So, what future for the media freedoms?
Media’s many roles. Recharging today
Media freedoms are under stress

India is a large democracy and in a democracy media plays a critical role. Even media itself has grown in its many new developments. After the advent of internet and the Information Technology’s revolution, the social media growth today we live in a world there are many opportunities and many threats to our freedoms and rights. Democracy also empowered people, even at the bottom of the societies, who have become affected by the Internet’s reach. The fallout from these latest developments, among which one is the growth and strengthening of monopoly powers of the great tech giants, the op four of their CEOs, those of Microsoft, Google one more were called upon by the US Congress and grilled for the their monopoly power and this power is now being misused by the companies. This is a new dangerous in the olden times, the growth of economic monopoly powers by the old style brutal capitalist exploitation, the new IT tech monopoly is also affecting the rights and freedoms of the people, the citizens in a democracy.

Where do the ordinary people come from? In this new complex emerging powers of the State?

As far as the democracy is concerned, today the freedoms of the people are extremely in danger. In such a contemporary world what role small media can play and enjoy and what sort of public service we in such small print media ventures like ours can play? Very little? Yes, it looks like that only!

However, when we look at the world outside, small media has a rule. Only small media dedicated to such priority sectors like agriculture and rural countries, where only the more powerless and the poor people, though in big majority live and work, there is a need for such dedicated small media to focus on more sensitive issues like poverty, economic opportunities, for sustainable livelihood issues. Now, in the grip of Pandemic crisis we see even the Western media, big ones like the TV channels like the BBC and other ones haven’t played more committed roles. This is the view from India. Also even the developed countries like UK and the USA, among others seem not to have taken the Pandemic crisis seriously in the first round and later after India was caught in the second wave of the Pandemic the Western nations to have woken up and imposed new lock downs!

We in India rely more upon Western media practices and we didnt have enough information about the Pandemic’s spread and the vaccine information as we all desperately needed. Especially for a media, that too a more restricted one like ours concentrating on agriculture issues, the information is almost nil. India is a large democracy and a large food economy. India has some unique economic strength. One it is a large food economy, India exports the largest rice targets. Also, India has some unique agricultural systems and at the same time we need many new experiments and innovations in agricultural practices.

So we need to keep the agricultural exports and trade issues very carefully focused on our own needs and opportunities. The Indian general media, the large print houses are of course faced with new challenges with the online media now seeking new business models. And we in the magazine are much more focused on the political and social dimensions of the many agricultural issues. We need to modernise the agri systems, with its antiquated land reform laws, the average land holdings as small as 1 hectare and two hectares and the many rural institutions like the panchayat raj, the very micro development institutions are caught up in the age of bureaucracy.

So we have to empower the rural people in a significant way. As things are they are talking about only putting cash in the hands of margins farmers to rejuvenate the rural farming functions. As of now, as far as we know there are almost no institution innovations, we still retain the Collector’s Raj. And the routine corruption-ridden revenue and police. Raj and that is a great pity. We need more freedoms, yes, and sort of liberal political atmosphere. Unfortunately, there is the reverse at the present. State of affairs, the same Tahsildar regime where the farmers have to travel physically to transact his or her farming business. Corruption, debts and litigation are the daily plight of the Indian farmers.

Of course there are certain glimmer of hope. New innovations are taking place thanks to some dynamic regions and progressive spirit of farmers. Especially in some geographical regions like Pune and Nasik. Nasik we can truly say is the say a new Silicon Valley of Agriculture Innovations, Nasik also can claim this distinction. Recently one agricultural innovator, an organic producer of fruits and vegetables appeared on our Video Conferencing site and explained how he meets the time-tested phenomenon of farm prices crash! That was very inspiring and an eye opener.

Farmers must learn to use their traditional wisdom and see to it that farm gate prices don’t lead to farmer’s mental caliber. Yes, there is no other way for farmers to learn new skills. Media like Vadamalai learnt to convey many new lessons to the benefit of not only the farming community, even the urban, educated middle classes about what is happening in other parts of the world. Media industry is a tough and risky field.

No government wants to promote media freedoms but the contrary of how to control media sector. Even inside Indian media industry is severely controlled, big industrialists buy media to control free opinion to circulate. So we live in a very restricted world, many big countries are turning into regimes, even in democracy, the ruling parties turn to this trend. Farmers, why even the ordinary citizens and those think they are educated are living in fear of authority of unruly politicians. India is itself a good example.

So we live in a challenging. Time, let us be always on alert!

Monopolies in media ownership would only distort democratic rights of the people!
We read that in India there is an incredible 400 number of TV news channels! And there are also fundamental questions like the concentration of ownership in one or two monopoly owners!

These monopoly owners are also, as in India right now, happen to be billionaires, captains of industry and also have tremendous influence on the reigning politicians. This makes for a heady cocktail of what is right and wrong in the polity today. And, behold (!) what is happening in the media industry today? You see there is a decline in the print media; print media is struggling to make profitable business and what we see?

