Article 1: Where have all the children gone?
8 August 2005 - On Sunday, 17 July 2005, thousands of children – and some adults -- the world were pouring over the latest installment of a story that has held readers in thrall for eight years. In Bangalore, the long-awaited release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the previous day had inspired front page headlines such as "Muggle world sways under new Potter spell", "Magic in the air: Potter spell at work again", "Potter magic sweeps the globe", "Potter takes Indians by storm", "Potter magic grips the city", and so on.
However, children were pretty much missing from media coverage of the penultimate volume of the wildly popular series of books written essentially for them. Instead the focus was on how the latest book was selling. There were, of course, photographs of children queuing up outside bookstores, looking at posters of the book, browsing through the book, dressed up as characters in the book, and so on. But few children were quoted in any of the reports, which relied mainly on sources in the book trade, and none of the hasty reviews were by children.
The conspicuous absence of children in the media during the recent Harry Potter weekend confirmed a trend revealed by a quick survey of the Bangalore-based English press through the preceding week: children barely figure on the radar of the media. Their voices are missing even in reports and articles on events and issues directly related and relevant to them.
Seen but not heard
Take, for example, a number of such stories that appeared in the press on 16 July. A report on the mobile schools planned by Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (The Times of India) was entirely based on what the project director had to say, with no information or comments from anyone else, least of all the children who are supposed to benefit from the new scheme. Children were also missing from an otherwise welcome follow-up story on school safety (The Hindu), in memory of the 90 young victims of the Kumbakonam school fire tragedy a year earlier. Even a write-up on a children’s theatre festival organised by the National School of Drama (City Express, The New Indian Express) failed to give voice to children even as three adults were quoted. Similarly, a story on "Success Programmes" for children offered by a local organisation (Bangalore Times, TOI) did not reveal what children had to say about the proposed activity.
If children are generally missing from the text, they tend to appear quite frequently in photographs – in keeping with the old Victorian adage that children should be seen and not heard. Sometimes such photographs are related to events involving children, especially those that also feature a "Very Important Person." Apart from the fact that most of these show children as passive beneficiaries, the celebrity concerned often eclipses the children. For example, not a single child appeared in a picture in Vijaya Times (11 July) of a Bollywood actress distributing saplings to school children in Mumbai. Similarly, a photograph of Rahul Gandhi serving mid-day meals to school children in Hubli in The Hindu (15 July) showed none of the assembled children.
Another category of photographs (and reports) featuring children showcase child achievers in various fields, ranging from the International Physics Olympiad to a local under-16 football tournament (although school and city level sports generally gets short shrift, especially in comparison with the coverage given to national and international events, particularly cricket). The celebration of certain types of accomplishments and specific symbols of success is very noticeable: among the children picked up by the media that week were the "wonder kid at 11" who was to be the "Junior Ambassador of India" at the 17th Asia Pacific Children's Convention in Japan, "the youngest Chess International Master from India," the winners of the Horlicks Wiz Team contest, and a motley group of "meritorious" children photographed with cricketer Rahul Dravid.
Children also regularly appear in photographs relating to conflicts and disasters, presumably to highlight the pathos of the situations being covered. For example, in that one week there were pictures of a Palestinian girl in a West Bank town looking at the body of a slain local leader and another one of Israel settler children in Gaza, there were pictures of child survivors of the train accident in Pakistan and children affected by a flood in Kolar and a house collapse in Hubli, and of course there were pictures of Iraqi children killed in a suicide car bomb attack as well as an Iraqi child near a pool of blood from another blast on another day.
Visuals featuring children are also used to illustrate reports and articles on a wide range of subjects – such as the photograph of a row of babies in a government hospital that went with coverage of World Population Day in one newspaper, and a picture of Laura and Jenna Bush with two Rwandan children that accompanied a news item on their visit to an AIDS project in Africa. They appear in even less pertinent photographs, too – e.g., a boy looking at waves in the
Dominican Republic and children watching river rafting in Kodagu.
When children do appear in news reports, it is generally as victims (and, more rarely, perpetrators) of crime, as victims or survivors of abuse, violent conflicts, disasters and/or socio-economic deprivation, as recipients of charity or beneficiaries of welfare schemes, as participants in cultural or sports events, and as winners of various kinds of competitive events. For the most part they remain silent. Rarely are their experiences and opinions taken into account even in the occasional report on education, which obviously affects them more than anybody else – for instance, the move to make CBSE examinations "stress-free," reported in the press on 14 July.
Pushed to the margins
Of course, The Hindu, Deccan Herald and The New Indian Express do publish special supplements for children – Young World, Open Sesame and School Magazine respectively (this is in addition to the education supplements brought out by various newspapers, powered by advertisements from educational institutions, which are in any case more geared to higher education).
Besides the expected staples such as cartoon strips, jokes and activity corners (quizzes, word games et al), these supplements provide some space for children’s creative expression in the form of poems, essays, letters, stories and artwork. They also feature various kinds of information that can be broadly categorised as "general knowledge," listings and reviews of children’s books (the 22 July edition of Young World called for children’s comments on the latest Harry Potter), as well as brief articles on a range of subjects, including events and issues of current interest and concern (e.g., global warming, London hosting the 2012 Olympics and safety on roads). However, even here there is little evidence of a conscious and systematic effort to engage with children as citizens. This is despite the fact that the media are becoming more and more omnifarious, omnipresent and omnipotent, and that children across the board are increasingly exposed to the media – good, bad and ugly. On the whole, the media today reflect little active awareness of the fact that they have an important role to play in enabling children to learn about and make sense of the highly complex world they live in, which they cannot but be conscious about, bombarded as they are by random information from a variety of sources, including multiple forms of media. There is not much space or time in the media for children to express their thoughts, articulate their doubts, fears, hopes and aspirations, and offer their ideas on current affairs.
Surviving on adult fare
The print media are not the only culprits who overlook their responsibility towards children. A study of children’s television programmes in Asia, including India, conducted by the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) in the late 1990s revealed the predominance of animation programmes and foreign programming in the fare offered to children by both Doordarshan and private broadcasters (indigenous and transnational) telecasting to Indian audiences.
According to Anura Goonasekera, writing about the study, "In India the total number of children’s programmes in all channels is less than one per cent. Most of these programmes are designed for upper class urban children. However, these are not popular among this audience because of lack of entertainment… When respondents from DDI were asked about programme priorities, none of them mentioned children’s programmes. None of the networks has any specific policies to create awareness or to create programmes on children’s rights. An obvious gap in children’s television programming in India is the virtual absence of programmes specifically made for early teens."
As a result, children watch whatever is on TV. According to media researcher Mira Aghi, quoted by Goonasekera, 75 per cent of her sample of children mentioned programmes made for adults as the ones they liked, including comedies, thrillers, crime and family serials. A 2002 study conducted by the Centre for Advocacy and Research (CFAR), New Delhi, revealed that many children in the city watch as much as ten hours of television a day. In the absence of good children’s programming, they watch what the rest of the family does, including popular, prime time family sagas/soap operas such as the "K" serials, and game shows like the erstwhile Kaun Banega Crorepati.
A five-city study on media violence and its impact on children, conducted by CFAR in 2001, disclosed a high incidence of violence in TV shows of all genres, across channels and time bands, as well as in computer/video games. It also registered an increase in children’s TV viewing, in terms of both number of hours and types of programmes. According to the study, children watch all categories of programmes, across channels and throughout the day -- up to 11.30 pm on weekdays and even later on weekends. Over 50 per cent of their favourite programmes comprise adult family dramas. This is obviously because there are so few appropriate and good quality programmes for children on Indian television.
The neglect of children by the media is particularly incomprehensible – and reprehensible -- considering that nearly 40 per cent of the Indian population comprises children under 18 (estimated at around 415 million in 2003). With children under five making up only a little more than ten per cent of the total population (approximately 118.5 million), it is clear that at least three quarters of the child population -- nearly 300 million Indian children -- can be counted as members of media audiences, actual or potential.
Not surprisingly, those who "have something to sell" have been aware of the market value of this section of the audience for quite some time. As Namita Unnikrishnan and Shailaja Bajpai reported in their book, The Impact of Television Advertising on Children, by the early 1990s "children had become an important audience segment for Indian advertisers and … television had been instrumental in targeting them… Before television became a major social force, Indian children were less exposed to aggressive advertising and became aware and sensitive to its claims only as young adults. Today, children graduate into becoming consumers much earlier. They begin watching TV almost at birth and, since no skills are required to absorb ideas from television, they become part of the advertising audience fairly soon." According to their study, of the commercials taped from Doordarshan during April and May 1992, more than 35 per cent featured children and a little over 30 per cent of the ads reviewed held a direct appeal for the child audience.
In other words, the commercial potential of young audiences is being fully utilised, if not exploited, through the media. However, the potential benefits of the media as a source of information and ideas, and as a forum for discussion and debate – in fact, as a critical component of "the public sphere" so essential to the proper functioning of democracy -- are still not being made really available and accessible to children.
The good news
Yet there is plenty of evidence that, given an opportunity, children can be highly receptive, discerning and critical consumers of and participants in the media. I have personal experience of this in the context of both "mainstream" and "alternative" media. The fortnightly column I wrote in The Hindu’s Young World for eight years in the 1990s ("Spaced Out"), which dealt with a wide range of issues triggered by current affairs, attracted tremendous reader response, with children spontaneously writing in to express their views on diverse subjects such as child labour and education, gender discrimination and environmental degradation, poverty and justice, war and social conflict, caring for the sick and the elderly. Similarly, Bhima, the wallpaper for street and working children produced by The Concerned for Working Children (CWC), which I helped to conceptualise and nurtured through its infancy a decade and a half ago, continues to be a popular medium of communication which is avidly read, discussed and contributed to by both urban and rural children.
More recently, children have proved themselves eminently capable of being critical consumers and creative producers of, as well as active participants in, various kinds of media. For instance, a group of Indian children critiqued media coverage of the tsunami disaster in 2004. According to a report in The Financial Express, members of Bal Panchayat, a forum for children's self-expression, analysed the coverage of children's issues by major English and Hindi newspapers over a fortnight in the aftermath of the tragedy and concluded that the media did not pay adequate attention to children affected by the calamity or to issues concerning their safety, nutrition and post-trauma care and rehabilitation.
Last year children from two slums in Delhi, Madangir and Khanpur, launched their own newspaper, Udayachal, in order to highlight the concerns and problems of their communities. In a similar initiative, children from some other colonies in Delhi launched another newspaper, The Yamuna -- Creating Waves. According to One World South Asia, these publications are meant to reflect the knowledge and opinions of children about issues that concern their lives.
Mini-documentaries made by teenagers from one of the poorest slums in the capital city won the 2003 One World Media Award in the category Special Achievements. The videos dealt with problems they have to deal with every day, such as child prostitution, child labour, life in a garbage dump, and living in the midst of smoke and fumes from a hazardous industry. Part of a package titled ‘Children have something to say,’ the films were made by children but intended for an adult public.
In a reverse situation, a series of films currently on air in two districts of Karnataka via Edusat, the indigenous satellite launched last year to exclusively serve the educational sector, has been made by adults but builds on the inherent genius of children to create fascinating and enlightening lessons in history, science and English. In the history series titled "Young historians," for example, 10-12 year old students of a government school in Belvanki village, Gadag district, embark on a voyage of discovery that helps them to understand how history is constructed at various times by various people in various places for various purposes, and how historical events and personalities often connect to their own, present-day realities and life experiences.
According to Deepa Dhanraj, who conceptualised and directed the series, the children were so quick to grasp the concept and understand the process, and so keen to apply their minds to each subject under discussion, that they kept raising the bar and, in the end, made it possible for the films to provide a sense of history that acknowledges both its complexities and its consequences.
Need for introspection and dialogue
In another recent initiative, a "Media Code of Conduct to Realise Children’s Rights" has evolved with the active participation of children in the discussions leading up to the working draft. Spearheaded by CWC, the code examines three aspects of the interface between the media and children: children as subjects, as users and as producers of media.
According to the chapter setting out the raison d’etre of such a code, "In the process of consultations with various children’s groups…children have expressed unhappiness over the patterns of media coverage of children. They want to know why the media ignores them and their opinions and perspectives… They want to know why their voices are never heard in the media, why their perspectives never feature in the media, why information relevant to them is so sparse and why media does not respect their diverse opinions. They want to know why information relevant to them is never presented in ways that they can understand… They object to the stereotyping of children by the media and want to know why children’s programming is never a priority for the media." The code is expected to stimulate constructive dialogue on how these issues can be addressed.
