A country’s media industry scene gives its civilisation and culture!
How our media sector is doing?

The size, ownership, funding and the freedoms a media enjoys decides the purity of the media service.

Not all countries enjoy great reputations in the media industry. We, in India, inherited a great media tradition from our British colonial association. But today we need to invent ourselves to suit our times and our own country’s priorities.

Vadamalai Media is a very small venture and priorities thus we have to be modest considering the fast-changing media world today. Of course we now live in a very radically changed world with new technological revolutions, with Internet and other technologies, specially the revolution communications technologies had transformed the way we live and communicate and do businesses.

As for the current media scenario, we needn’t tell much, except to point out how every citizen of the entire world is driven by the mobile tech experiences. We have all the modern tech devices but do we really enjoy our freedoms thanks to these modern conveniences? Do we have role models in the media scenario today?

And editors like C.P.Scott of the Manchester, Guardian or a very independent editor like Harold Evans who passed way, alas, recently. The entire world is now on our palm thanks to the mobile phone and we enjoy so many freedoms to talks and converse with our friends and neighbours, why, with out own kith and kind even based abroad! So many conveniences at the touch of a click but do we enjoy all our freedoms? That is a question not many seem like asking!

Anyway, we were very much inspired and influenced by our experience in England where we went to Oxford for two generations. For printed media England is still the mother you try where the media grew into a mighty social force and generations of great editors, why, owners and others were great path finders. Just recently, a great editor of the old tradition, Sir Harold Evans passed away and he was for a long time the editor of The Times and he was later the editor of the Sunday Times. In our Oxford days we used to read the British newspapers very very avidly and in the process we also became acquainted with some of the big names in particular, we knew some of the greats, one is the well-known name, the late Kingsley Martin who edited the Statesman, which became the voice of British Labour Party, voice of British socialism and it was a very civilised era.

The London Times is still the bible for media men and women and though it has now become so emasculated there are stories from that long era of socially committed media times. Today? And in India today?

If the current controversies and debates in India is any indication, it is now a chaotic world, indeed. The media known in both the print and the mediums are marked by a very deplorable tabloid culture and baseless allegations, crime stories and also very criminal stories hogging the headlines are the staples fed ever house of the day. The more tabloid the more noisy and sounding more profitable. Now, the country is also undergoing some disturbing changes. First, there is no question time today in Parliament and the PM, as it used to be not conducting press conferences where the journalists can ask questions on the very government functioning and thus there is a sort of one way traffic.

In this scenario comes some very other disturbing news items. How the media is owned and funded is a question no one asks. Thus we see some of the biggest corporates buying out the media houses. Also, in their fight for survival, some news channels are resorting to some dubious funding processes. If the media is controlled by the monopoly capital, then, that is the end of media freedoms.

Already the lives of journalists are not easy, there is widespread fear in the society at large, no one hear dissent, there are no free speeches. And no exchange of views as it should be in an open society and a democracy. The role of the Opposition parties is also under threat and the opposition too doesn’t conduct themselves in a responsible way. So the media industry as we see today is not in a healthy and positive way. Now, what chance is there for a development oriented media space?

Is there any chance that a sectors’ vital sector indeed, like agriculture and rural development where the vast mass of people are concentrated has any chance to be heard in a fair and objective manner. Long time ago, the government used to promote development journalism. We like to request the government to create a space for the development journalism, with suitable incentives like priority in advertisement budgets and also many other priorities. The bureaucracy of the Indian broadcasting department almost ignored the development journalism space. Of course much more important is the need to create more awareness and also support for development journalism space.

Our print publications for the last quarter of a century is something unique and we want the Indian media fraternity to know our existence!

We firmly believe the agriculture and rural development are the perennial themes and we hope we will see much awareness coming in the time of online media and even here we are already on the way to carve out a special place for our online, digital transformation, the way we prioritise and go for the overmuch needed awareness. Only an awakened section of people in agriculture can raise productivity and help to raise the incomes of farmers and endless labour without much ideological noises. Thank you.

Learning the online work culture!
It is a totally new experience!
It seems a long way indeed!

One new learning is that sometimes big changes, be it high tech or even simple things come not by inventions and innovations they seem to come in a very sudden, brutal physical changes or happenings. The coming of the Covid pandemic is one such event that has thrown the entire word into a spin. We don’t know for certain how long. The pandemic lasting and how we, our lives will all change and what new world. We are going to confront and how the future is going to unfold. Of course nothing like this has happened and we are yet to understand the reach of the pandemic and when the world would turn to normalcy. So to turn to our work culture, both in our domestic lives and the lives and activities in our economic, transport and other socio-cultural and industrial activities. One big unexplored world is the world of work.

