. Newsmedia in India have had faced and survived numerous challenges. It will find ways to engage with and surmount the challenges posed by Digital technology and public scepticism, which I believe stems from over expectation from newsmedia. This, in a way is a good sign. Over expectation has in it an element of faith in media’s capacity and capabilities. The major challenge before newsmedia is to meet the public expectation.
Ways to improve Inter-State relations
Lakshmiminath Bezbaruah is revered as ‘sahityarathi’(doyen of literature) in Assam. Bezbaruah (1864-1938) lived for twenty years (from 1917 to 1937) in Sambalpur, Odisha in connection with timber business. He built a house on the banks of Mahanadi (near the present AIR Station) and was associated with the cultural and literary activities held in Sambalpur. After he left Sambalpur, his house was left unattended. With time it became dilapidated. It was about to be demolished to make way for a new bridge over Mahanadi. This news first appeared in local media, then in regional and national media. The local intelligentsia raised their voice against this decision. Meanwhile Assam CM also intervened and requested Odisha Govt. to preserve the house. Odisha Govt. responded promptly and favourably. It has now been decided to change the plan of the bridge to protect the house. The house would be renovated and turned into a Culture Centre.
Recently I had been to Gauhati University, Assam. I found many common people know about this and they were very happy about it. This is one way to improve Inter-State relations- respect other state’s revered persons, their culture and literature. This will build an emotional bridge and connect people.
Tailpiece: Pollution in Delhi
Delhi is battling with unprecedented air pollution. Social Media is full with jokes and comments. Here are some samples:
Two young men fighting on the street of Delhi.
1 Youngman: Dekh loonga.. (I’ll see you)
2 Young man: LoL. Not possible.
Chief minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal is the only CM who takes the people with him. Earlier he used to cough. Now, entire population of Delhi is coughing.
(Courtesy: Social Media Post)
A journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, a Central Odisha hilly town. He also writes fiction. [email protected]