Examples of "best practices" in media by, for and about children, such as those mentioned above and the many others that exist across the country (and the world) could – indeed should – form the core of a fresh approach to serving the interests of children through the media. If they do, perhaps a day will come when children grow up hearing stories not only from people who have something to sell but also from their peers and adults with a genuine interest in communicating with them.
Article 2: INDIA Kerala Church aims to counter TV's negative influence
November 12, 2009
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India (UCAN) -- Television's undue influence on families and the young is worrying the Catholic Church in Kerala, southern India.
On Nov. 9, the family commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council issued a circular to alert Catholic parishes in the state about television channels resorting to sex and violence to attract viewers.
"The media are controlling people with programs of inferior quality," bemoans the circular, titled "Family and media." Commission chairperson Bishop Mathew Anikuzhikattil of Idukki signed it.
The circular notes a "serious danger" of television controlling a family's daily schedule, including prayer time. "People should control the media, but what is happening here is the reverse."
Speaking with UCA News on Nov. 10, Bishop Anikuzhikattil expressed dismay that sex and violence dominate "trash series" during prime time on all channels. "Society will experience far-reaching consequences as people become addicted to these programs that convey nothing," he warned.
Kerala has nine channels in the local Malayalam language, while hundreds of national and international channels also are available. Studies have shown that most families here own at least one TV set. Christians account for 19 percent of the state's 31.8 million people.
"We are very much concerned about the undue influence of visual and infotain media on families," Bishop Anikuzhikattil wrote. "The time has come to address these issues."
The prelate alleged that TV programs convey messages at odds with Christianity by depicting life as full of tragedies with no solution and showing extramarital affairs as normal. "It is the Church's duty to safeguard its people against such traps," he added.
The circular wants parents to determine when their children should watch television and to lock channels that telecast programs with sex and violence. It insists parents should not watch television during times of family prayer or children's study.
The family commission also wants parents, teachers and parish priests to educate families not to watch "inferior programs" that influence the young. It plans to organize a series of seminars on the media and families in 2010 to educate the faithful on the judicious use of television.
James Varghese, a Kerala government official, welcomed the Church initiative. "Many parents are not really bothered about television's influence on children," he told UCA News. According to him, what children see on TV can change their lives. "The Church campaign will help the channels broadcast quality programs," he added.
Prime-time series on Malayalam channels have very similar storylines, noted A. Jayashanker, a Hindu lawyer and media critic. When a woman in distress doesn't get support from society, she commits suicide, he said, as an example. Such storylines glorify suicides or suggest suicide is an option to escape tragedy, he continued.
Technological advances can make matters worse, Jayashanker said. Three girls recently committed suicide after their classmates sexually abused them and taped the act on their mobile phones.
Kerala has the highest number of suicide cases in India, with 27 incidents recorded daily. A recent study concluded that some television series have driven young people to suicide.
Siby Mathews, a senior police official who examined suicides in Kerala as part of his doctoral studies, agrees the Church can play "a positive role" in "taming" television, the Internet and mobile phones. "Technology has become more a villain in families than a friendly tool," he said.
Article 3: Whither Children’s Television in India?
Dr. N. Bhaskara Rao*
More than half of television viewers in India today are children of below 15 years. And yet there is hardly any sensitivity about the relevance and impact of what is dished out by various television channels. All of them are operating in a competitive mode for one upmanship in the race for viewership. In this order channels are concerned more about “what interests or attracts” rather than what is “in the interest” of children. Neither the Government nor the parents or the teachers seems to be concerned about this situation. For, the generation next and the civil society of the country is shaped and molded by what they are exposed to today on the “idiot-box” day in and day out.
Research studies over the years world over have brought out various types of negative impact of intense viewing of television by children. The direct influence of TV viewing on the extent of violence and deviant behaviour pattern of children has been reiterated – even in India. In fact, there are a couple of confessions by adolescents, even a biography, as to how they picked up ideas about a rape or robbery or revenge or killing or suicide or kidnap, etc from one or other TV programme. Even some court judgments have commented on such effect of TV programmes.
That TV has a double-edged effect and that it is the negative character which impacts more than positive potential often is known. But what is not realized is that there are no serious efforts to explore positive virtues of TV and that parents who should be more concerned about such a phenomena hardly do anything about it. In fact, CMS studies have brought out, for example, that in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, parents enjoy the same fare of TV along with their children and as keenly; where as in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, parents try to restrain their children in favour of some discriminative viewing. Teachers and social activists in a couple of places have been occasionally demonstrating about the influence of television contents. Political parties too do not seem to be concerned to do something about. BJP, however, had referred to this adverse trend in its election manifesto a few years ago, but did nothing on coming to power.
Even the code for advertising, although outdated and inadequate, is conscious of “implications” to children of certain broadcasts and realizes the scope for misuse. For example, under the code no advertisements should be accepted which lures children to believe that if they do not own or use the product advertised they will be inferior to other children or that they are liable to ridicule for not owning or using a particular brand. However, in reality there is neither strict monitoring of the advertisements nor a rigid follow-up despite that many ads on television fall under this category. And most of these children’s channels have become marketing outlets for brands altogether to India.
Against this background and in this context there are certain recent trends on the Indian TV scene, which need to be taken note. More and more channels are going for “children’s programmes”. In fact, more channels are coming in describing themselves as “children’s channel” or positioning themselves as such. Most of these are beamed into the country as if no one in the country, the Government the least, is concerned about such a trend. What is not taken note is that (a) most of these children’s channels and programmes are of foreign origin and are reruns over the years, (b) they do not have anything to do with enrichment or supplementary scope for school education or imparting moral standards (there are of course some good pre-school programmes); (c) some of these foreign channels are now entering their second phase in the country taking to marketing of toys and tools for children promoted in these serials. And, worse, as a result of all this, there has been a decline recently in the extent of locally originated programmes for children even in Indian channels. To complicate the matter further these foreign programmes for children are now being dubbed into Indian languages.
There are international lobbies operating aggressively to thrust upon animation serials for children on countries like India. That is how today cartoons have become synonymous for Children’s TV. Most of these serials are produced after so much research. But not for ensuring educational or general knowledge aspects but for capturing and retaining eyeballs of children again and again and to see their serials have certain “dope-effect” on children.
This recent launch of DTH services in a competitive mode brings out the urgency for Government take a view of this proliferation of uninhibited foreign fare for children and doing something about it so that television is also used with more concern and for positive ends. The least the Government should do is to prescribe that every channel being down linked must have certain percent of locally produced and originating programmes for children. In fact, in the case of children channels, this percentage of locally originated programmes has to be higher. Canada and European Union countries have one or other provisions in this regard. If France has prescribed 30 percent of contents of channels should be locally originated, India should go for a higher percentage, not less.
India has a rich tradition of enriching children with folk tales and grandma tales and imparting values and imparting discipline and moral values in an entertaining format. When some of us advocated and argued a couple of decades ago for expansion of TV network in the country and for going for color television, one hope was that children’s fare will get some priority and all that treasure of India gets a chance to figure. But what is happening now is contrary. The exceptions are only a few. For, there is a decline in the extent of children’s participation even in national channels. The best specific examples of course are Malguidi Days, Panchatantra, Tenaliraman and the like. Realizing these strengths of Indian tradition, some foreign producers are scouting in India to capture talent for television, particularly in animation format. But what about our own initiatives?.
We do not seem to learn from our experiences. All India Radio in the earlier years has set good examples for children’s programmes, which were enriching as well as entertaining and supplementary to school education. In fact, the format of those AIR programmes was such that they were participatory and empowering confidence and courage building in children and respect for elders and environment. Today most imported children’s programmes are all out to promote materialism, selfishness, consumerism and “at any cost” approach to life.
Realizing the significance of media in the context of children, a few years ago UN has prescribed annual day for mass media when children are supposed to be the producers of media contents. It is a good symbolic initiative. But it should be followed up by some support to promote “creative TV software” for children of 6 – 12 age group, in particular. For, there is UN Convention on Rights of Child with a set of standards to promote well being of children. Unfortunately, there is no public trust or foundation of civil society in India for this purpose. Even Public Service Broadcasting Trust, which is a good initiative otherwise, is yet to be concerned about children’s interests. It is most unfortunate that neither of the plethora of Government agencies claiming concern for children has taken note of this vacuum. Not even the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. All this despite ample creative talents across the country to produce more positive, pro-active and relevant software for children than what is available now. It is unfortunate that the Government has neither taken pro-active or re-active initiatives in this regard. While we have a Children’s Film Society to promote films for children and a Children’s Book Trust, we have none for television despite the number of children who see television is several times more and, even more critically, the frequency of their viewing television is more than a couple of hours a day.
Article 4: Human chain in Mumbai against Obscenity in Media
I take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Pratiba Naitthani, am a lecturer of Political Science at St. Xaviers College, Mumbai. I have filed a Public Interest Litigation in the High Court of Mumbai against Obscene, Violent and Vulgar Adult programmes shown on Television, Obscene Posters put up in the city and the vulgar photographs printed in the Newspapers.As you must be aware that there is a direct link between the violence, nudity and sex shown in the media and crime against women, minors and children. There have been instances where small girls were raped by boys who themselves are below the age of 16 years. These boys admitted that they learnt it from television; it encouraged them to commit such a heinous crime. Teenagers have killed their own family members taking tips from the television. All over the world, psychologists say that television has a negative impact on minors. Research shows that crime, violence and sex shown on television directly influences human mind.Countries like U.S.A. have started imposing fines on those television channels and radio broadcasters who show and air indecent, vulgar and violent programmes. However in our country although the law says that no Adult programme can be shown on television at any time of the day and night, the channels are blatantly violating the law and the government is not taking any action. There are laws to prohibit obscenity in public and to prohibit indecent representation of women, but they are not being implemented effectively.Although my fight against this violence and vulgarity is going on in the court, I feel that a mass movement is also necessary in the same context. Majority of the people in our society want to stop all this, but they are somehow not expressing it with vigour and force. Although it is difficult for me to co-ordinate with all the likeminded people and unite them, I am trying my best to assemble as many people as possible.8th March is Women’s Day, I think the day gives us an opportunity to convey our views to the Central Government in particular and to the society in general. Hence I propose to create a Human Chain, at Marine Drive on 8th March at 3.30 p.m. We will meet there with messages written on placards, posters, banners for the public, channels, media and for the Govt of India. We will wait there till 5 p.m. and then disperse.Dr. Sanjay Aparanti, the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Enforcement, Social Service Branch, has also accepted this proposal and has promised all the possible help to make this event successful. Virti Vrund, the women’s wing of Vardhman Sanskar Dham, an organisation of Jains have also joined in the movement and will be joining the Human Chain as well.The idea is to protest against the indecent portrayal of women in the mass media, to convey a message that the women will not tolerate it any more, to create an awareness among the masses about the negative impact of media violence and vulgarity on our society in general and the children in particular, to awaken the people about their role and responsibilities towards the women and children, to make the society safe for women by protesting against the filth that is shown in the name of entertainment in the media, to tell people that they should raise their voices against the vulgarity and obscenity in public which is one of the main causes of increasing crimes against women.Through this letter, I wish to initiate a dialogue with your organisation and hope that you agree with this cause. This is a request to you to join the Human Chain and help us clean the society of the filth and garbage, which is setting inside the minds of people. Hope you will extend a helping hand and will be present in a large number to make this event successful.
Article 5: Mass media versus mass reality
The media have decided that 70 per cent of the population does not make news. The electorate has decided otherwise. P Sainath contrasts expectations before the elections with actual outcomes, and finds plenty that should have been always evident. May 2004 - The first thing the election results drive home is the sheer disconnect between the Indian elite and the Indian people. Here was a leadership that thought the `India Shining' campaign would bring it success. A part of the elite — even those with the Congress party — went further than that. They believed the claims of `India Shining' itself were valid and true. The dispute was over the patent rights on the shine. Did those belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party or to the Congress?
The Indian voters had very different issues on their mind. They were rejecting the National Democratic Alliance Government, which, as one poll slogan had it, stood for the "National Disinvestment Agency." The intensity of this electoral quake rates an 8 on the political Richter scale. At this point, the `feel good' factor seems so pathetic as to require no ridicule. The ruling party even tried to co-opt the thrill of a great cricket tour of Pakistan. It didn't work. Yet while the spin doctors have been sacked, the age of spin doctoring has arrived.
Also rubbed in yet again was, of course, that second huge disconnect. That between mass media and mass reality. Little in the media output of these past five years had prepared audiences for anything like this outcome. The polls succeeded where journalism failed. They brought back to the agenda the issues of ordinary Indians. Deeper analysis must await more data. However, some broad contours seem clear.