We have worked so far in a settled, office environment. From now onwards we have to work in a remote online, digital ways. So, it looks everyone of us seems to be learning. Even in the Western societies there is confusion and contradictory voices. There have been so many U turns! In the USA, it is hellcat the White House and the coming General Elections would be a landmark.

The migration problem is going to create new tensions in all the Western countries. Indian migration to the USA and UK is not going to be easy. Inside India, we have to sort out issues, as the government is going to see new challenges from the way the Centre-State relations are building up. New elections inside India is going to throw up many pressures on our well-regulated Constitutional norms, each regional party is doing things, not in high Constitutional manners. Corruption is going to be a new challenge.

You can’t run the elections under the very opaque manners. The major national parties, the Congress and the BJP are now strictly respecting the electoral laws and norms. So, what role the media once well-respected, today everyone joining and changing parties. So, media, both print and online with the new tech tools like Social Media have to do their legitimate jobs and we have to analyse the issues and ponder over the role of media, print, TV, online and also such issues like fake media, media monopolies etc. Let us give some thought on this subject.

The power of the print media has always been recognised all over the world and the digital transformation of the media is only of recent development. Ever since mankind came to acquire the skills to invent letters and inscriptions, the printed word took of course some few thousand odd years to get a written script. Since the ancient world information we get only through these scripts and much of the ancient world. Wisdom is accumulated in the various divided forms, scrolls and stone carvings from. We have travelled a very long way. You can see some of these historic scripts on various devices.

Even today you are likely to see some of these rare scripts and devices on marble stones, as in Athens in the agora museum, these stone scripts we learnt were used as official messages used by the democratic governments that were functioning there for some 50 odd years and it was thrilling to see these ancient historic sites! So too in many other museums in Europe and other continents. In Cambodia we saw some such stone scripts and some of these scripts are similar to Tamil scripts! That gives us some idea of how the ancient Tamil kingdoms reached the Cambodian shores and particularly one ancient Tamil Chola King, Jaya Varman built the ancient majestic Angkovat temple complex.

Today we live in a very different world indeed. The IT revolution has ushered in an instant information age and the Internet has made us to what we today in the instant email age.

The covid pandemic had enforced a new code of conduct, that is, the digital revolution in all spheres. Our education and office systems all have been forced to adopt and online work culture in all our activities.

Among all the industry reviving talk and many new initiatives, the agri sector is perhaps the most unattended one. For us, it is our high priority sector, in which we are there for a long term, almost for over a quarter century! Yes, there are giants in the media meaning print media and they are also facing much more challenging problems.

That is the age-old issue of freedom of the press. Compared to other countries, even big Democracies the freedom of the media is still a sticky question. There is a visible shift in the mainstream newspapers, many have changed their idea of a free press, they have all turned themselves into captive press and their newspaper criticism and opinion pages have all been almost abandoned and they have all gone soft with the incumbent power holders.

Inside India, this is true while one can guess what is the state of press freedom. As far India is concerned there is this satisfaction of the absence of any ill-treatment of journalists. In other countries, there are more gruesome stories of journalists arrested and even jailed. We seem to have reached some funny state where the major countries, while ill-treating the high political functionaries like a foreign minister travels to Norway for what? For requesting the country not to award the Nobel Prize to the dissenters!

Looking at various aspects of Indian life and society, we seem to be in a unique way much blessed.

We should raise India’s image as a moderate political culture-based country and our brand image in comparison with other countries a superior nation of culture and civilisation.

Whom to look for advice and wisdom?

The past year has gone. The New Year, 2020, is very much on us. Also, the New Year is once more, full of hopes and lot of trepidations. The US onslaught on Iran has complicated international affairs and has many other issues of urgency, not only on Indian economy, with the oil prices tilting the economy and also other issues. The visiting Iranian foreign minister to India might have many other things in his bag besides the current upset.

India has a vital role and it is to be seen how the government is going to handle the very many intricate issues. The US President is close to India and we Indians would only hope that the international situation remains under control and also helps the rest of the world to manage the issues.

India has a larger role in the foreign spheres and it is anybody’s guess how India comes out of this present global challenge. The Prime Minister has met the Indian industry leaders and has reassured that there would be no witch hunting of the private industry.

