How many citizens, having their morning breakfast with a cup of coffee in the right hand and the day'smorning newspaper held somewhat precariously in the left, realise that developments in science and technology have changed the contours and colours of mass media and that the emergence of Internet and Blog sites has provided a new space for public opinion?
The word ?blog? itself is of recent origin. The tenth edition of the Concise Oxford English dictionary published as recently as 1999 does not carry the word. Yes, it carries one full page of SMS (Electronic Test Messaging), points out that the initials stand for Short Message (for Messaging) Service and adds that a further feature of SMS is its use of ?emotions? representations of facial expressions which can be formed with keyboard or keypad characters and which are intended as a quick, amusing way of conveying the sender'sfeelings or intended tone.
And the Dictionary states: ?Many SMS abbreviations are rapidly attaining the status of accepted conventions familiar to most users of the ?language? and it mentioned a whole lot of abbreviations like ADN (Any Day Now), ATB (All the Best), BFN (Bye For Now), F2F (Face to Face), KWIM (Know What I Mean?), RUOK (Are You Okay?), ILUVU (I Love You) and, PCM (Please Call Me).
The world is fast changing. Contemporary media is open to innovative practices and experiments and public debate has reached a new pitch with Blog sites and snaps of amateurs. That is only one face of a media face that is changing. Severe competition has compelled small and regional newspapers to opt for mergers and amalgamations. The Times of India Group, for instance, has acquired The Vijay Times group that includes Vijay Karnataka, Vijay Times and Usha Kirana. For The Times of India Group, with a history of 168 years, this is the first merger, which enables it to have five dailies in Karnataka. As Vineet Jain, Managing Director of Bennett Coleman & Co said: ?This agreement highlights our strong emphasis on the fast growing regional media markets in India where readers have new aspirations and mindsets.? Jain further promised: ?We are committed to going local and further developing strong regional identities so as to provide the best possible value to our new readership and advertiser base.?
Incidentally all three VPL publications?Vijay Karnataka, Usha Kirana and Vijay Times have ten editions. While Vijay Karnataka is the leader in the Kannada newspaper segment with circulation in excess of 5.5 lakh (July-December 2005 ABC survey), Vijay Times enjoys No.1 position outside Bangalore and in all other districts of Karnataka in English language segments. Why would any media organisation wish to sell when the going is good is hard to understand. But VPL chairman Vijay Sankeshwar is quoted as saying: ?This sale will allow Vijayanand Roadlines Ltd, the promoters of VPL, to focus on major expansion and diversification plans for its logistics business as well as develop other new business.?
Unthinkable things are indeed happening in the media world. Four media organisations, for example identified as The Hindu, Eenadu, The Siasat Daily and Hindi Milap have launched ?The New Charminar of Hyderabad? cost-effective advertising alliance for reaching a diverse audience. As The Hindu'sManaging Director N. Murali put it, the coming together of the four newspapers was ?an unbeatable media combination? which would provide an extra advantage to the advertisers in terms of value. Addressing a press conference (May 26) Shri Murali said that the four newspapers shared common business ethics and values and their alliance would aggregate the target audience for the advertiser. Starting from June 1, 2006 the new alliance offered advertisers a one-stop solution to reach a varied target audience through a unique mix of English, Telugu, Hindi and Urdu newspapers having a combined circulation of 4.77 lakh and readership of 14.8 lakh in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
But if that is how the big papers are moving, what about smaller papers? There is, for example, Sudharma, the only Sanskrit daily in the country, which has been in circulation, continuously?and without a break, as the paper insists, which is fighting against great odds to stay afloat. Its readership consists of Sanskrit scholars and students and sells around 2,000 copies across the country?an amazing performance. That there are at least 2,000 genuine scholars of Sanskrit willing to pay for a daily Sanskrit newspaper is in itself a miracle of sorts. It is dispatched mainly through post, from Mysore. According to its editor K.V. Sampath Kumar, several readers have been patronising the paper and it is even sent abroad. The annual subscription is Rs 250, which is a pathetically small amount, considering the effort that goes into bringing out the paper.
The starting of the paper itself is interesting. The idea first occurred to a well-known Sanskrit scholar, K.N. Varadaraja Iyengar who had originally been active in publishing Sanskrit works. Iyengar began to wonder why the Sanskrit types he had should lie idle for weeks if not months at a time. He discussed the idea with a contemporary of his, Agaram Rangaiah, editor of a Rangaiah paper Saadhvi. Though Rangaiah gave his moral support there were many who were sceptical of a Sanskrit paper'ssuccess. But Iyenagar persisted and so Sudharma was born on July 14, 1970. The beginning was humble indeed, But the idea caught on and presently, it is claimed, Sudharma is read at Sanskrit Vidyapeeths, academies and institutions, Kendriya Vidyalayas and public libraries not only in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, but in Assam, Rajasthan, Kerala, Orissa and even Jammu and Kashmir! There are also a few subscribers from Japan, and the United States.
Sampath Kumar is quoted by The Hindu (July 3, 2006) as saying: ?Every one who visits the newspaper office appreciates my efforts and provide only lip sympathy, even as I struggle to keep the newspaper going.? What a shame! Aren'tthere any true lovers of Sanskrit in India who can give Sampath Kumar a financial helping hand? The miracle is that one man on his own and without any help from any government or individual has been bringing out a Sanskrit daily for 36 years! At the very least he deserves to have something in his kit?say some Rs 20 lakh to start with. As for awards, surely for all his efforts he deserves at the very least a Padma Shri? Are there no patriotic millionaires around who can help out Sampath Kumar? He requires sampath?and sympathy.