There is almost no government in the country that has ill-treated its farmers and not paid the price. That has hurt agriculture and not been punished. India has never seen so many farmers' suicides as in the past six to eight years. For some, the urge to blame it all on nature is overwhelming. And yes, droughts have badly hurt people in parts of the country. But that would be missing the wood for the trees. Countless millions of Indians have seen their livelihoods crippled by policies hostile to them. Many of these applied to agriculture, on which two-thirds of the people depend. Any incoming government that fails to see this writes its own exit policy.
Droughts have badly hurt people in parts of the country. But that would be missing the wood for the trees. Countless millions of Indians have seen their livelihoods crippled by policies hostile to them. Many of these applied to agriculture, on which two-thirds of the people depend.
The politics of divisiveness and intolerance also stand rejected. In no other period post-Independence have the minorities felt so insecure. And with good reason. From Graham Staines to Gujarat, the record is a grisly one. The basic fabric of a secular society came under assault. Co-opting a few figureheads from the minorities failed to work for the BJP-NDA. People went by their lived experience, not by the lure of poll-eve lucre. And amongst all communities, people have shown they want a secular polity. Even in Gujarat, the Congress party seems to have made its gains in the areas worst hit by the bloodshed of 2002. It suggests that many Hindus, too, have counted the costs of the past few years.
Under no other national government has there been the kind of intolerance towards dissent as in the past six years. The Tehelka episode and the hyper-activism of the Censor Board are just two of many examples. The rewriting of history — often with bizarre content — was also part of this. So too the vilification of some of this nation's great historians. Years from now, the country will still be assessing the damage done to some of our best-known educational institutions. It's worth remembering that much of this happened with elite consent. Until, of course, Murli Manohar Joshi got carried away. It was when he trampled on the Indian Institutes of Management, the elite's pet institutions, that the squeals of protest began.
Dr. Joshi has been defeated. So too have been the Ram Naiks, the Yashwant Sinhas, the V.C. Shuklas and the Sharad Yadavs. The electorate has shown little respect for those we call `heavyweights.'
The polls also seem to show India 2004 to be a far more federal nation than before. There will be many different forces vying for political space. And that reflects the nation's diversity. Those yearning for a simple `two-party' system have a long wait ahead. One vital feature of this election was the partial recognition of this by the Congress party. Wherever it struck alliances and accommodated other forces, it gained. Now this can be termed electoral arithmetic. Even opportunistic. And indeed it is. Like it or not, it is also a negotiating of political space in a vast and diverse nation.
The poll campaign of the ruling formation was also marked by sharp hypocrisy. Appeals at press conferences and on television for decorum were followed on the ground by crude personal attacks. Indeed, this seems to have backfired in Tamilnadu. Even apart from the crushing strength of the DMK-led alliance, the foreigner diatribe against Sonia Gandhi did not go down well. Not in a State that knows her husband — also an Indian and a Prime Minister — lost his life on its soil. A victim of mindless hatred.
At one level, elections in the past year have followed a simple pattern. With a few exceptions, the Congress has gained greatly where the BJP or its allies have been in power for some time. And vice versa. People in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are still voting against the policies of their former Congress Governments. Even the massive numerical strength of the Congress-NCP tie-up in Maharashtra did not bring them the gains it should have.
The electorate has put the new Government on notice. "Business as usual. More of the same," won't do. Already one Congress leader at the Centre has promised exactly that. Far from rejecting the Chandrababu Naidu model, he suggests the Congress will give the people of Andhra Pradesh "Naidu." In which case the people of Andhra Pradesh will surely give his party the treatment they gave Mr. Naidu.
Simply put, the term "reforms" is much like the words patriotism, motherhood and apple pie. Who could possibly be against any of those? It's when you get down to defining these terms that the gaps show up. (Mahatma Gandhi was a patriot. The BJP thinks Narendra Modi is one, too.)
At the height of India Shining, our rank on the Human Development Index of the UNDP made sad reading. It is better to be a poor person in Botswana or the Occupied Territories of the Palestine than one in India. If the "reforms" mean policies that better the lives of hundreds of millions, then surely people want them. That means, amongst other things, addressing people's rights to resources such as land, water and forests. It means making more jobs, not depriving millions of the ones they have. For some, the "reforms" simply mean mindless privatisation. The transfer of public wealth and resources to private hands. The new government needs to know that this was also a mandate against such an assault on people's lives and rights. A glance at the fate of the so-called `reform-minded' State Governments shows us this.
Already one Congress leader at the Centre has promised that far from rejecting the Chandrababu Naidu model, the Congress will give the people of Andhra Pradesh "Naidu +." In which case the people of Andhra Pradesh will surely give his party the treatment they gave Mr. Naidu.
As long as the most basic needs of the Indian people are not met, the elite will never find the `stability' they so long for. Often, this is confused with continuity. The Modi Government continuing in Gujarat does not make that State stable in any positive way. And it's worth remembering that before Mr. Modi gave Gujarat his brand of stability, the BJP ran through four Chief Ministers in almost as many years. It even managed to bring down its own Government despite having a two-thirds majority in the Assembly.
Meanwhile the markets have been shaky for some days. It's a mystery how the expensive analysts of Dalal Street function. If they could not factor in these outcomes into their `possible scenarios,' they must be poorly informed and connected. I was assured by some in the fraternity a few days ago that Chandrababu might face `a little anti-incumbency' but "let's not forget there's real achievement here and people reward governments for that." Maybe we can talk to them again when they're rescued from under the rubble.
The street analysts of Andhra Pradesh were a little better with their dark humour. "Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Dollar Bill. Naidu has saddled us with a lot of Bills to pay," was one wisecrack making the rounds. The reference was to the incredible borrowings of the State under Mr. Naidu. Something that never seemed to worry the well-paid analysts. Maybe the world of such analysts is driven by the fact that (as the CII once reported) only 1.15 per cent of Indian households invest in stocks.
As for the media, there is a great and urgent need for introspection. The failure of journalism was far more predictable than the poll results. For years now, the media have stopped talking to ordinary people. How on earth can they tell their readers and viewers what is going on? There are 400-+ journalists to cover Lakme India Fashion Week. Almost none to cover the agricultural crisis in any informed way. The labour and agriculture beats in newspapers are almost extinct. The media have decided that 70 per cent of the population does not make news. The electorate has decided otherwise.
]P Sainath is one of the two recipients of the A.H. Boerma Award, 2001, granted for his contributions in changing the nature of the development debate on food, hunger and rural development in the Indian media.
Article 6: INDIA COURT, PARLIAMENTARY BILL, RELIGIOUS LEADERS FIGHT MEDIA OBSCENITY
July 19, 1996
NEW DELHI (UCAN) -- Some religious leaders in New Delhi have called for a ban on obscenity and violence in print and electronic media, which they blame for corrupting youth and eroding India's traditional values.
"We certainly cannot remain silent spectators to rampant audiovisual onslaught on our value base, in the garb of media advancement," said the leaders, including Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi.
Their July 12 demand for a law followed a New Delhi court directive July 3 against the telecast of adult movies and uncensored programs throughout India.
The court directed Doordarshan (sights from afar), the government-owned national television network, to broadcast only censored programs from Aug. 1.
The court also asked senior police officials to enforce the order on other TV networks in India, including cable television operators.
The religious leaders' statement said they oppose "the malignant media mafia" and pledged to struggle for "a cleaner tomorrow for our children and a basic civic decorum for ourselves as part of our cultural tradition."
Their demand echoed in parliament when a woman member introduced July 12 the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill to ban indecent exhibition of women in print and electronic media.
The bill, which is to come up for discussion in parliament in August, blames satellite television networks for screening nude and semi-nude pictures that "denigrate" women's honor.
Bishop Concessao said the religious leaders launched the campaign after schools, socio-cultural organizations and women's groups sought their help to fight obscenity and violence presented in media.
"Violence and vulgarity in media grew because there is no government law to check these mass destructive programs," the bishop told UCA News July 12.
He said "government inaction" to save society from "devaluation of the country's culture" has upset religious leaders, who, he said, will continue their demand until the government enacts a new media law.
Acharya Devendra Muni, a Jain leader, Muslim religious leader Maulana Jameel Iliyas and Sikh leader Jaspal Singh also signed the statement, which said that major religions stress restraint on "wanton gratification of the senses."
The leaders also criticized attempts to introduce sex education in schools and promote safe sex to fight AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
"The paramount need," they said, is not "safe sex," but abstention from "the very desire for indiscriminate sex activity," and warned that sex education before marriageable age will lead to "unbridled sex-indulgence."
They urged the government to discourage AIDS awareness programs in schools by voluntary groups that "glorify and advocate" extramarital and safe sex.
Delhi's Mahavir Senior School principal S.L. Jain said religious groups will run a joint program to fight "mushrooming Western culture in the country."
The court order on adult movies came on a petition by Azadi Bachao Andolan (ABA, movement to protect freedom) that accused Doordarshan of currently showing 21 serial movies that depict crime and adulterous ties in family life.
According to John Churchill, Doordarshan additional director for news, the court cannot dictate to them. "Showing adult movies is a policy issue that has to be decided by the government," he told UCA News July 13.
Commenting on the court order, P. Raju, a Catholic lawyer in New Delhi, said that a city judge has a limited jurisdiction, but that the court order will boost those campaigning against increased "vulgarity on television."
ABA's V.P. Srivastava said that India has "deep religious roots" and ABA will not let society succumb to "a materialistic culture" promoted by media.
Article 7: 'Culture Cops' and the mass media
Venkatesh R. Iyer
The evidence of the pernicious influence of today's mass-media empires is overwhelming. But, lacking a historical consciousness that includes technology, modern India is thoroughly unprepared to tackle the excesses they promote, says Venkatesh R. Iyer. July 2004 - If communication is the backbone of human social identities, values and institutions, dramatic changes in the means of communication have the most profound impacts on social, cultural, economic and political questions. One has only to look back at the sweeping changes brought about by the techniques of long-distance communication since the growth of the electric telegraph in the second half of the 19th century to appreciate how profound the effects of modern communication have been all over the world.
Revolutionary as the means of long-distance communication were to many people of late 19th century, to us their effects may now seem mild as compared to the global impacts of the mass-media technologies and empires that have come into existence during the second half of the 20th century. No king or emperor could dream of wielding even a fraction of the political power that the barons of the mass-media now wield. What is most troubling is that the general populace has little or no capacity to make the mass-media accountable. This situation has only worsened over the past dozen years or so, with the proliferation of satellite television and the rapid growth and consolidation of corporate power in the mass-media.
In the epilogue to her remarkable book, When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking About Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century, first published in 1988, Carolyn Marvin writes that the early electrical technologies - the electric telegraph and the electric light - were central to the new era of "cognitive imperialism", in which "Western civilization was the center of the stage play for which the rest of the world was an awestruck audience."
More recently, Tom Standage, a journalist, has written a most appropriately titled book, The Victorian Internet, in which he has provided an absorbing account of the economic opportunism, militaristic preoccupations and technical rivalry that characterized the period during which the electric telegraph came into being in the mid-19th century. The book also includes a gripping description of the enormous socio-cultural and politico-economic consequences that followed the arrival of the telegraph. The title of the book gives an excellent indication of the importance that Standage attaches to the impacts of the telegraph, and the similarities that he sees with the present phase of technological euphoria. In his words:
The similarities between the telegraph and the Internet - both in their technical underpinnings and their social impact - are striking. But the story of the telegraph contains a deeper lesson. Because of its ability to link distant peoples, the telegraph was the first technology to be seized upon as a panacea. Given its potential to change the world, the telegraph was soon being hailed as a means of solving the world's problems. It failed to do so, of course, but we have been pinning the same hope on other new technologies ever since ... The optimistic claims now being made about the Internet are merely the most recent examples in a tradition of technological utopianism that goes back to the first transatlantic telegraph cables, 150 years ago.
"The optimistic claims now being made about the Internet are merely the most recent examples in a tradition of technological utopianism that goes back to the first transatlantic telegraph cables, 150 years ago."
In India, neither the Left and Right ideologues, nor the professional historians and journalists, have shown any serious interest in helping the public develop a historical consciousness that includes technology, and particularly those technologies that impact human communication. This, in turn, allows the mass-media to make ridiculous claims about being 'the fourth pillar of democracy', and to distort the fundamental assumptions about 'the freedom of expression'.
In the period since the early 1990s that has seen the tabloidization of many well-known newspapers in India, The Hindu has thankfully stood its ground. But, the arrogant prejudices and moral ambiguities that characterize many lesser newspapers can also be found in The Hindu from time to time. If the arguments offered in a recent editorial in The Hindu, entitled Culture Cops, were to be taken to their logical conclusion, the implications are that the Indian public must defer their moral sensibilities to those who run the mass-media. Since the nature and reach of the mass-media has been undergoing a sea-change since the early 1990s, another implication would be that the Indian public must allow its senses to be endlessly assaulted by posters, advertisements, and the rapidly changing technical means of audio-visual communication.
