‘News-advertisement lines getting blurred in Indian media’


Kuching (Malaysia) : While the Indian media has been “robust and free”, it has betrayed “disquieting tendencies of the blurring of lines between advertising and news”, a senior Indian journalist said at an event here.

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The Hindu Editor N. Ravi, who was speaking at the Eighth Conference of the Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) meet here, however, noted that readers were “least bothered” about this trend and generally lapped up whatever the media dished out.

Giving an overview of the state of the Indian media, Ravi attacked the “crass commercialisation” of a media that pandered less to information and more and more to entertainment, depending heavily on Hollywood and Bollywood and the frailties and foibles of celebrities.

With 66,000 publications in a score of languages, the Indian press had recorded an 11.2 percent growth in 2007, which was the second highest in the world after China. But the circulation was 177 copies per 1,000 compared to Japan’s 660.

The media had by and large acquitted itself well, especially during crises and calamities. This had been possible partly because of the freedom it enjoyed, despite outdated libel and defamation laws and privileges that were given up elsewhere but which the Indian parliament zealously guarded, Ravi said.

The CJA heard representatives from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, besides the Malaysian hosts, on the state of the media in each country.

South Asia emerged as the focal point with representatives from Pakistan and Bangladesh highlighting their fight against authoritarian rule.

S.M. Fazal, a CJA veteran from Pakistan, spoke of the media’s fight against the draconian measures introduced by former president Pervez Musharraf.

Although Musharraf had been instrumental in allowing the media’s growth, particularly of several privately-run TV channels, when he tried to muzzle them they resisted it.

Hassan Shahriar of Bangladesh, who is the current CJA president, expressed satisfaction that the media was free in a majority of the 53 Commonwealth nations, but pointed to the pitfalls and dangers saying the democracy that sustained this freedom had often proved to be ‘frail’ in many of these countries.

This was no time to lower the guard, Shahriar cautioned. The international oil crisis, the financial crisis caused by the meltdown in the West, the climate changes that endangered the very existence of some of the member nations were areas where the CJA would promote discussion among the members.

In a brief message to the conference, Commonwealth secretary general Kamal Sharma of India said that the financial crisis had hit the entire world, particularly the poor. The media should make use of the new technology to come to grips with these issues to keep their readers/viewers/listeners well informed, Sharma said.