Power and Fear: Indian Corporate’s new media mantra

Gopinath Menon, CEO, Melon Media, Crayons Communications Group writes in his guest column ” New custodians of democracy emerge” in exchange4media.com on possible danger of corporate sector taking over the news industry:

Media houses of the past have slowly changed character and the traits now are very different. Earlier the  purpose was skewed towards a social objective, the freedom struggle, the voice of the down trodden, etc. This has given way to purely commercial and practical objectives. The social outlook of media houses has given way to the green dollars for the last two decades or so.

…..It is not the green dollars here as most media companies are bleeding and will take years before they break even. So what is the reason? The answer lies in the simple question “If you cannot be rich, can you be powerful and feared?”

With RIL investments in Network 18 and The Aditya Birla Group in TV Today, we are seeing a start of a new breed of corporate captains emerging in the fourth estate business. The significant fact to note is that all business investments have come in the news space and not in the entertainment space. So it is clear that it is not fondness for the media space but the news space that generates power and fear. This might change the media character of the written, spoken and seen words forever.

Why do we watch or read news? To be informed and enlightened. It helps us posses a viewpoint that builds our stature and standing within our peer group or society at large. The building block for this is ‘Credibility’ and ‘Truth’. I truly believe that there are no in-betweens when it comes to these traits. So you blindly rely on the information to develop a stance. What happens when this basic input is biased and misleading or planted? Everything collapses and it is tough to believe that their values will be embraced with the same intensity as before. If the same intensity prevails, its fine but is it going to be easy for a top business leader by origin to allow a huge chunk of business loss so that he comes across as principled? It is tough and maybe impractical to let it go and hence, the concern for the fourth estate.

Times have changed. We are on the threshold of a new society being weaved by the captains of industry controlling truth and credibility in the fourth estate. 

Read the full column : ” New custodians of democracy emerge” 

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Indian Media tamed by major conglomerates- Editors are now useless, readers helpless, worthless !!!

Paranjoy Guha Thakurta , a senior journalist, editor and broadcaster based in New Delhi  writes in his column  titled Loss of plurality is worrying, dictated to Shruti Pushkarna in MXM India:

….This sort of an acquisition is part of a growing trend of ‘corporatization’ of the media where big business houses such as the Aditya Birla Group and the Reliance Industries group are investing into existing media groups. Through this process of consolidation, they are also bailing out these groups.

…What this means is that the media in India is going to become less plural, it’s going to be dominated by relatively fewer groups. What you are really seeing is, large corporate groups exercising greater dominance on the media. Now there are two implications.

..This, in my opinion, is going to result in a loss of heterogeneity, resulting in a loss of plurality. In a sense, the oligopolies that are going to be formed will also impact the listeners of content, the viewers of content, or the readers of content. The content they get will be less heterogeneous.

..these trends towards ‘cartelization’, or the formation of these giant corporate conglomerates is not going to lead to greater plurality as far as the consumers of content are concerned.

…For instance, Living Media which includes, Aaj Tak, India Today, Headlines Today and Mail Today, these publications or these broadcasters are unlikely to publish anything negative that could affect the business interests of the Aditya Birla Group. 

…Even if on paper, the editors have the autonomy and independence to publish what they like, there could be subtle forms of censorship wherein editors would feel constrained or would think twice before publishing any story that could in any way go against the interest of the promoters of the company that control these media conglomerates.

Read the full column: Loss of plurality is worrying

After RIL, now ABG, M&M & RPS Goenka onto India Today

Big business is eyeing the media space once again. Just four months after Reliance Industries invested in the Network 18 group in a multi-layered deal, leading business houses, including the Aditya Birla Group, are looking at acquiring 26 per cent stake in the Aroon Purie-controlled Living Media India.The other names doing the rounds for picking a stake in Living Media are Mahindra & Mahindra and the Kolkata-based RP-Sanjiv Goenka group. However, Aditya Birla Group seems to be the front runner for the deal.

Purie’s publishing empire, which is controlled through Living Media, also includes Business Today and a clutch of licensed magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health, Harper’s Bazaar, Travel Plus and Harvard Business Review, among others. Living Media acts as a holding company and owns 57.1 per cent in TV Today Network, the listed company that owns the group’s broadcasting assets, besides publishing a host of magazines that include the flagship India Today. TV Today has four news channels — Headlines Today, Aaj Tak, Tez and Delhi Aaj Tak — and radio stations under the brand Oye FM. Living Media also has a joint venture with German media house, Axel Springer AG, for an auto magazine and an online shopping portal — Bag it today. It also has an alliance with the UK-based Daily Mail for the daily tabloid Mail Today. It straddles print media, television and the radio business apart from running the country’s most modern printing press, Thomson Press, in the outskirts of Delhi.

read full story: http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/big-business-houses-eye-stake-in-living-media-/470743/