When means overwhelm the ends, the outcome is societal decadence characterized by despotism. In the contemporary context of the technological means of mass communication, the arguments offered in the Hindu editorial amount to an endorsement of technological despotism. How is this compatible with the claims of democracy? Shouldn't genuine democracy imply that the public be in a position to regulate and direct technological means towards socially acceptable ends? Is not such public regulation of particular importance in matters that deal with the means of communication that have the most profound social, cultural, economic and political impacts? What is the public to do when it finds itself with no ability to regulate the means of public communication?
A corollary to the arguments offered in the Hindu editorial is that while the "culture cops" (the self-styled defenders of Hinduism) may not "impose their bigotry on the rest of the country", the globalized mass-media may impose its moral depravity far and wide! In other words, we must allow ourselves to be ruled by the arrogance and hedonistic proclivities of the few who own and direct an increasingly global mass-media. The hidden social contract we are being asked to ratify bears a striking resemblance to that employed by the Roman empire in its decline, when successive Emperors sought to keep the urban citizens in a state of inebriation through an endless spectacle of gruesome violence and debauchery in the Roman arenas. As long as the crazed spectators cheered "More! More!", the Empire was safe.
Mass-media such as television, the modern newspaper, radio and cinema, are by their very nature highly inequitable, and owned and operated by those with extraordinary access to capital and technology. Thus, it stands to reason that the freedom of expression of individuals cannot be arbitrarily extended to mean "freedom of expression for the mass-media".
"Freedom of expression" is often offered as the chief rationale for a media-moderated future. But, what about the 'freedom of expression" of those who are not commercial film producers or media barons? No social freedom is absolute. Freedom of expression is a noble ideal as long as it pertains to means of communication that are equitable. No one is arguing against the freedom of expression of individuals using the means of communication that are available to all. On the other hand, mass-media such as television, the modern newspaper, radio and cinema, are by their very nature highly inequitable, and owned and operated by those with extraordinary access to capital and technology. Thus, it stands to reason that the freedom of expression of individuals cannot be arbitrarily extended to mean "freedom of expression for the mass-media".
That those who control the mass-media are constantly engaged in efforts to 'manufacture consent' has been highlighted by Noam Chomsky and others. At no time has this been in greater evidence than in the past decade, where an elaborate campaign of consumerist propaganda and cultural indoctrination, aimed squarely at juveniles and youth of the non-Western world, has become amply evident. Even within the Western world, the psycho-social effects of the mass-media (and especially of television) had become a subject of much discussion by the 1970s. In his highly acclaimed book, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, first published in 1978, the advertising-professional-turned-media-critic, Jerry Mander, wrote:
Television is a form of sense deprivation, causing disorientation and confusion. It leaves viewers less able to tell the real from the non-real, the internal from the external, the personally experienced from the externally implanted. It disorients a sense of time, place, history and nature.
Mander's most trenchant criticism of television is that it undermines even the limited notions of democracy that we now have. This is a criticism that he also levels, more generally, against all attempts to project technological changes as being irrelevant to discussions on democracy. Mander's observations are even more relevant now when we are being constantly asked by the mass-media to celebrate the revolution ushered in by cell-phones, ATMs and the Internet. In his words:
The great majority of us have no say at all in choosing or controlling technologies. These choices, as I've described, are now solely within the hands of this same technical-scientific-industrial-corporate elite whose power is enhanced by the technology they create. From our point of view the machines and processes they invent and disseminate just appear on the scene from nowhere. Yet all life adjusts accordingly, including human systems of organization and understanding. We don't get to vote on these things as they are introduced. All we get to do is to pay for them, use them and then live within their effects.
As indicated earlier in this essay, those protesting against certain films, posters, advertisements or television programs can also cite "the freedom of expression" in asserting their right to protest against what they see as cultural imperialism, and indeed, cultural terrorism. While it is one thing to criticize public protests that turn violent, the outright dismissal of these protests as efforts at "cultural policing" smacks of intellectual dishonesty. Besides, how is one to measure the impacts of psycho-social violence? It is easy enough to see the damage caused to a few cinema halls by protestors. But, are not the damages caused by the cultural and psycho-social violence of pornography, perhaps to an entire generation of impressionable juveniles and youth, incomparably greater and long-lasting?
The means and methods of protest available to public protestors are far more democratic than those that are available to commercial-film producers and other media barons.
Given the reach of the mass-media, it is good that that there have been at least some attempts at regulation in the public interest through bodies such as Censor Boards or Press Councils. But, with the explosion of mass-media technologies and advertising since the early 1990s, the role of these bodies has been greatly undermined. In any case, in the final analysis, the people of India have neither elected the mass-media nor the Censor Boards. Therefore, there is no reason why the Indian public should allow either the mass-media or the Censor Boards to define the boundaries of its sensibilities.
In these far from ideal circumstances, the protestors who take to the streets, whatever their political or religious affiliations, may be the only effective checks that the public can bring to bear on the mass-media's arrogant excesses. We may not endorse the actions of protestors when they resort to violence. But, when we do criticize these forms of physical violence, let us also have the honesty to recognize the far more insidious, perverse and pervasive forms of psycho-social violence that sections of the mass-media now perpetrate with impunity. Let us also not forget that the means and methods of protest available to the public protestors are far more democratic than those that are available to commercial-film producers and other media barons.
One hopes that in the months and years ahead there would be greater awareness about how the consumerist mass-media, particularly in its visuals forms, has come to pose a grave threat to public health. When there is such public awareness, we may hope to see widespread efforts to ensure that children and youth are inoculated against the ill-effects of the mass-media at an early age by better parenting and through media education programs. But, there is little indication that such efforts have begun in India or elsewhere in the sub-continent. That this is so, despite the overwhelming evidence of the pernicious influence of the mass-media empires and the technological despotism that they promote, is a sad reflection of how shallow the public discourses on democracy, culture, religion and violence have become in the Indian sub-continent in the post-independence period.
Venkatesh R. Iyer is currently at the Center for Energy & Environmental Policy, University of Delaware.
Article 8: The difference the news media do and can make
N RamEditor-in-Chief, The Hindu Posted: Oct 06, 2005 at 0144 hrs IST
If you asked professional journalists in most countries what the purpose of journalism was, the most likely answer would be: to empower citizens with the information, analysis, and insights necessary to be ‘‘free and self-governing’’ (as a soul-searching exercise by a Committee of Concerned Journalists in the United States discovered a few years ago, to no one’s particular surprise).
This, at any rate, is journalism’s high ground stance. Unfortunately, in many developed countries (‘mature media markets’) the public doesn’t buy this. In the United States, for example, the public perception of media power and its use in recent decades has been largely negative, as evidenced by the findings of a series of public opinion surveys. There have been many efforts to overcome the institutional deficits, including, most recently, the Journalism Credibility Project of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
Fortunately, in India the public’s perception of media power and its use seems to be a lot less negative, although this statement is based on an insider’s impressions and is not backed up by any survey data. There are two major media traditions in India—the older tradition of a diverse, pluralistic, and relatively independent press; and the younger tradition of the manipulated and misused broadcast media, state-controlled radio and television. However, it can be seen that the two established media traditions are no longer what they were widely recognised to be for most of the 20th century.
The Indian press is still widely recognised as the most pluralistic, the least inhibited, and the most assertive and independent in all the less-developed world. In terms of number of newspapers and circulation, India is among the top four performers in the world. In fact, the latest world newspaper survey, ‘‘2005 World Press Trends,’’ unveiled by the World Association of Newspapers at its Seoul Congress in May 2005, spotlights India, at 78.80 million copies daily, as the country with the world’s second-ranking daily newspaper circulation (after China, and ahead of Japan, the United States, and Germany).
According to the latest National Readership Survey (NRS 2005), there are an estimated 170 million readers of daily newspapers and an estimated 200 million readers of all publications across India. A heartening feature of the media landscape is the rising profile of ‘rural’ readers who constitute 48 per cent of all daily newspaper readers.
This is in striking contrast to the situation of two decades ago. However, women and, unsurprisingly, the most oppressed sections of society continue to be severely under-represented in the ranks of daily newspaper readers in the country. There are about 500 million adults who do not read any daily newspaper. Interestingly, about 314 million literate, or neo-literate, adults are not newspaper readers at this stage of social development, which suggests there is plenty of space for print media growth in the near term.
Despite its late start, television has taken off and how. It has emerged as the premier mass medium and is well placed to widen the dispersion gap between itself and the other media and also to close the gap with the press with respect to advertising revenue and financial clout. Terrestrial television is exclusively Doordarshan; satellite television, on the other hand, is largely non-Doordarshan.
NRS 2005 estimated the reach of television across India to be 108 million homes and 453 million viewers; within this, cable and satellite television had an impressive reach of 61 million homes and 206 million viewers. The survey also underlined what has been known for some time: television is way ahead and the principal source of information and entertainment for the millions exposed to the mass media.
Satellite television has certainly changed the nature of the media ball game in South Asia. According to the findings of a recent study by David Page and William Crawley, it has made ‘‘a huge difference to the choice of viewing available even in small towns, tremendously increased viewing options, (opening) windows to worlds which were inaccessible before except to the well-to-do, and (provoking) a lively and often heated debate about the implications for nations, communities and cultures.’’
However, most critical observers would qualify this by saying that while cable and satellite have tremendously increased viewing options, they have, with certain splendid exceptions, failed to offer a better and richer choice of television content. They have promoted increasing fragmentation of the television audience. They have raised serious concerns about purpose, orientation, taste, and decency.
While offering some worthwhile and occasionally excellent news, feature, sports, educational, and entertainment programming, they contribute to the ‘dumbing down’ that television, when it goes for the least common denominator, is adept at doing. A negative development on the media scene is the apparent decline of radio, once considered the mass medium with the greatest potential to reach every section of the population at unmatchable cost advantage.
According to NRS 2005, radio reaches only 23.10 per cent of the adult population (the proportion is the same for rural and urban India) compared with a much better population coverage in the 1980s. The good news is that the following for FM radio seems impressively on the rise, with the 96.8 million FM listeners representing a 100 per cent increase over 2002.
There can be no doubt that the web-based or online media—defined as ‘digital, interactive, multimedia’—have made a qualitative difference to the Indian media landscape, and especially to the practice of journalism. In 2005, virtually all Indian newspapers and broadcast organisations of significance had an online presence. However, for a complexity of reasons, the ‘new media’ in India have not become truly mass.
NRS 2005 has estimated that the country has 11 million internet users (compared with six million in 2002). Even assuming that the NRS findings on internet use are underestimates and industry estimates are more realistic, the current ballpark figure cannot be higher than 20 million, which is hardly significant in relation to the country’s population base. In my view, which may reflect an insider’s professional bias to an extent, India’s broadcast and web-based media have a long way to go before they can come on the same page as the press—with respect to empowering India.
Even in the pre-Independence era, the press learned to act very much like a player in the major league political and socio-economic arena, despite its well-known limitations in terms of reach in society, financial viability, professional training, and entrepreneurial and management capabilities.
The First Press Commission noted that in 1953, the circulation of dailies per 1000 in the population (the internationally accepted indicator of social diffusion of the press in various nation states or languages) was 5.4 against the backdrop of an all-India literacy level of 16.4 per cent.
Yet, at least for the whole history of the nationalist press (which can be said to have begun with the founding of the Amrita Bazaar Patrika in 1868) and possibly for longer than that, print journalism has been contributing to the empowerment of India in some significant measure.
From a statistically insignificant pre-Independence base, India’s daily newspaper circulation climbed to 3.15 million in 1957 and 5.11 million in 1962. It would take the press three decades after the transfer of power to cross the 10 million mark. It would take 32 years of Independence for the total circulation of Hindi daily newspapers finally to overtake the total circulation of English language dailies in India.
From the early 1980s, the upswing in circulation and readership has been quite spectacular (despite certain recessionary phases). Yet, while the absolute numbers are enormous, the social reach of the Indian press must be characterised as underdeveloped—about 60 copies of daily newspapers per 1000 in the population, which compares very poorly with the social diffusion of the press in all developed, and also many developing, countries.
There is also the phenomenon of uneven development. This means, among other things, vastly uneven dispersion among regions and states, between urban and rural India, between men and women, and among social classes.
That the strengths of the press in contemporary India are primarily the strengths of history is beyond serious dispute.
These advantages have largely been shaped by historical experience and, in particular, by the association of newspapers with the freedom struggle as well as with movements for social emancipation, reform, and amelioration.
The long struggle for national emancipation; controversies and battles over ideas, social reform, radical and revolutionary aspirations and movements; compromising as well as fighting tendencies; and the long-term competition between self-serving and public service visions of journalism—have all found reflection in the character and performance of the Indian press over the long term.