This reassurance comes at a time when there is a great deal of discomfort over many of the recent developments, the perception of with-hunting of not only the political opponents and also some industry players, all based, let us hope on false perceptions and let us also look forward these sort of perceptions are based on a great deal of subjectivity and otherwise things are okay.

The world today doesn’t seem to have many statesmen or statesmen –like leaders who could think of world-wide issues. British leaders were once international experts, given their years of running an empire. Today, Great Britain is no more great but it is seen as little Britain! Indian elite, by and large is still British-oriented; even these generations of Indians are more attuned to think about the world issues through a British prism. This journal is also no exception and hence these few words on Britain and the newly elected Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson, the newly mandated British Prime Minister, who was once the editor of the British high society magazine, The Spectator, in its Christmas special issue has written a Diary Page in which with all his current business he found time to pen down and what he says is worth recalling here, I think. Johnson, by the way, Indian readers must be knowing was a classical scholar from Oxford where he read the famous Greats, Greek, Latin and classical literature and typical of the old style Conservatives, he had achieved what his predecessors couldn’t. He won a decisive election and set to carry forward his Brexit goal. What Johnson says in his Spectator column?

He is worth quoting in some length. He says: You may wonder why I am up at 4.45 a.m, writing this diary when I have a country to run, Queen’s speech to prepare, vast mandate to deliver and so on. When I bumped into the editor a couple of nights ago at a party he said my name is already on the cover of the Christmas cover and so what could I say? I became editor of the magazine 20 years ago. I owe this magazine… Thousands of activists-of all parties- who have just allowed our democracy to function.

After saying such nice things, the incumbent British PM wants Britain to have a kinder, gentler, ‘tone of politics’ in Britain. These lines touched a chord in my mind and at any rate we can echo this sentiment at this time of the Indian democratic spirit surging in a new environment in India.

Parliament Democracy
If we talk of parliamentary democracy, I quote again the Spectator magazine: “Britain’s parliamentary democracy is often mocked, its meadievalisms, the men in tight and the ayes to the right”. The point is that democracy and parliamentary democracy at that in Britain has survived, it tends to work, right?

That is the magical beauty of British politics. You see there is no written Constitution at all and yet it works and works wonderfully smoothly. How many Prime Ministers had come and gone and how many of them left some memorable words and phrases, episodes and quotable quotes. To juts give one very recent example, the just retired Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court, a worthy lady member, wrote a famous judgment, in three days, just in 20 pages judgment that dismissed the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend Parliament! Compares this with the Indian bureaucracy-ridden mindset that still clings to pages and pages of unreadable legal jargon we find IN Indian! Unwritten conventions and trust-based democratic practices is what given Great Britain its moral and legal strength.
As for the current political scenario in the country, there is no sense of a gentler and kinder tone of politics in India anymore. Instead, there is a growing and strident tone of confrontation and a great deal of distrust!

This newly created tension and mental distress and the highly vitiated environment and the fearful enlargement of violence and must destruction in the university campuses is the handiwork of whom, what elements?

Some hard questions remains to be answered and who should undertake the responsibility? 19 people died in police foreign in UP alone, a State where the saffron-worn leaders and highly rooted in HIndutva is in leadership. A new kind of Hindutva ideology is now being fashioned and in our view, this is a dangerous path and the future in the same path is riddled with some unforeseen consequences. As the days of protesters’ numbers swell, more confrontationist tone on the part of the government is worrying.

Surely, there should be other ways to engage the citizens in a restrained debate. No democracy can be possible in such an atmosphere of forceful propagation. The finer details of the three controversial legislations apart, there is the spill-over of the agitations leading to some unpredictable consequences. On the domestic front the Opposition parties are forced to take some contradictory positions, creating unnecessary mind-splits in their long-time articulations like the Shiv Sena over the conception of Hindutva, till now a harmless formulation, now it is under pressure to distance itself from the founders and original ideologists.

Also, the more strident tones of the ministers who also don’t seem to take a conciliatory tone but much more aggressive to keep up their profiles. And no less worrying is the application of some Colonial laws whose relevance to our times is much more doubtful and yet our lack of a modernizing mindset gives way for more brutal applications. Unfortunately, the very heat and tussle of the protests and confrontations have tended push the vital organs of a democracy, like the media and the universities to fail miserably to contribute their own unique ‘sweetness and light’ in our search for ways and insights. Surely, the media in India under the current regime has been suppressed and we fail to assess and size up the new sources of light and wisdom and guidance.

