Enough of trivialisation, what about news?
It was Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), a former British Prime Minister, who said that in a progressive country, change is constant. Much the same can be said about the Indian media world: It is constantly changing.
In recent times two newspapers underwent drastic change. One is Gomantak Times of Goa which has undergone a major change in layout, design, editorial page and page one. The logo has changed. The paper calls itself GT. The paper'sapproach is hard-hitting and like The Indian Express, not a day passes without GT finding a new cause to espouse. Often it sounds a little too loud but one suspects that it is because it wants to be heard.
The newest newspaper to announce change is the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald, easily one of the best newspapers in the country, with a healthy regard to the culture and traditions of India. On November 8, it has presented itself to the readers in a more compact size, easier to hold and read and with a much smarter look.
In its announcement it said: ?World over, newspapers have been reducing their size and some have even adopted the tabloid size. We have decided to move with the international trend for the sake of convenience and higher readability… We have also made some changes in the design of the paper, mainly on the front page. The fonts and types will, however, remain unchanged….?
The new size and design certainly are more attractive and easy to handle and read. Conservative in outlook but extremely readable and what is more, highly appealing, Deccan Herald is in a class by itself. Of this paper it can truly be said that it is nationalistic, educative, newsy and what is very important, clean. Which, sadly, cannot be said about many of our so-called national newspapers. It is this that obviously worried the former Information & Broadcasting Minister Shri Jaipal Reddy who told a national round table organised by the Press Academy of Andhra Pradesh and Centre for Media Studies in New Delhi that the government was considering setting up a commission to get a true picture of the state of the sector, as serious journalism was ?getting eroded?.
He said: ?Only a commission can do such a job, we will consider the possibility of such a commission.? According to Shri Reddy, the press is losing its credibility because of ?trivialisation, glamourisation and sensationalisation? and it is time for introspection by the media as its reach is going up, but not its credibility. The Minister charged media barons with possessing the ?dreadful combination? of ?influence and affluence?.
Conservative in outlook but extremely readable and, what is more, highly appealing, Deccan Herald is in a class by itself. Of this paper it can truly be said that it is nationalistic, educative, newsy and what is very important, clean.
However, Shri Reddy said that the government had no intention to draw any rekha through law and it was for the media itself to introspect. The PTI report was published by none other than Mumbai Mirror (November 9). Now let this be said to clear all minds. Not all newspapers have been trivialising news or resorting to glamourisation and sensationalism. We have excellent newspapers like The Hindu, The Statesman, The Telegraph, The Tribune, Deccan Herald and The Hitavada, all of which are class newspapers.
But the former Information Minister, having made his statement, seemed to have second thoughts. Asian Age (November 9) reported: ?There seems a long way before the Information Ministry'sproposal to set up a media commission actually sees the light of the day.? Official sources were quoted as saying that the Ministry would like to tread carefully on what was described as a ?sensitive matter?. Shri Reddy wanted to ensure ?that the government is not perceived as, in any way, infringing upon freedom of the press.? An official is quoted as saying: ?First, we need to have a wide-ranging debate on various issues relating to it (commission)…on what should be its scope, its powers and its relations with other similar existing bodies. All that the government is certain about at the moment is that the proposed commission should be a self-regulatory body with no government interference.?
Actually no new commission is needed. All that needs to be done is to give the Press Council teeth. If the Council finds a newspaper ?erring?, it should have the power to fine the offending newspaper heavily without giving the paper any right of appeal to a higher court. That will bring newspaper barons to their senses very quickly.
In Mumbai, the fight is between The Times of India, and its two newest rivals, DNA and Hindustan Times. DNA apparently is doing quite well?and at The Times of India'sexpense. If Shri M.Venkataraman, publisher of DNA, is to be believed, the massive expansion of newspaper market in Mumbai has negatively affected the readership of The Times of India by as much as 14 per cent, which is quite substantial. This assessment was arrived at, apparently, after Lintas had conducted a research of the impact DNA and Hindustan Times had made on The Times of India'sreadership in the last three months. Faced with competition, The Times of India had run a massive advertisement campaign to sell its wares, but apparently to no effect.
According to Lintas, firstly, DNA ?has performed better than Hindustan Times, with an overall 1According to Lintas, firstly, DNA ?has performed better than Hindustan Times, with an overall 1industan Times, with an overall 1According to Lintas, firstly, DNAccording to Lintas, firstly, DNA ?has performed better than Hindustan Times, with an overall 1iAccording to Lintas, firstly, DNA ?has performed better than Hindustan Times, with an overall 1industan Times, with an overall 1According to Lintas, firstly, DAccordiAccording to Lintas, firstly, DNA ?has performed better than Hindustan Times, with an overal supplements such as Times Ascent, Bombay Times, Times International, Your Connect and for suburbanites in Bandra, Khar, for instance, a special supplement. Along with it, the paper supplies free of cost Mumbai Mirror which by itself costs Rs 2. The DNA is priced at Rs 2 but provides about 44 pages while The Times of India overall must be providing over 100 pages.
Though the Mirror provides a lot of sex education?no doubt with the young as its target audience?by and large, Bennett Coleman seems to have got the message. It is getting over its past trend of trivialisation of news; also dropped are vulgar pictures of semi-nude dames. Could the former Information Minister have had The Times of India (and its rival Hindustan Times) in mind when he was contemplating setting up a media commission? We do not know and cannot tell. But apparently his threat is having some effect already. One needs to carefully watch how these two newspapers are behaving.
The public obviously has had enough of trivialisation and glamour. It wants news, nothing more, nothing less.