However, there are plenty of indications that while the press, television, and radio have become very big players in the political, socio-economic, and cultural arena, the core values of journalism in all the media streams have come under pressure and even threat from various sides.
Confusion reigns about the functions and roles of journalism and the media vis-a-vis the market and society. Increasing concentration of ownership in some sectors of the Indian media; higher levels of manipulation of news, analysis, and public affairs information to suit the owners’ financial and political interests; unmistakable tendencies of tabloidisation and dumbing down; the downgrading and devaluing of editorial functions and content in some leading newspapers and broadcast organisations; the growing professional willingness to tailor news and the editorial product to subserve advertising and marketing goals set by owners and senior management personnel; Murdoch-style price wars and aggressive practices in the home bases of competitors, raising fears about media monopoly; and rampant corruption are deeply worrying tendencies.
Journalism in India seems to be on the cusp of a transformation that is hard to comprehend by those caught up in it. The key question that needs asking now more than ever before is: do our news media contribute, in substantial measure, to empowering India—or are they interested mainly in empowering and enriching themselves? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh implied this question in his Ramnath Goenka birth centenary address when he asked: ‘‘What kind of media does India need and deserve? Should the market define the media or the media define the larger market of ideas, values, goals, and information needs both for the classes and the masses? What should our agenda be? Have we no larger mission in hand?’’
These questions challenging the purpose, functions, and roles of journalism were raised in the context of a ‘‘new awakening in this vast, plural society of over a billion people,’’ an awakening heralded by ‘‘restlessness and ferment at the grassroots.’’ (We need not concern ourselves here with the question of whether Dr Singh’s Government has pursued, in any way distinguishable from previous regimes, a mission and an agenda of ‘‘nation building, caring for the underprivileged, seeking better governance, making ourselves a more humane, prosperous, creative, free and liberal society,’’ as the Prime Minister implied in that lofty speech of August 2004.)
To figure out whether India’s news media—or at least a critical mass within every stream—can contribute soundly and progressively to empowering India, a debate focusing on the functions or roles of the news media as well as the guiding principles of journalism becomes a professional and intellectual priority.
Article 9: (Indian Express) ‘The conduct of journalism and politics in a free society is inherently interlinked’
Ramnath Goenka awards. speech Wednesday, Apr 15, 2009
Over the years the publications of the Indian Express Group have continuously engaged with political developments and have become known for their strong emphasis on investigative journalism. Shri Ramnath Goenka first made his mark as an editor by confronting the colonial government and later on in his career he took on entrenched governmental and business interests. While he may have had admirers as well as critics during his lifetime, there is unanimity about his lasting contribution to the way political journalism is conducted in our country.
The Indian Express Group is well respected for its independent editorial positions and rigorous reporting. As a leading player in the print media sector there is also an additional onus of setting a good example for other players. This demonstrative role is important because in recent years the increasing commercialisation of the mass media has also had some adverse effects on journalistic practices. When media establishments come to be preoccupied with the size of their readership or viewership, there is an increased likelihood of journalists using intrusive newsgathering methods and editors approving of content where facts are often not verified or reported without explaining their proper background.
This tendency of resorting to undue sensationalism or reporting only one side’s viewpoint is especially worrying, given the central role of the mass media in a democratic set-up. In many ways the conduct of journalism and politics in a free society is inherently interlinked. Without the free flow of information and opinions, individuals and groups cannot form the rational choices which are ultimately translated into public policies and governmental action. The essential components of politics — i.e. representation, legislation and administration — all depend on how information is exchanged between the citizens and the government as well as between citizens themselves. Very often, some statements and actions come to gain meaning only on account of the publicity given to them.
At the time of the French Revolution, the press was described as the Fourth Estate in the political establishment. In our times the expanding reach of newspapers, television, radio and the internet — have made the media an even stronger pillar of our political existence. At present, India is one of the few countries where the markets for the print media as well as the electronic and digital media have been continuously growing. As more and more Indians become literate and gain access to television and computers, there is also a commensurate responsibility on the news-media establishments to present accurate and balanced reports.
The ‘freedom of press’ is an extension of the fundamental right to ‘freedom of speech and expression’ provided for under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. In our times, ideas and information reach the masses largely to the extent that they are permitted entry into the prominent dailies and news magazines.
With the concentration of the mass media in a few hands, the chances of an idea which is antagonistic to the interests of the proprietors of big newspapers getting access to the market becomes remote. The news media cannot possibly support the public’s right to know when there is no acceptance of a duty to inform. To the press, the public’s right to know extends only to what the press elects to tell. There can be no doubt that any mass medium having the greatest circulation would influence the political life of the country because the ideas for which a prominent paper stands have the greatest chance of being circulated among the public. It will affect the economic pattern of the society. The integrity of the news becomes a matter of profound social concern. There is also an affirmative obligation on the part of the government not to abridge the freedom of expression or to allow monopolisation by any party in the mass media. Our vibrant democracy survives to a great extent by the contribution made by the newspapers. The rights of millions of people who have no scope or opportunity to raise their voice should be given a voice in the mass media. It is said that the victories of freedom of speech must be won in the minds of the people before they are won in the courts. Justice Felix Frankfurter, one of the great American judges, said that at best civil liberties draw only limited strength from legal guarantees and that preoccupation with constitutionality instead of the wisdom of legislative or executive actions is preoccupation with false values.
The interface between the news-media and the legal system obviously touches on many issues that merit a rigorous discussion. I hope that the Indian Express Group will continue to engage with these issues while maintaining the high standards of independent and investigative reporting that it is known for.
Excerpted from a speech delivered at the Ramnath Goenka awards
Article 10: Inherent barriers for mass media impact on Indian society
The growth of media as an industry has accelerated over the past few years with new forms such as DVD and the internet changing the way we, the audience, consume and receive media. In an interdependent and globalized political world, the challenge of the media is to provide extensive coverage of global politics and to examine the impact of these influences in specific national contexts (Mazzoleni, 2003). The mass media has a role to influence socio-political and cultural settings. Numbers of researchers have been conducting studies worldwide to investigate what they might contribute to an understanding of the economic and other factors that influence mass media, and how the media in turn influence the political climate and the democratic process in modern democracies (Alexander and Hanson, 1999, Zillmann, 2002, Bennett and Entman, 2001). Mass media is considered one of the principal agents for societal development, democracy and good governance. Media critics claim that at times mass media has not played the role that it should have played and have played in the hands of few vested interest (Kellner 2004; Fog, 2004). The researchers have also pointed out that mass media influence vary from country to country depending upon socio-political and cultural settings. There are many different theories about how mass media influence people's attitudes, worldview, and behavior (Bandura, 2001, McCombs and Reynolds 2002). The mass media is considered to be the backbone of democracy that influences sociopolitical developments (Wolfsfeld, 1997, 2004). However, there is a growing concern that the mass media in many countries is not fulfilling these functions properly due to inherent socio-cultural barriers (Kellner, 2004, Grisprud, 2002, McQuail, 2003). This paper identifies number of barriers that exist in Indian environment which hinders the impact of mass media on Indian society.
Jurgen Habermas (1989, 1996) in his sociological theory explains that the mass media is controlled by political and economic forces to manipulate the audience. He argues that this compromises the legitimacy of the communicative power exercised by the mass media. However, the German political scientists Peter Klier (1990) does not agree with Jurgen's theory. Another researcher Luhmann describes the mass media as a self-referential and self-maintaining (autopoietic), almost autonomous system (Luhmann 2000). Few other researchers such as Fog (1999), Doyle (2002) explain how mass media uses cultural selection theory to bring social change. The discipline of evolutionary economics applies selection theory to socioeconomic systems (Saviotti 2003). Cross-cultural comparisons show that the structure of the mass media may have a strong effect on political developments (Gunther and Mughan 2000) and the mass media are influenced by many factors such as; overall editorial policy of a medium, economic and cultural factors. The new technology innovations are further adding the factor of influence of media. However, media critics argue that mass media is not able to function the way it should due to many inherent barriers that are prevalent in any society. Classical Marxism approach suggests that mass media is assumed to follow the ideological interests of the dominant class in society. A Marxist approach sees the media as integrated into the existing economic and political elites and therefore reflecting their interests (Fog, 2004). The liberal approach sees the media as facilitating social agreement through the dissemination of information and contrary opinion. Review of literature also indicate that although media has a central role in mediating information and forming public opinion, however, the advent of press freedom has given rise to unprecedented abuse of the mass media by unscrupulous mass communicators and authoritarian leaders in society (McQuail, 2003, Cohen and Weimann, 2000, Croteau and Hoynes, 2000, Doyle, 2002). Much of this could be due to many inherent barriers that exist in a particular society.
In order to identify number of barriers for mass media impact in Indian context, we used ethnographic approach for our study. The research methodology included various viewpoints of users and media professionals. One of the authors worked in mass media industry for more than 2 decades. Therefore, he had firsthand experience to get the data. Interactions were also held with various media owners to know their view point about barriers for media impact. Care was taken throughout the interaction process to produce notes as soon as possible to avoid the loss of data or impressions gained by the researcher. Further clarifications and updates were obtained by e-mails and telephone contact to validate the view points.
IMPACT OF MASS MEDIA IN INDIAN CONTEXT
While resurgent India seems to be high on the global media agenda, powered as it were by the economic boom, the national media too has witnessed exponential growth. Tracking this growth in a meaningful perspective is imperative since its spread and reach have been mired in socio-political and cultural barriers. The complexities that limit the growth of the Indian media story are based on a heady mix of poverty, bias, economics, and the inherent trappings of a religious philosophy that find echo in the fatalistic suppositions of Hinduism. With minimal impact to change the state of the nation, the barriers that come in the way of the free flow of information need to be tackled with more alacrity and awareness, lest the growth gets sucked into the vortex of its own limitations. The advertisement-driven consumerist mooring that is propelling the flawed Indian info-age communication story seems to be a pointer in this direction.
Mass media is now acknowledged as a potent tool that can be used to inform and educate those who would otherwise remain unaware of issues that directly affect them. Today, the news media, which includes print, radio and television, the internet is playing an increasing role, along with the growth of the Indian blogging community. As Jean Folkerts and Stephen Lacy say: "During the 1930s, communications researchers were convinced that media had tremendous power. In fact, they believed the power of media was so great that it acted like a "magic bullet"--instantly penetrating the human mind (Folkerts, & Lacy, 2005). Although researchers have altered their view of media impact, almost all researchers, media critics and philosophers believe that media have the power to shape society, at least in some ways". Noted US scholar Ben H. Bagdikian, is quoted by Hari Jaisingh (2006): "The proper measure of a country's mass media is whether, by thorough examination and reporting, they increase understanding of important realities, and whether, through presentation of the widest possible spectrum of thought and analysis, they create an adequate reservoir of insights into the social process (Jaisingh, H., 2006).
IMPACT OF ADVERTISING
Among all mass media constituents, advertising has a noticeably greater impact than news and entertainment media as evident by the immediate impact of good or bad advertising on FMCG sales. Huge popularity of ad punch lines (doondhte reh jaoge meaning you'll keep looking for the stain, safedi kii chamkar, meaning the lightning of whiteness, both hugely popular punch-lines of advertisements for detergent cake and powder), glaring appearance of hoardings of popular brands in villages and small townships. There is apparently an eagerness to follow advertising messages and a reluctance to follow social impact messages. Studies conducted by market research organizations have also indicated that there is a positive impact of media exposure particularly that of television on consumer behavior. Increased rationality in consumer's decisions due to media contact is proved irrespective of the place where the media are induced (Gandhi and Yadav, 2006).
LACK OF CREDIBILITY
The first inherent barrier is the lack of credibility on the part of mass media in putting up typical examples of life style, consumerism and public behavior. By subtly promoting and supporting the "me, mine, myself" culture, the mass media have managed to alienate themselves from the bulk of society. The expectation of any major impact of mass media messages on the society at large is futile. Media technologies are becoming an important aspect of today's society. Each and every day, people interact with media of many different forms. It is impossible to assume that media is made up of completely unbiased information and that the media companies do not impose their own control upon the information being supplied to media users.
Observations of the media content and audience reaction suggest that the mass media does face a dilemma when it comes to means of survival. The inherent barriers for mass media impact would seem, owe their existence more to mindset and civilization aspects. The present-day India is rapidly making a mark across the globe on the strength of its relatively young, knowledge-based population and economy. For Indian society to keep making these strides, it is important that such barriers for mass media impact are overcome. Mass media practitioners, media academicians and content developers must engage in a joint effort to arrive at solutions that are quickly--and easily--internalized by the society at large. Theories of mass communication have sought to explain how the media function internally and affect society. Rather than additional "response" studies, which investigate the impact of media on behavior or a society's impact on its media, more research should center on the functions of mass media within the overall framework of communication theory.