So too other organs of the democratic system. There are too many to deal with here: from the electoral deficiencies, from high political corruption to other large scale forms of corruption. Also, our distortion of priorities of governance, from appointing Lokpal to Lokayuktha to down the scale to petty corruption and other ills at the grass roots. Talents are also missing in this regime. The ministries, the bureaucracy, the education and health sectors and the like need urgent priorities.

Yes, economic slowdown is a great concern. But smaller things, Human Development Index to Panchayat Raj are all as critical.

New-type dictators, autocrats and authoritarians still abound!

The Global Democracy Index in 2017 places India from 32 to 42nd rank analysing 165 states. Norway and Sweden comes top. US ranked 21st!
In India we have to practice ethical behaviour, truth, personal integrity and moral courage to make India a great democracy!

Deepak Misra

Deepak Misra

Just recently there was a TV debate in which the just retired Chief  Justice of India, Deepak Misra and one fellow sitting judge, with top legal officer of the government, K.K.Venugopal and Prof.N.R.Madhava  Menon, a highly   respected legal scholar/academic participated.
The subject was what is Constitutional Morality and how the  Constitutional principles upheld.

Of course it was a tough topic for the common man. But what message went out is that Indian Constitution is robust and the judiciary is very sensitive to current realities and by implication the common man has an idea that Indian democracy is vibrant. Fine?

This debate, among other factors triggered the idea that democracy is spreading in the world all over. From the traditional democracies to new types of partial and variously disrupted societies. And it is also time to reflect on the issues in governance as we see in India in recent times.

Another debate on the same day also debated that how under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi a series of actions by the government saw that series of actions by the various agencies like the CBI, ED and the Income Tax authorities have harassed the Opposition leaders and also how the courts in many cases dismissed many proceedings as not proved in law and dismissed these actions as politically motivated.

The Indian public know these many cases where even the Opposition leaders, former Cabinet Ministers and Chief Ministers, have been named. There are also continued raids in Delhi and Karnataka and elsewhere where one can see the raids as politically motivated.  The significant point here is that while Indian democracy is vibrant, there are administrative and governance norms are not what they should be.

It is pointed out that in the last four and half years, for instance the Lokpal institution has not been constituted. So too the various agencies like Lokayuta, also  the functioning of the Right to Information Act and many other high level offices are left vacant.
So too the very vital   organs like judiciary, free media etc.
There are also   the ugly head of violence in the name of religion etc.

The list can go on. The purpose of this column is to examine how the very institution of democracy in the world, after 1945, had evolved and spread across the world over. Democratic governments and democratic practices like elections through ballot boxes have become a modern world’s respected symbols of democracy. Here again India is a great example, both positively and negatively an example.

There are issues after issues like improving the transparency and also corrupt practices like unaccounted money in electoral processes. India is here an example again. Politics is becoming more and more unprincipled attempts to grab power by hook or crook!  So, India, rather Indian democracy is again   a living testimony to the current practices of democracy.

One latest example is Maldives where recently held election shows that the defeated candidate hesitates to vacate the office and there have been unrest over peaceful transition. But these days there is also the international public opinion and even pressures of various sorts to force the wrong-doing politicians to concede victory to the genuine winner.

Ballots have acquired a new meaning and   power. In spite of so many deficiencies the vote becomes a crucial symbol and so too the election processes with all its inherent proneness to go wrong. Even in India with its otherwise impressive electoral democracy there are arbitrary political interference the ones defeated after the ballot is counted the electoral officers are forced to reverse the losers into winners! Though such extreme cases are rare and far between.

Elections are the legitimate weapons and even the USA saw legal battles as in the case of George Bush vs Al Gore in 2010.   India’s
Election Commission was much admired at that time. America is the world’s biggest and powerful democracy. That saw some troubles with big money and other factors. But despite these issues US democracy is greatly admired for there the President’s term is limited to two terms and after that the President ceases to hold power. This Constitutional limit to power in a democracy is a supreme example of genuine democracy. It is not so in any other country including India. Russia and China also practice some form of democracy, though they practice arbitrary power openly.

In Russia, the Opposition is not allowed to contest; in China under XI almost life-time power is granted. Russia and China, not to speak of other countries also indulge in mass, in millions, detention and what is called thought education(in China0.There  seems to be no limit to anti-democratic practices, from Turkey to Egypt to many other countries in the Middle-East and beyond.

