Just a few months ago, Indian media organisations were prancing around in joy, launching new channels, new editions, new supplements, new “events”, as if there was no tomorrow.
Where there was madness without a method, there is now panic without a method.
Now, suddenly, media managers are acting as if there are ants in their pants. Hundreds of media workers have been laid off, all plans are on hold. Cost-cutting is in as are salary cuts, freeze on recruitment, curtailment of travel, hotel stay, etc. The sizes of most newspapers has seen a decline, as advertisements see a sharp fall.
In the midst of all this, a delegation of three newspaper publishers and editors—Shobhana Bharatia of Hindustan Times, Shekhar Gupta of The Indian Express, T.N. Ninan of Business Standard—has met the officiating information and broadcasting minister Anand Sharma to plead for a “bail out”.
Absent from the delegation were television moguls, who are in worse shape, and magazine publishers, and radio broadcasters…
Questions: Should the government bail out corporate media? Should the corporate media which has often ranted against subsidies for farmers, etc, be asking for artificial sustenance? Will a party/alliance about to face an election lend its hand without attaching strings? Can a media that depends on government help for support really be independent? Or does it not matter?