Article 11: Parties demand regulator to keep TV shows under watch
After raising an uproar last week over the Star Plus reality show Sach ka Saamna which resulted in getting the channel a show-cause notice from the I&B Ministry, the Rajya Sabha on Monday came out in full strength demanding that a regulator be set up to keep television channels under control. The near three-hour-long discussion ‘on the increasing obscenity and vulgarity in TV programmes being shown on different channels against the cultural ethos of the country’ had MPs on their feet alleging that channels across the spectrum were vitiating the social atmosphere.
Shows ranging from Sach ka Saamna to MTV Roadies, Splitsvilla, Balika Vadhu among others were all put in the dock by the MPs even as they maintained that they were not against the freedom of the press.
I&B Minister Ambika Soni told the House that she agreed with their views and her ministry had already begun talks with broadcasters for creation of an independent regulator which will have on board members from the media community, civil society and Secretary I&B besides a few ministry officials as ex officio members.
“I am a woman, a mother and a grandmother and I am as concerned about these issues as all members to see that the values that we grew up with do not get eroded. There is, however, a strong sensitivity in the media about any kind of government control. I have held three rounds of talks with the self-regulatory bodies NBA, IBF, ASCI and we are discussing ways of creating an independent regulator,” she said.
Initiating the discussion, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said he was proud of the impressive growth in the electronic media but pointed out that while the “censor should not kill creativity but the right to creativity should not be such that it pollutes time-tested rules”.
CPM’s Brinda Karat took strong objection to the portrayal of women in media which commodified them, depicted ‘them as sexual objects and advertisements which demeaned women”.
Eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal, however, held that government had little role in this issue in his view as it has to do with mass culture which is continuously evolving.
“I do not believe the Censor Board has functioned well over all these years. This whole debate started with some recent shows borrowed from abroad. Sach ka Saamna is demeaning to human beings and obviously has high TRPs. It is like someone stripping publicly to get paid for it, spectating in these cases is involuntary, like pornography it is demeaning to you own sense of self-esteem. When an act is in private it is different but TV is a social medium watched by public at large and 90 per cent of it is about family viewing. However, government must have no serious sole in this, we need to create a self-regulatory body of channels with equal number of people from the civil society, TV industry and the casting vote should rest with civil society,” he said.
RJD’s Rajniti Prasad warned that Sach Ka Saamna should be stopped otherwise it won’t be good for the future. He also objected to Balika Vadhu. “Dadi ladki ko kamre me lock ker deti hai ghanto tak (the grandmother locks the girl inside a room for hours). Such inhuman acts should not be shown,” he said.
Article 12: Media in India
The media in India is one of the most powerful tools used by the major powers to control and change the Indian public perception about themselves and about the world. This pattern is also followed in the international scene with negation of Indic culture and bias against any revival of civilization ethos. The creeping news about any event in the world including jehadi information is presented in such a way that the process of evolution and force of history is inevitable and a forgone conclusion in favor of the Islamic parties.
Indian populations are like a experimental subject to be fed with new perception and information away from reality and in favor of the Islamic and major powers. Over several decades the general population could be made less hostile and more favorable to the designs of the major power. In the movie Pleasantville a boy grows up in a make believe world thinking that his neighbors and friends are the actual reality and totally oblivious of the reality of the world. The Indian population is perceived by major powers to be analogous with little knowledge about the reality and threats in the world. How long have the west been experimenting with the Indian population with news and indoctrination? It could be even before independence for more than 60 years. Deception and brainwashing have been used for a long time by the west and India is one of the largest targets of deception.
The current campaign to demonize Hindutva is to defame and remove indigenous political parties, which are not under the control of the major powers and whose ideology is fully rooted in Indic civilization. Generally speaking the West is suspicious of civilizations that are not rooted in Greco Roman culture and in Judeo Christian theology. The attacks on Christians and minorities, which were non-existent in most instances, are overblown with the logic that the majority community must be checked with aggressive reporting even to the point of falsehood. Romila Thapar, one of the eminent historians, ensconced in an influential position thanks to the leftist proclivities of successive Congress governments, is quoted as saying that the notion of a non-violent Hindu is a misnomer and that it is not borne out by reality.
Distorted or even totally false reporting on communally sensitive issues is a well-entrenched feature of Indian journalism. There is no self-corrective mechanism in place to remedy this endemic culture of disinformation. No reporter or columnist or editor ever gets fired or formally reprimanded or even just criticized by his peers for smearing Hindu nationalists. This way, a partisan economy with the truth has become a habit hard to relinquish.
This logic of news reporting is looked upon as a form of social engineering. A sense of chaos and insecurity is conveyed by media reports so that a stable environment and harmony is never achieved in the minds of the larger society. This is one form of psy-operation (Psy-ops) that has targeted India for the last three decades. The news creates a notion of change, which reinforces the decay of the Hindu culture and brings out more of the light Islamic/Urdu culture.
By being very anti-Hindu the media and social scientists hopes to reduce aggression of the so called ‘majority’ community over the minority community and bring balance even at the expense of the truth. This logic was pursued even when the Muslim terrorists in Kashmir were killing the minorities Hindus by simply ignoring such news and if reported, minimize it in such a manner that little blame is attached to the Muslim who committed the crime. The astonishing consequence of such news reporting on Jammu and Kashmir is that most Westerners are unaware that there was a substantial Hindu population in the Kashmir valley and that most of them have been cleansed and or murdered so that today there is hardly a Hindu left in the entire Kashmir valley. This aspect of the conflict and the fact that most of the murders are committed by terrorists sent in by Pakistan is completely ignored and in fact the phrase ‘cross border terrorism’ was studiously ignored by the governing elite of the United States, so brainwashed were they and so ignorant of the resulting ground realities.
Here we are postulating the less egregious motive based on ignorance rather than the equally plausible explanation that the US is aware of that there is cross border terrorism but has chosen to deceive the world by propagating the false notion that it is India that is the transgressor. Such a deceitful posture by the US Governing elite, if true, is at odds with the self image of the American, who likes to believe that like Superman he is on the side of good against evil.
The control of media by foreign governments is done in a subtle manner. Typical of the methods used, are to indoctrinate the editorial teams and the journalists over time. The Indian leftists have been used for a long time by the external powers and since they control the media they are better able to influence the bias in the media. Some questions which recur often ‘Why don’t you talk to your very reasonable nuclear rival Pakistan' or 'why do you have a Hindu nationalist party in power’. Each of these questions is loaded, as they say in the courtroom, with facts or inferences not yet established by evidence to be true and designed to shift the conversation from a dubious premise to a foregone conclusion. The public buys this kind of argument more readily. The book ‘Cultural Cold War’ describes all the dirty tricks used by the CIA and other agencies all over the world to change countries and to bring chaos in those countries. It is well known that the CIA funded right-wing intellectuals after World War II; fewer know that it also courted individuals from the center and the left in an effort to turn the intelligentsia away from communism and toward an acceptance of "the American way." Frances Stonor Saunders sifts through the history of the covert Congress for Cultural Freedom in The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. The book centers on the career of Michael Josselson, the principal intellectual figure in the operation, and his eventual betrayal by people who scapegoat him. Sanders demonstrates that, in the early days, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the emergent CIA were less dominated by the far right than they later became (including the Christian right), and that the idea of helping out progressive moderates--rather than being Machiavellian--actually appealed to the men at the top.
David Frawley writes: The Indian English media dictates against the government as if it should be the real political decision-making body in the country.( Because it is urged and influenced by other foreign agencies and academic institutions such as U Berkeley/U Columbia) It deems itself capable of taking the place of legal institutions as well, printing its allegations as truth even if these have never been entered into much less proved in any court of law. It has vested itself with an almost religious authority to determine what is right and wrong, good and evil, and who in the country should be honored or punished. (In current terminology this is known as manufacturing consent) Like an almost theocratic institution, it does not tolerate dissent or allow its dogmas to be questioned.( It creates groupthink, manufactures 'dissent' forcing everybody to fall in line and creates an old boys network). In the name of editorial policy, it pontificates, promoting slogans, denigrations and articles of faith in the guise of critical policy review. ( This is called brainwashing under freedom )
The media doesn't aim at reporting the news; it tries to create the news, imposing its view of the news upon everyone as the final truth. The media doesn't objectively cover elections, it tries to influence voters to vote in a specific manner, demonizing those it disagrees with and excusing those it supports, however bad or incompetent their behavior. We saw this particularly during the recent Gujarat elections in which the media went so far as to print the type of election results it wanted to see as the likely outcome, though voters
proved it to be totally wrong.
The Media Propaganda Machine
A section of the Indian media often appears more as a propaganda machine than an objective news agency. In this regard the large section of English media of India is much like the old state propaganda machines of communist countries. This is an important clue for understanding its operation. The English media of India largely represents a holdover from the Congress era in which it was a state run propaganda center for the Congress government that was far left in its orientation. We can perhaps understand its actions today as a state run propaganda machine that has continued in power after the decline of the party that created it. Its prime motive has now become to re-establish that old state and former ruling party.
The media remains largely a Congress run propaganda machine. As the Congress has not been able to win elections, it has emphasized its media wing even more strongly to try to compensate for its failures in the electoral arena. Yet as the Congress Party itself has often failed, the media has taken to supporting other leftist groups inside and outside the country in hope of gaining power. There is a clear hand of western governments in manipulating the congress party to do its work. This shows how the Indian government is manipulated as a puppet of the western governments and has been for a long time for the last 40 years.
Prior to independence and immediately after, the British have used the media to demonize Hindu groups in India.
Movies are a powerful media in India to change people and social structure. The people are influenced heavily by the portrayal of communities, governments, law enforcement, religion, traditions etc in the movies. By demonizing these groups the less literate people can be influenced to revolt, dissent and create general chaos against authority. The angry young man theme was created during the 70s as the dissent increased in the society. The rise of a new kind of social cinema, in late 60s and 70s was influenced heavily by Bengal. Like the 1940s and 50s, when New Theatres and its Bengali talent had greatly enriched this country's filmmaking, this latter day revival too was a Bengali influx. They laid the foundation of a genuine middle class cinema in Bombay which remained active and profoundly important for several careers. One of the objectives during the 70s was to project the subaltern histories of the marginalized society in so called ‘art’ movies. Some examples such as Ankur, Anand etc focused on middle class and the tribal people. The real audience for such movies was the academic centers of the west mainly UK and US to study the marginalized section and create a strategy based on those community. During 80s the main aim to influence the movies was to create benign images of Muslims so that the general non-Muslim of the subcontinent is sympathetic to Muslim history and accepts an idea of a Islamic rule. Muslim artists where given preference and non-Muslims images were denigrated. This subtle image creation is still going on without any check.
Article 13: Violence on TV and its effect on children
AN EIGHT-year-old girl was engrossed in watching a television programme. She didn’t notice the little boy, just a year elder to her and from the same neighbourhood, sidling up to her. "There’s a nice place behind the fairground. Come with me." The unsuspecting child went along. An hour later, the girl was seen wandering about naked and bleeding.
The nine-year-old boy had coaxed her to accompany him to a secluded spot, forced her to strip and watched as two slightly older boys aged 12 and 14 raped her. He watched the entire incident like they do it in the movies where the main villain is trying to outrage modesty of the heroine and his accomplices are silently watching for enjoyment.
In another incident, a thirteen-year-old girl was walking on a deserted road in Raidighi, near Calcutta, when four boys (three of them class X students) accosted her. The boys dragged her to a nearby paddy field and raped her. Two of them were later arrested.
In Kanpur, a seven-year-old child killed a three-old-girl by drowning her in a pond.
In both the cases, the children admitted being influenced by watching television programmes.
Violence among school children is also growing in India. These incidents have once again brought the debate to the centre stage. An eighth grader student stabbed another student in the shoulder and chest at Central School No1, a government school in New Delhi.
In December, a 14-year-old boy was fatally shot by two other boys in a hallway of the upscale Euro International School in Gurgaon, Haryana.
In a replay of that crime, a 15-year-old student at a government school in the state of Madhya Pradesh was shot dead by a 17-year-old classmate in January.
What is happening to India’s children? A string of gruesome shockers in the last few years point to a dangerous trend of killer children, young mischief-makers moving away from previously petty crimes to more serious offences like dacoity, rape and murder.
This stark fact has prompted a long overdue focus upon what conditions in our society could precipitate such an unthinkable action.
The need to ask ‘why’ is central to the human conditions. The eight-year-old girl’s case is a warning bell for us to evaluate the situation more carefully – rape by children after viewing a video.