The big newspaper houses have taken to new strategies, marketing strategies of colours, where they often conduct huddles and conclaves where businessmen, big and not so big are invited and awarded prizes and felicitated by bigwigs, why even the Prime Minister is invited and the Prime Minister rubbing shoulders with these newspaper owners and the events are repeatedly played on their own TV company screens for some days.
You can imagine that while these big newspaper houses ,some of which also run other related and unrelated businesses, including TV channels and what sort of news are flashed, mostly in favour of the ruling regimes.

In some States, some parties like the Dravidian ones, have turned the TV channels into big businesses and their standards of culture one can imagine. They are often former film actors, script writers and the combination of films and politicians is anything but a hellish disregard for all that we have associated with a transparent public life. The two of the long-running Chief Ministers had accumulated so much wealth, some ended in jails and that way politics is all that is important. Once you come closer to politicians you too become weak and compromised and that is now politics, more so democratic politics had degenerated to a new low.

We dare say democracy itself today has so degenerated, ministers are often so many ignomarouses and how can be programmes and policies become great jokes.

Then what is a wonder that 40 percent of our elected representatives of people are having criminal backgrounds. For one reason or other, many of the sensitive issues like corruption by reigning politicians remain far from the courts of law and also another tragedy many of the highly paid lawyers are also full-time politicians!

Why this much tears we have shed? You see we are in the media business championing farming as a big cause. Can we make any headway?

This question we ask ourselves! Many big media houses entered into agri media area. One very eminent houses used to bring out annual agri survey>But it is now stopped. Another much more diversified house started an agri journal, after a few issues, it was also stopped. We are, we confess a small fry and yet we persist!

At what price?
There are now many new issues and challenges. One is the advent of IT revolution. This has spawned many new social and technological challenges. One is the abundance of news and information. So too the emergence of information monopolies, Google and Facebook and many others. The emergence of fake news is one more big threat. Now, the current scenario of we, the people, are also treated to the fake news syndrome. How to believe the very government that is alleged to be withdrawing of data that is inconvenient to the government!

Be it growth rate, inflation or other socio-economic development data. Where do we get the reliable data?

So, what chance we have when we say something pertaining to agriculture?
Farming is hard. Helping farmers would appear to be still harder!

This we ourselves didn’t say. It is the first line in an editorial in the Economic Times! Fine sentence and we wanted our readers based in the urban centres to know about what difficulty is there to gather news and information from the farming sector and also from the rural households and from the poor sections of society. That is one reason, we say to media men and ladies, that we find increasingly that on even mainstream TV channels, we see the very same faces, the anchors and the opinion givers, experts and others, the very same faces, they come to the TV studios, as if paid opinion generators and for a fee, we suppose they give their opinions and comments and depart!

What values we can give to such paid for an opinion, even here they don’t touch touchy issues, sensitive issues and they are fine to express their sweet and pleasing utterances for a short while. So, dear readers, we don’t want to scare you from our perhaps unpleasant and a bit unpleasant air our disappointments and comments.

Yet, we find sometimes, very rarely indeed we see some harsh comments in the mainstream newspapers. Even in the Economic Times and the Business line, recently we see such harsh word like killing the agri crop insurance budgets a steep cut and also why start the schemes and once you know why you withdraw and make farmers pay for their crop insurance?

There are so many cuts in the budget and yet the media don’t report and comment in plain language?

The divide between the urban and rural India is growing and this trend is one reason why we often wonder whether the government that wins elections from rural votes think of nurturing agri/development media with suitable subsidies, advertisements, quotas etc.

Media industry doesn’t serve the vulnerable sections!
Let alone farmers and the rural people!

eight_col_micfreeThere is now a new media revolution, so much use of, so-called social media has changed the way people use the media industry consumption.
The 2014 general elections saw the rise and use of social media and let us give the Modi campaigns from the very beginning for the deployment of this powerful tool.

Now, there is a real revolution going on in the communications tool. In the use and misuse of media power the governments and the industry also play roles in educating the people. Unfortunately, just the reverse is also happening.  In a democratic society the ruling party, its leader, why its many tools like the concerned ministry with its own divisions like the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Prasar Bharathi, play their roles.

But lately, the world over it is the private channels that set the tone and temper of the public service broadcasting services. Yes, there are still some channels like BBC and even   the Qatar-based channel that do a great public service.

We can’t say the same thing about the news media and the broadcasting services. In the USA no one, it seems, to believe the private TV channels.

There is so much competition that in order to capture the share most of the services deteriorated into sheer false propaganda. So too the fake news industry!

So, we seem to live in a chaotic world, the so-called cultural tastes of each major country seem to differ variously. One more late development, especially in India is the monopoly of news channels by big capitalist industrialists.