Let us turn back at home. Here one more, why one more, why many more anti-democratic practices, many countries. Even in Europe where in many countries the rightwing parties have won, countries that turn back refugee-caring boats and almost daily news about people sinking in the seas!

The world under Donald Trump lives not with a sense of security and relief but much in unpredictable fear!

The UN is almost non-functional and given the rising sense of protectionism in the world democracy or democracies in their outward forms and rituals, is not enough to ensure mankind’s hopes for a better future. Can we entertain any optimism? Thinkers don’t give a clear answer.

May be we have to live with the current tendencies for utter selfishness, dictatorial behaviour not from elected representatives but from unelected leaders of political parties themselves.

Which political party in India doesn’t display dictatorial behaviour, dynastic inclinations and indulge in patent corruption and blatant feudal mindset.

Democratic values, even in India, seems to be a long way off.

The idea of media freedom in a constrained atmosphere!
Is India a truly a free country?
A liberal and open society?

MPSuch questions are not asked. Not because those who are tempted to ask don’t ask, they are constrained.  The other day when a national newspaper celebrated its 140th anniversary its publisher wrote and pointed out how journalists in India were killed and a number on which it seems nobody seemed to care about. There is an international journalists association, called journalists without borders, a Paris based organisation that tracks journalists all around the world. Where does India ranks in the international freedom of the press index?

The country ranks 138, among 180 countries. This is in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index compiled by the Paris based Reporters Sans Frontiers. So, as Indians we must realise that we are not a great nation for freedom of expression, freedom of the press and a freedom of the individuals.

The work related killing of 48 journalists in India, including 34 murdered in retribution for or  to prevent news coverage and commentary doesn’t again speak well of our many claims and self-justification for our own a utterance and actions since 1992. India is again one of the dozen countries figuring year after year in the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ)’s Global Impunity Index where journalists are murdered, the cases remain unsolved and the killers go free.

And, let all of our journalist fraternity and the editors and owners of media, newspapers, magazines and TV channels know and take note and pause and think deeply and come out with their own thoughts so that we as a nation ponder over what all these developments convey to our collective existence.

Today there are many challenges. One, is of course the technological changes, the great impact of the internet spread, the phenomenon of the mobile phones and the revolution in Google, Face book, the very telecommunications, the new revolutions in  the speed and the accuracy, the social media with its advantages and its challenges, the rise of the phenomenon of  false and fake news.

Lately, the fake news menace is such that there is no way politically the open societies can thrive and grow if there is no way ordinary people, the common man on the street has to get his information correctly.

Unfortunately it is not easy for the free media to thrive unless there is so much concentration of power, money power, political clout and also the muscle power. In the context of mob lynching as new phenomena, there is no way democracies can provide a peaceful existence for citizens if politics is going through a phase of intolerance. We in India thought at one time, during the first few years of freedom, under leaders like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru that a non-violent society could thrive and sustain. Today alas! It looks that such a dream is not possible.

Our democracy is not so non-violent, as far as possible, it is a mixed blessing. So, what are we left with?

It looks that sheer commercialisation, sheer concentration of power both economic and political, drives our very social and moral trends. There is any number of fake phenomena. Even the much talked about our spiritual traditions see an influx of fake swamijis, godmen and what else you have got. There is a strong dose of irrational fake forces to drive our mental inverse.

Also, there is the democracy’s many undesirable features. Propaganda in political discourse is deteriorating day after day. The Prime Minister and the other leaders of the ruling party also seem to indulge in discourses that are far from restrained and civilised. So too the Opposition leaders. Specially for the leading Opposition party, namely Congress, under an young leader seems to be going far from the traditional Congress ethos.

There is a tradition left behind by Mahatma Gandhi and Panditji where we have to carry the entire country forward if we want to leave behind a hoary tradition of “live and let live’ culture, the self-restrain for a leader is  very important. Now, as for the news media too, we see the local language TV channels indulge in all sorts of cheap language and even vulgar expressions for the sake of drawing the lowest common denominator of the audience.

Media freedom has to be nurtured by the government. In this sense we are not yet a free society and free culture. This is an area we have to give much attention too. Indian English language press needs much protection and there is a wider awareness that in the long run, it is only the print press, the independent small press that can save the soul of a nation, a society that can call itslef as a civilised one.