Many have asked despairingly, how we can even come to terms with it. We can only begin to do so by facing it squarely and considering what might be done to ensure that she is not just the first of many such victims.
It is of course, more comforting that the four boys who rape the eight-year-old girl are ’evil freaks’ , as some section of the press described them. Similarly, one might describe these children who lacked any sense of pity or moral control as the equivalent of an adult psychopath: but does it not defy belief that four children ‘just found each other’?
The police investigations showed that the act was long drawn out and merciless. These details are to be remembered, much as one would like to forget them, because of what they imply: that is this crime there was both the expectation and the attainment of satisfaction of some sort through doing deliberate and sustained violence to a small girl whose distress was unremitting.
It would be quite unlikely that any single cause for these children’s behaviour could be identified, although possible contributing factors might be offered; for instance, experts suggested the effects of physical abuse, severe emotional neglect resulting in lack of self worth, deprivation, poverty, negligence and exposure to sadistic movie videos and television watching. However, child negligence and poverty have been a part of many children’s experience over the years in India. What then can be seen as the ‘different’ factor that has entered the lives of countless children and adolescents in recent years? This has to be recognised as the easy availability to children of gross images of violence on video.
Over the past few years ,considerable anxiety has been expressed by those professionally concerned with children about the effects of ‘horror’, ‘sex and violence ’,`soft porn’ and similar scenes experienced by children via videos seen in their own or their friends home. Justice J S Verma, former Chief Justice of India, identified children’s access to sadistic videos as cause for concern following the eight-year-old girl’s case.
Where formerly children were said to see them ‘by accident’ or in defiance of parental edicts, it is now clear that many children watch adult videos on a regular basis with or without their parents knowledge and that many parents make less than strenuous efforts to restrict their children’s viewing.
Research studies over the year the world over have brought out various types of negative impact of intense viewing of television by children. The direct influence of TV viewing on the extent of violence and deviant behaviour pattern of children has been reiterated – even in India. In fact, there are couple of confessions by adolescents, even a biography, as to how they picked up ideas about a rape or robbery or revenge or killing or suicide or kidnap, etc from one or other TV programme. Even some court judgments have commented on such effect of TV programmes. That TV has a double-edged effect and that it is the negative character, which impacts more than positive potential often is known. But what is not realised is that there are no serious efforts to explore positive virtues of TV and that parents who should be more concerned about such a phenomena hardly do anything about it. A study carried out by Dr Rao of Centre for Media Studies pointed out that in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, parents enjoy the same fare of TV along with their children and as keenly; whereas in Tamilnadu and West Bengal, parents try to restrain their children in favour of some discriminative viewing. Teachers and social activists in a couple of places have been occasionally demonstrating about the influence of television contents. Political parties too do not seem to be concerned to do something about. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, had referred to this adverse trend in its election manifesto a few years ago. But did nothing after coming to power.
Besides Doordarshan, Zee TV independent station broadcasting from Bombay since 1992--uses satellite transmissions. Other networks that have joined the fray are: Cable News Network (CNN--starting in 1990); Asia Television Network (1991); Hong Kong-based Star TV (1991); EL TV, a spin-off of Zee TV in Bombay (1994); HTV, an affiliate of the Hindustan Times in New Delhi (1994); and Sun TV, a Tamil-language service in Chennai (1994). Of late many new players have entered the arena.
Television is one of the most prevalent media that influences kids’ lives. According to some estimates, watching TV is a daily pastime for 85 per cent of Indian children, both boys and girls from grade three to grade 10. India has nearly 220 million children between the age group of five to 16 years and nearly 77 million of them are out of school. And their favourite pass time is to watch videos.
How much impact TV has on children depends on many factors: how much they watch, their age and personality, whether they watch alone or with adults, and whether their parents discuss with them about what they see on TV.
Kids today are bombarded with sexual messages and images in all media—television, magazines, advertisements, music, movies and the Internet. Parents are rarely concerned about whether these messages are healthy or not. While television can be a powerful tool for educating young people about the responsibilities and risks of sexual behaviour, such issues are seldom mentioned or dealt within a meaningful way in programmes containing sexual content.
More than half of television viewers in India today are children below 15 years. And yet there is hardly any sensitivity about the relevance and impact of what is dished out by various television channels. All of them are operating in a competitive mode for television rating points (TRPs). In this way, channels are concerned more about ’what interests or attracts’ rather than what is ’in the interest’ of the children. Neither the government nor the parents or the teachers seem to be concerned about this situation. For the generation next and the civil society of the country is shaped and molded by what they are exposed to today on the ’idiot-box’ days in and days out.
Dr N Bhaskar Rao, Centre for Media Studies, pointed out that, “It is unfortunate that the government has neither taken pro-active or re-active initiatives in this regard. While we have a Children’s Film Society to promote films for children and a Children’s Book Trust, we have none for television despite the number of children who see television is several times more and, even more critically, the frequency of their viewing television is more than a couple of hours a day. ”
There must be special concern when children (or adults, for that matter) are repeatedly exposed to images of vicious cruelty in the context of entertainment and amusement.
The situation calls for systematic research in order to keep pace with both the growth of violence in children and the growth of violent visual material available to them.
The two polarised views on the powers of television are indicative of the intensity of the discussion that the issue has generated. In general, the effects of mass media, especially portrayals of violence in them, have been the subjects of worldwide public and academic discussion for several decades now. But at the centre of this discussion, almost invariably, is television as it has taken a significant place in our lives more than any other mass medium.
Indian children watch an average of three to four hours of television daily. Television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems. But are our policy makers listening?
Article 14: Rape of 9-yr-old blamed on ‘adult TV programmes’
‘Boys wanted to try out a new thing, for fun’
MUMBAI, SEPTEMBER 7: Did raunchy sex videos and adult content freely available through various media influence the two boys who raped a nine-year-old last week? Police say that was indeed the case.
Vijay Thakur (14) and his friend Shirjeet Kamat (11) (names changed) were ‘‘calm and composed’’ all through their interrogation. ‘‘They answered every question put to them. The boys also described each act (during the rape) in detail, without hesitation,’’ said Constable G. Kanade.
Senior Inspector K.C. Jadhav added, ‘‘They did not consider their act to be abnormal in any way. They wanted to try out a new thing for fun. I am sure this is because they were watching too much ‘adult’ content on television.’’ Jadhav said adolescents, with their inherent curiosity, are prone to being influenced by such content.
The alleged rape took place at Thakur’s residence when both his parents were out at work. ‘‘Parents should be highly vigilant. More importantly, children should be monitored in their interaction with each other,’’ said Jadhav.
Another officer said the accused claimed they had executed the act with the girl’s consent. He said the boys said they knew the victim and were on friendly terms with her. Madhuri Gupta, a psychologist, said, ‘‘The fact that the two boys did not show any signs of remorse indicates they do not realise the gravity of the act.’’
Article 15: Sex, sleaze spell boom for Hindi channelsShuchi Bansal June 02, 2007
Earlier this week when Rajat Sharma's Hindi news channel India TV grabbed almost 18 per cent share of the news market, top management teams in rival companies such as Zee News, Aaj Tak and Star News, among others, went into a huddle.
Zee executives, it is learnt, spoke to TV Today managers who run Aaj Tak, and wondered if the two could jointly take steps to curb India TV's growing popularity. Star News' top brass, too, reviewed the threat from Rajat Sharma's channel which grew from 12 per cent to 17.4 per cent in the last six or so weeks.
Tension ran high in the editorial and advertising sales team of competing channels with people pledging to quit the TV news business if India TV dislodged the leader. Such reactions, a bit alarmist, were understandable. Surprisingly, India TV, which inched its way to occupy the number two position and continues to sit there, is hardly celebrated for its credibility or content.
Take a look at the kinds of stories that are helping it climb up the popularity charts. In the last few weeks, among its most watched stories was a private video of a starlet sauntering about her house in lingerie. Jahnvi, the aspiring heroine was in the news some time ago when she slashed her wrists during Abhishek Bachchan's wedding. The video, played by India TV (and refused telecast by others or so they claim), fetched the channel a 26 per cent viewership share and a court notice from Jahnvi.
In the weeks gone by, it has aired stories with pulp fiction titles: "Masjid mein sex" (where
couples are allowed into ancient monuments for a fee) or "Sex on the Rajdhani" (call girl in the first class train coupe). Snakes mating also made news on the channel as did stuff like "Joota bhagaye bhoot" and "Aurat bani maa Kali". Cold numbers show that viewers have given a thumbs up to India TV's tabloid-like content.
Interestingly, people are not only watching it in larger numbers, they are spending more time on the channel. Those in the 15-plus age group are watching the channel for 42 minutes a week, much higher than 34 minutes that the market leader Aaj Tak clocks.
Broadcasting industry's most acceptable television monitoring mechanism -- TAM -- shows that even its elite panel (households owning an AC, PC and car) has given India TV's popularity a leg-up by tuning in. On the other hand, a hard news channel like NDTV India saw its viewership slip by four per cent in the last few months.
To be sure, India TV is not the first Hindi television network to have used tabloid-like content to get eyeballs. When former Aaj Tak executive producer Uday Shankar was driving it, Star News, the JV between ABP Ltd and Star India, did just that.
In fact, media industry veterans indict Star News for starting the trend of blowing up the inconsequential. Among the first trivial stories that occupied Star News' small screen for four to five hours was "Mandir ka rahasya". The story focused on children who visited a temple and, mysteriously, never wanted to return home to their parents.
That week in 2005, Star News displaced Aaj Tak from the number one position. Not one to go down without a fight, Aaj Tak came up with "Yamraj se mulakat" where a dead man came alive and recounted his experiences after death. "That was the beginning of the battle for eyeballs and 'naag, nagin, bhoot-preyt' started surfacing on news channels," says a former Aaj Tak producer, adding "racy tabloid content on news TV became common".
However, at the same time India TV was taking the definition of "tabloid" content a little further. It not only conducted a sting operation on Bihar politicians' sexual escapades at Delhi's Bihar Bhawan but also aired explicit visuals.
Little surprise, then, that media observers hold Hindi news channels collectively responsible for tabloidisation of content.
Says Starcom Mediavest's CEO (South Asia) Ravi Kiran: "Pulp and sensationalism are dominant across news channels. News may be the fourth or the fifth element in their content plan after crime, sex, violence etc." Agrees TBWA India's senior vice president, Gopinath Menon: "Hindi news channels are straddling the entertainment space."
A senior news channel executive says that most players are weaving content around the four Cs: crime, cinema, comedy and cricket.
High viewership of Sansani on Star News and ACP Arjun on India TV clearly show that crime sells. Two weeks ago, Star News' top rated show was not one of its bulletins, but Parde Ke Peeche Kya Hai -- the behind-the-scenes story of Vivek Oberoi' new film Shootout at Lokhandwala.
Rao rubbishes the allegation that India TV airs sleaze, adding that "sex, crime and supernatural sell and so does violence on TV, newspapers, magazines, movies, books, the Internet. . . "
Psychiatrist Sanjay Chugh, too, isn't surprised by the popular vote to tabloid content on news TV. "Horror, superstition, sleaze, crime has always been part of our life. The only difference is in numbers. What came in spurts, is rolling now," he says.
The trivialisation of Hindi news TV content stems from severe competition in the genre. There are at least eight major Hindi news channels fighting for the Rs 550 crore (Rs 5.50 billion) advertising pie growing at 20 to 23 per cent a year. Santhanam says there is increased pressure on channels to deliver ratings to generate revenue.
"We don't have the luxury of being a public broadcaster where numbers don't matter. The challenge before a news channel is to keep its reputation ahead of rating. It is a tough call."
Unfortunately, sometimes reputation is sacrificed for rating, he adds.
Needless to say, in the numbers game, news broadcasters need to generate consumer stickiness to their channels through non-newsy spice dressed as news. According to ABP Ltd (which runs Star News) CEO Pramath Sinha, some broadcasters may be under a different kind of pressure. "The new players have raised money from investors who may want quick returns to cash out. News does not give such fast returns, so you have to show numbers."
Besides, the distribution cost of a news channel is very high. Having spent Rs 15 crore (Rs 150 million) to Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million) a year on distribution, there is little money left for investment in programming. "So channels resort to cheap programming," says Sinha.
Compelled to drive viewership, channels hire stand-up comedians, invite astrologers to the studio for viewer phone-ins and put up dance and music shows. While light content gets viewers, do advertisers fall for such "news"? Chintamani Rao says yes. Advertisers are already moving into India TV. Among a slew of local advertisers are major brands such as Tata Motors, Coca Cola and Amul.
However, news is a not a rational game as you don't buy it for numbers. "The channels are bought for their image," says TBWA India's senior vice president (media) Gopinath Menon. Agrees Ravi Kiran: "Advertisers look at brand fit. They will not advertise in an environment that doesn't suit them."