Why in state like TN we see the media monopoly stretching beyond reasonable limits. One channel established by a cinema-cum political party had created almost a monster. The entire society is corrupt by 27/7 entertainment, TV serials. Coupled with this lowest common denominator rule, the visual media today, in our considered opinion, the standards of communication is highly corrupt.

Indian democracy is not well-served and vulnerable sections excluded!
Today we live at the centre of a democratic revolution. 200 years ago the world population was in around 1750less than one billion people. Urban population   in 1850 was almost miniscule. Today, urban population alone is growing faster and is at 4.5 billion! Damming of rivers, 24 thousands of dams in existence. Fertiliser consumption was almost nil in the 1850s.Today it is more than 300million tonnes of nutrients. In 1750sspecies extinction was almost unknown.50 thousands have taken place. Atmosphere ozone depletion even in the 1950s, it was unheard of sixty thousand columns of ozone.

These are some of the destructive impacts made by atmospheric pollution. Today, cities like New Delhi have become unliveable and the citizens and also the government don’t know what to do to save the world and, nay, planet. In this world that is getting hot every day, the temperature hitting up every day, there are dire predictions of natural disasters, psunamis, earth quakes and vanishing lakes and rise in sea levels and what have you. Its more than6 billion people! Around 1900 the use of fresh water, some 50Kilo million pear. Today, the demand for fresh water nearly 400 kilo.

Who can explain and educate the world?

It is the very governments that must play decisive roles.
But see how the big powers are doing things.
What about India’s roles and the media?

In 1985 there was no mobile phone! Today? In 2000 there were 800 mobile phones! And about one billion internet users! The  incumbent PM and his predecessor, never for once met the people face to face and conducted the press conference as did Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru!

Mr.Modi conducted, as per reports, only five preconference and the latest one for nearly 90minutes he almost answered his own questions! It was a well prepared much in advance and the interviewer never put a counter question and challenged the PM!

As many editorials questioned, this was no press conference and the much hyped Editor’s Guild took exception for Rahul Gandhi’s criticism but not the interviewer!

With such ignorant bliss, we the people have no option but to lie low. For how long we don’t know!

Why such a question here?
Readers of Agriculture& Industry  Survey might wonder!

AISPlease hear our voice. Brand building has become such an obsession with the industry leaders that we have had a long time  that some big names kept coming in the media and on public platforms  those unsuspected readers, yes, and most readers of such magazines like ours, all devoted to some lost causes, might not see the realities of the world. You see ,after all money power matters in this highly materialistic world, where everyone doesn’t even bother about their own freedoms, self-worth or self-esteem, they all go by the crowd mentality and try to compete with each other in the same blinded frenzy.

We should know that we live in a world of illusions!

Once the big industry captain was held up as an icon. then came the corporate warfare, much dirty linen was washed in public, the corporate values were thrown aside and the court battles were fought, won and lost! What sort of corporate icons these people are! So too in recent times another corporate governance battle was  fought in a billions of dollars worth of an IT giant.

What corporate governance these people were bragging about. Yes, we have to be sometime less than polite to tell the truth to the common man, the unsuspect reader!

The much respected CEO, the Chairman of the Board was literally thrown out! What sort of corporate governance we are talking about here?

Then, to behold! The very gentleman who succeeded  the ousted Chairman came out with the report that the old team judged things correctly!

What this icon had to say? He has to sadly confess!

Is this a model of governance.

You see, our media industry is now undergoing  turmoil, the print newspapers are declining in attracting readers. Some of the great names are facing crisis.

In this environment where Internet, various devices are replacing news in a serious sense and social media is taking a revenge of sorts is diverting readers of traditional media towards instant news, titbits.

Now, comes the most damning indictment of the IT giants, Facebook, Google and other mass news portals are accused of spying and carrying Russian funded ads and that interfered with the US Presidential elections. And also, the IT news sites are also, very soon, would be found to be destabilising governments, there are allegations of Russian interference in European and US affairs.

This raises some serious issues.

What about  the largest good of the largest number of people?
Media, as we see, has a role to play. A more committed a more open-minded and let us say a more morally accountable role to inform, education and enlighten the peoples, not in one’s own country but also in the larger world community.

Otherwise who would serve the larger cause of the world?
How to tackle  the unceasing rise and spread terrorism?
These are some of the questions that public-spirited media must answer besides, championing the real lost causes?

You see ultimately brand equity is all about the character of the person who earns it. Unfortunately, in India, the peculiar colonial history of India had conditioned the Indian character only of some disabilities, an innate sense of inferiority etc.
Thus we find great compromises in the character of even the top names  of the corporate ladder. You find them compromising with their advertised values by seeking a licence or awarding a book by bending themselves low before an incumbent government. The media too is meek and willing to build up a person with an eye on some  rewards.

