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Mainstream, VOL XLV No 31

Reflections on the Print Media

Saturday 21 July 2007, by Satyapal Dang


Very big transformations have taken place in our print media. (I have not used the word “radical” deliberately.) The number of daily newspapers has increased very much—the English ones as well as the Hindi ones, and maybe others too. Many of them have by now many editions—a separate edition for every big city. Qualitywise, it has led to a change for the worse. Except for the most important national and State level news, the rest of the entire space is occupied by news of local and even of only locality interest. This by itself is a negative factor. It is a negative factor from the viewpoint of developing national, that is, Indian, consciousness, not to speak of inter-national consciousnesses, that is, consciousness about humanity as a whole having common interests.

Our newspapers are an industry—privately owned though a paper here and there may be having a Board of Trustees. Profit is the motive force of capitalism. And we have a capitalist society. The main source of profits for newspapers are from advertisements and maximum ads come from big and to some extent middle-level business houses. It is rightly believed and said that the income is generally so much that the owners can afford to distribute their newspapers free of charge. Obviously they will never do that. Nor is that all. They will never refuse more ads. Many years ago, someone filed a writ in the Supreme Court praying that the space for advertisements should be fixed by law. It was dismissed. The honourable judges of the Apex Court must have thought that they were protecting freedom of the press. My opinion, that is, the opinion of a ground level activist, was that what had been protected was the right of the print media barons to reap maximum possible profits.

The lust to make maximum profits has reached such a level that obscenity has been increasing dangerously. Low priced dailies having many editions are purchased by a very a large number of households—partly for reasons of status and partly for reasons of the obscene pictures contained in them. It cannot but be obvious to one and all that this can be very dangerous for our social life and civil society but no one seems to have the will to act and put an end to it. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh twice declared that a law against obscenity would be enacted. Vested interests, however, have proved their strength. Now the Prime Minister does not even talk about it. [It must be noted that to the best of my knowledge and belief the communist controlled media has been free from the disease. On the other hand, the few non-Left top daily papers, which have been avoiding obscenity altogether, are now beginning to have it in their ads. I don’t say that there is no exception even now. But they are exceptions, not the rule.]

THE diseases from which our print media suffer are many more. There are a few:

1. There are many proof-reading and even language mistakes. This is very much true of English newspapers (except The Hindu which perhaps is the best English daily in India—I wish it had a secular name). The Tribune is also a good paper in some respects. For instance, its printing is very good and it is very easy to read. I began reading it when I was a matriculate student. My father had told me that it would help me to learn good English. I still read it as a matter of addiction and because it is easier to read when one has some problems with one’s eyes.

2. Another common defect of most newspapers is that their news reports are needlessly lengthy. Many of them could be easily summarised without missing any idea. Many a report also expresses and contains comments which is wrong. That is not the job, duty or right of correspondents and sub-editors. It is, in my opinion, the exclusive right of the editor or the person who acts as the editorial writer. [Some editors write more articles than editorials which are often or sometimes written by nameless persons.]

3. There is a growing tendency to use English words by many non-English newspapers, that is, Hindi dailies. I know that borrowing some words from English is necessary and correct, for example, technical and some connected words. There are words like “school”, “rail (train)” and many others. The process is not entirely one way. Even English borrows and adapts non-English language words, for example, “sari”. Such adaptation is necessitated by exchanges of life-styles, etc. and by the fact that one country is more advanced than some others. I also believe that may be sometime—but perhaps after some centuries—we will have an international language. Any attempt to hasten this process and/or to use English words when there are good words in our own language, say, in Punjabi or Hindi or when easily understan-dable words can be borrowed from a sister language, for example, Urdu, is harmful for the development of our own language and our national culture. I could give any number of instances. However, I will give a few only from Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi) (Amritsar edition):
^^oh vkj izkmM vkWQ lquhrk fofy;El**] ^^,aVªsal ds fjtYV fMDysjM **] ^^,u vkj vkbZ lhVksa ds nk[kys ’kq:**] ^^uoT;ksfr lsdaM] o`ank FkMZ**

All these are on page 1. There are worse examples on other issues. It is not necessary to give more examples.

Once I raised the matter with the editor of the most leading Hindi daily published from Jalandhar and also Delhi. I could not convince him of my view that all this is not good for our languages and culture. I, of course, remained of the view that the attitude the media baron was the usual capitalist one: “our goods sell and so why worry” (whatever the reasons for which their customers may be buying their goods).

I do not know whether the Press Council of India has the powers to go into such matters as mentioned above. If it has, it should appoint a sub-committee to study all such aspects as have been raised in the foregoing and make suitable recommendations. These should be studied by the PCI which should make recommendations to the Government of India and our Parliament. In any case, the PCI should be given more powers by our Parliament.

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