Hindi news channels have eroded their own brand equity by under-selling themselves. "There was a time when DD's news bulletin sold a 10-second spot for Rs 90,000. The category has degraded itself." While that could be a function of DD's monopoly then, Menon makes a point when he says that today channels follow a marketing and not an editorial model. "There are no benchmarks, no rules for content," he adds.
But that is set to change. And it must, say media observers. "If I show a film on a news channel, it will get eyeballs. The question is what you want to do. Viewers may be watching your content, but they are certainly not defining it," says the CEO of a Hindi news channel.
TV Today's executive director G Krishnan, while refusing to comment on India TV ("It is not our competitor. We are in the news business," he says), points out that some serious news channels are slipping not because of content but poor presentation and packaging.
"You must remember that the Hindi audiences needs some masala."
Article 16: Impact of Satellite Television on Urban Youth in India
Por Kuldip Rampal
Satellite Television as a Factor in Sexual BehaviorVasanthi Nail, a 17-year-old girl from the city of Bangalore, India's silicon valley, told the country's premier news weekly, India Today, in October 1997 that she listened to the Spice Girls track "I wanna, I wanna" over and over again because "there is some kind of subliminal message telling me to go ahead and do my own thing" (India Today, Oct. 13, 1997). [V] Music channel's "Beach it out with the Spice Girls in Bali" was so popular with Indian teenyboppers that the British pop group was dropping by for an India tour later that month.
The article also noted that the Spice wannabes were not stopping midway. "They have not only donned the attitude, but also their body-hugging gear. Today, it is commonplace to see groups of leggy teenage girls showing a sexy navel peeping over their hipsters" (Ibid.). The magazine reported that this "new breed of girls are tougher because of constant Western media exposure and are also 100 percent resistant to authority." College girls often skip lectures and head for "watering holes" which run special afternoon hours for students. The magazine quoted the manager of a trendy Bombay pub as saying, "Girls now associate alcohol and skimpy clothes with hip culture" (Ibid.)
This hip generation finds that information on sex is also widely available courtesy of media globalization. Talk shows on adultery, seductive soaps like "The Bold and the Beautiful," and titillating pictures on the Internet are commonly accessible in urban India today. The number of Internet subscribers in India had shot up from 120,000 in February 1999 to 500,000 by the end of the year (The Economic Times, Jan. 3, 2000, p. 1). Even Indian TV serials like "Swabhimaan" and "Kabhie, Kabhie," which are clearly copying the commercial success formula from their Western counterparts, are spiked with illicit sexual relationships and sexual metaphors. Indian film actress Deepti Naval said that "vulgarity in Hindi songs today shows that filmmakers take the audience to be buffoons and even a little retarded. I call today's age as the 'pelvic age', where hero and heroine simply gyrate to the music" (The Tribune, Sept. 8, 1999).
Asha Das, an official in the Women and Child Development section of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, said, "I've seen TV even in the West. But ours is much more suggestive with far more innuendoes" (India Today, Sept. 21, 1998). A 15-month study conducted on 100 adolescents in India found they took most of their pointers on sex from television and movies. A 12-year-old boy, who said he thought about girls all the time, added, "It's all there on TV -- that's where I learned how to hook girls" (Ibid.).
Newspapers, magazines and novels too have been found to be major influences in the early sexual awareness of adolescents. In a New Delhi school, students asked to read the newspaper as part of their curriculum suddenly discovered the graphic reporting of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky case. According to a national newsweekly (India Today, Sept. 21, 1998), "They lapped it up -- especially the jokes. One joke went like this: Why doesn't Monica open her mouth? Because -- ha, ha -- she harbors the evidence there." A school principal commented, "Sex has become as banal as shaking hands -- it is much more in your face than ever before" (Ibid.).
As a result, said Dr. Achal Bhagat, a psychiatrist, "More than any generation in this century, children today experiment with sex, drugs and alcohol at a much earlier age" (Ibid.). A study conducted on adolescent girls in 1981 by Dr. Alka Dhal, a gynaecologist, found that 90 percent of the girls surveyed had practically no knowledge about sex" (Ibid.). In contrast, teenage pregnancies in recent years have reached an all-time high in India. For example, health ministry figures for the state of Maharashtra, of which Bombay is the capital, show that in 1997 girls younger than 15 accounted for 21.7 percent of all abortions -- more than 41,000 -- carried out in the state. There is also a sharp increase in the number of young people turning to prostitution, both as a business and as "customers" (Ibid.).
A 1998 study, "Child Prostitution in India" by Centre of Concern for Child Labour, found that the number of children below 14 years in commercial prostitution is increasing at the rate of 8 to 10 percent annually. Nearly 20 percent of the customers of these young prostitutes were found to be students, particularly in the urban areas. Sexually transmitted diseases were becoming a significant problem (The Times of India, Nov. 10, 1998).
In a 1998 survey of 3,000 young people, ages 15 to 34, in small and big towns by MTV-India, 29 percent of the respondents said "yes" to the question: Is pre-marital sex a way of life in the '90s? (The Times of India, Nov. 13, 1998). That percentage of approval may not be high by Western standards, but for the traditionally conservative Indian population this finding is very revealing about the sexual values of a significant percentage of today's youth. Others saw this finding as evidence that Western influences have not overwhelmed the Indian youth , with most displaying strong traditional moorings with regard to issues like sex and marriage.
G.C. Gupta, a psychologist and professor, citing a number of studies, surveys and trends said that the phenomenon of teenage sexuality has come to stay in the Indian society (India Today Plus, 1998). He said trends indicate that it will prosper in the 21st century as a consequence of "free mixing between members of the opposite sex, exposure to increasingly uninhibited mass media, more permissive family/home environment, and the desire to indulge in it just for the kick of it" (Ibid.). Cyber romance will also be a major stimulant for the information technology-savvy young population of India, said Gupta.
Satellite Television as a Factor in ViolenceThe National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in India reported that in 1997 young people in the 16-25 age group were responsible for 56 percent of all crimes committed in the country. In New Delhi, the country's capital, 93 percent of all serious crimes in 1998 were committed by young men trying their hand at crime for the first time. A total of 767 robberies were reported in the capital in 1998 compared with 602 in 1997, a jump of 27 percent. Of people committing robberies in the capital, most were below age 30, a third from middle class background, and almost 40 percent were school educated (Times of India, March 16, 1999).
This Times article also reported that the crime graph in the entire country has shot up. The following crime data were recorded in 1998: 38,000 murders, 15,000 rapes, 23,000 robberies, 900 cases of extortion, and 35,000 cars stolen. Kidnapping and abduction cases also scored high. A study on crime patterns done at India's prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences found in 1998 that the crime rate among the youth had gone up by as much as 40 percent in the past decade. This study also found that although the youth crime wave flows across all races, classes and lifestyles in India, there was a "noticeable increase in the number of heinous crimes committed by young people from middle-class and upper middle-class families" (India Today, January 18, 1999).
Achal Bhagat, a New Delhi psychiatrist who runs a counseling center for troubled youth, offered the following explanation for increasing youth crime rate:
In a world where cutthroat competition begins from kindergarten and the concept of having 'made it' is defined by satellite TV images of the rich and famous, most children today prowl tirelessly for a better deal that will free them from the restraints that their parents faced. Ambitions soar and images of making it big (cars, exotic holidays) constantly play on the mind. But when failure strikes, most can't handle it. A squeeze in the job market and the general lack of opportunities frustrate them. And soon the tremendous pressure to succeed builds up anger (India Today, Jan. 18, 1999).
This view was shared by Pramod Kumar, director of the Institute of Development and Communication in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh, who said that young people "suddenly find crime and brute force has a premium" (Ibid.). Several studies by non-governmental institutions in India indicate that the "sensation-seeking" younger generation facing an unemployment rate of approximately 23 percent increasingly feels insecure and socially frustrated. Crime suddenly becomes an option for a number of young people, even those coming from middle and upper middle class backgrounds, to quickly attain the lavish lifestyle they are seeking. For example, a newspaper report (The Times of India, March 16, 1999) said that a young man in New Delhi had stolen approximately $3,500 from his own house and "to impress his friends got himself a secondhand car."
At a seminar in July 1999 in Chandigarh, several school teachers attributed youth violence to satellite television in particular, although they cited the high unemployment rate and travails of social relationships faced by young people among the contributing factors. The "invasion" of young minds by violence-heavy programming on various cable channels was said to be a catalyst in the rising incidence of crime among the youth. In what is clearly consistent with Albert Bandura's "Modeling Theory" (DeFleur and Ball-Rokeach, 1989, p. 212), one high school principal at the seminar said: "What they [the youth] see on television is what we get from them. They imitate their real-life heroes [role models] on the screen to become real-life heroes themselves (The Tribune, July 26, 1999).
Rajni Kothari, an eminent Indian social scientist, wrote in July 1998 that the fast pace of social and cultural changes in the country was contributing to a rising amount of tension. "We are likely to witness criminalization of tensions. Most of the problems emanate from social changes," he said (The Tribune, July 31, 1998, p. 4). That was also the view of some experts speaking at the World Conference on Injury Prevention and Control sponsored by the U.N.'s World Health Organization in New Delhi in early March 2000. Dr. Emmanuel Rozental, a surgeon at New York General Hospital, noted at the conference that economic globalization has led to increasing inequality, with concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few and massive exclusion and deprivation among growing majorities. "Social exclusion within contexts characterized by inequity and poverty is fertile ground for all kinds of violence," Dr. Rozental said, adding that when deprivation and opulence co-exist, violence is perceived as functional to the satisfaction of needs that appear otherwise inaccessible (The Hindustan Times, March 7, 2000). Satellite Television as a Factor in Drug UseA study published by the Ministry of Welfare and Development in India in 1998 found that there were 3 million drug addicts in the country in 1997 out of whom 15,000 were female drug abusers. Drug use was attributed to stress, peer pressure, permissive social atmosphere promoted by both international satellite television as well as privately owned Indian channels and other media, increased availability of drugs, and often just "to experiment" with drugs. Dr. Aruna Broota, a clinical psychologist, noted that illegal sale of drugs was on the rise in the country. Increasingly young women were getting involved in such a trade "to make a quick buck or earn extra for that new dress or jazzy bloc heels" (The Times of India, Aug. 12, 1998, p. 5).
Although use of illegal drugs in India is nowhere close to their use in the West, the problem is getting serious enough for national publications like India Today, which came out with a cover story on the issue in its April 5, 1999 edition. Titled, "Drugs: New Kicks on the Block," the investigative story said that the use of cocaine and ecstasy was on the rise, especially among wealthy entrepreneurs and young professionals, "a generation that is rich, successful and wants to party hard" (India Today, April 5, 1999).
In what the magazine noted was a typical example of many young urban professionals trying drugs just for the fun of it, it quoted Vicky Kapuria, 32, who runs a computer business and "does drugs every weekend" before going to parties, as saying:, "More than half the crowd in these parties do cocaine and ecstasy. I know because only a user can spot fellow users" (Ibid.).
The magazine quoted Dr. Harish Shetty, consulting psychiatrist at the National Addiction Research Center, as saying that cocaine use "is very high in this segment of kids from rich families." Another psychiatrist, Dr. Sanjay Chugh, who managed a de-addiction center in a south Delhi hospital, said, "two years ago, I didn't know a single cocaine addict. Now I treat 25 to 30 cases, all of whom belong to the upper crust." Yusuf Merchant, president of the Drug Abuse Information Rehabilitation and Research Center in Bombay, said that 15 percent of his patients were addicted to cocaine, adding that "the [actual] number is higher since most of these drug addicts don't believe there is a problem." Maneka Gandhi, the country's social welfare minister, whose ministry looks after the de-addiction aspect, confirmed the wide of use of drugs among the wealthier by saying, "Among a certain class this winter, there wasn't a party in Delhi that didn't have cocaine" (Ibid.).
Explaining reasons for drug use, Delhi psychiatrist Dr. Achal Bhagat said: "The single-most important reasons seems to be the desperate desire to party hard -- stretch those definitions of fun. Today their whole lives seem to revolve around a partying culture. They live for instant gratification" (India Today, April 5, 1999). Although available research indicates that critics are not blaming satellite television directly for promoting drug use, liberal and permissive social values that run through their programming themes combined with their promotion of a sensation-seeking culture are said to be instrumental in the increasing drug abuse in the country. Rising frustration among the youth with high social expectations but inability to achieve them because of the unemployment problem is also cited as a key reason for drug abuse. India Today's investigative story mentioned above said that drug use is also linked with copious literature available on the Internet that explains how to do "drugs safely."