Thus media brands or media created brands don’t last even one’s lifetime! So, be warned!

How to combat poverty and hunger?

Right, who would champion the cause of the most disorganised, most divided farmers, the rural people, and the villages?
Anyone who stands up for such cause please comes forward!
We at Vadamalai Media had championed such cause. And yet what reward or recognition we had got so far?

Of course, we don’t work for any rewards, material or non-material.

We find fulfilment in reaching out to such  noble causes.
Our brand equity is just that commitment to larger causes.
Agriculture and education  are our  fields  of priority. We are there for now some half a century. So, this is our brand pull, our brand value.

So, please judge, gentle men and ladies  at the ladder of brand equity, take us also along with you! We have no aspiration s for any material rewards, please excuse us for saying so, rather it seem, with some less than politeness!

Why? People don’t want to read anything about agriculture!
Such is the current public interest in agriculture!
Farmers’ news has come to mean only farmers’ suicides and other distress news only. Why this state of affairs? We wonder!

sliderimage2Vadamalai Media is an agriculture media company engaged in its priority goal of highlighting agriculture and  rural India issues and we have been in this field for the past quarter century and more. We have been publishing not just in English but also the regional languages too. Our Tamil agriculture monthly is there for long and it is a highly popular and well-sought after publication in Tamil and also in Kannada language as well.

For those engaged in Tamil journalism, in the daily newspaper and also the more weekly glossies, rather in cheap newsprint, we are talking here more as a journalist fraternity, we like to share our experience that high quality magazines in Tamil, covering as we do on all topics of great public interest, also in some  very specialist niche segments like promoting of Tamil language  growth, why even in such abstract areas like the current philosophical and other fields like original thinking in new intellectual debates, we do write and try our hand in writing in Tamil where this sort of experiment has not been done, our success must be an eye-opener.

So too in agriculture. Many in the past had tried their hands in English language brining our annuals publications and also others who tried in agri/rural journalism they have failed, this is not a happy expression but failure is the blunt reality!

Of course, the very thin audience is a problem. But then even those who have launched broadsheet format they are visibly struggling for a market share.

Why, even the once glossy journalism in weekly magazines soon after the 1975 Emergency was lifted, they are all now suffering after the advent of the Internet.

Anyway, why we say all the things is just to encourage ourselves not to give up hope!

Yes, there is a need to have a media to cover the what is perhaps the largest segment of the Indian economy, the agri sector, and the rural sector. Of course every media expert would analyse this challenge to media existence in such niche segment.

Yes, we have learnt a login the sales and marketing and distribution side. Even the once mighty glossy weekly now writes and sends individual copies to prominent potential subscriber asking for a subscription!

So, we should feel shy of sharing this rather embarrassing details.
All this we say to show how much more challenges we face as a standalone media house.

Vadamalai Media now has achieved a brand status and those who search for serious writing in some serious fields, as we have pointed out be it politics or some public policies  where some sensitive issues are involved like say in the issue of freedoms, privacy etc, where do the Indian readers to look for?

We dare say we are the one media who dare not discard any serious questions of policy. Anyway, now here in this issue we have carried for the benefit of readers, the general readers as well as specialist ones interested in agricultural reforms, there are great many examples of what can be done positively in agriculture sector.

The story we carry in this issue is about what is a great agricultural country, small in geographical size but ranked in the first place in transforming   the favourable geography and climate, namely Netherlands.

Some of its achievements are unbelievable. It is the number two count try, after the USA, in the export vegetable seeds and vegetables and other services.

The point we want to convey to the agri policy makers in the country is to see what Netherlands is achieving. We often talk of Israel or even New Zealand is doing in agriculture and dairying.

Every country is unique in its own way. Even we can learn from some of the African countries.

Surely, India has to change in the agri sector in some radical ways.
For one thing, we have been long obsessed with the abstract politics like Socialism and Communism. May be it was a mistake to adopt the Soviet Russian model of economic development. May be not. But then it is a serious mistake, we say, right now, the ruling dispensation is simply not having grip on the agri sector.

You see agriculture affects so many people at various levels. So, one solution doesn’t fit for all, for all regions, for all income groups in agriculture sector. So, why not take up the Netherlands model of free house cultivation on a large scale?

Then you can also take up the Israeli experiences in some other areas.
Of course, there are examples of failures, as when Chandrababu Naidu took up the Israeli model and failed miserably.

Even such expression is wrong, we admit. So, one failure doesn’t mean the other experiment would also a failure. Some daring decision to learn from successful experiences, from agriculturally endowed countries we have to go for.

This month’s cover story is one such attempt to give the much suffered Indian farming community a best shot, so to say.

Only those who dare and act has the chance of success. Success seldom goes to the timid.

Given the Prime Minister’s darings to take bold decisions, urge the PM to turn his attention to Netherlands’ agriculture.