Tag Archives: Indian Newspaper Society

President speaks of paid news, dumbing down

Chandan Mitra, editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, Delhi, is honoured by President Pranab Mukherjee at the INS platinum jubilee celebrations. INS president Ravindra Kumar of The Statesman is at right.

The following is the full text of the speech delivered by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, at the inauguration of the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in New Delhi on Thursday, 27 February 2014:

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By PRANAB MUKHERJEE

“Seventy-five years ago, the world was a very different place. Our country was yet to take its place in the comity of nations. Millions of Indians were engaged in the struggle for freedom.

“Your Society came to life on the eve of World War II.

“Newspapers of the time not only survived the  shortages that war brought in its wake, but also engaged themselves in the difficult task of informing people of the momentous events of a contentious period in our history.

“It took resolve, vision and a sense of destiny on the part of the founding fathers to have formed a Society that could take up issues of common interest for its members.

“INS can also be proud that it helped create and nurture institutions like the Press Trust of India and the Audit Bureau of Circulation.  INS members have played a vital role in nurturing a free Press which is a critical component of our democracy.

“Over the years, INS members have informed society and promoted debate on the important questions that confront our nation.

“Be it the ravages wrought by war or those inflicted by the man-made Bengal Famine, the trials and tribulations of a nation torn asunder by Partition or the building of modern day India, newspapers have played a crucial role in educating Indians and giving expression to the diversity of views in our society, upholding thereby the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

“The plurality of media in our country has its roots in our freedom struggle.

“The Press in India evolved, not through the aegis of the Government but due to the commitment of individuals who used it as a tool to fight enforced opinions and create platform for social reform movements across the country.

“It is matter of pride that between 1780 until India’s Independence in 1947, more than 120 newspapers and periodicals were launched in almost in every Indian language. Each of these publications vowed to carry the ideals of democracy to the doorsteps of the people and spread the message of independence.

“As the media landscape undergoes change, the media has assumed different roles of being a facilitator, protector and enabler of democratic institutions and processes.

“Our vast, varied and vibrant media is a national asset.

“The media as a whole not only keep people informed but also performs a very crucial function of presenting ideas and alternatives in the domain of policy formulation and implementation.  The media space thus becomes an important component in the fabric of a functional democracy by not merely reporting the ‘dialogue of democracy’ but also by taking an active part in that dialogue.

“As India grows in the 21st century, it is extremely important that media reaches out to the inaccessible areas and the under-served population of this country.

“It is critical that the media provides an enabling environment for the spirit of inclusive growth to be ushered in and that the varied tools of communication are able to disseminate the “India Story” in a positive, accurate and focused perspective.

“Even as iconic newspapers and magazines around the world are ceasing to print, our newspaper industry, one of the largest in the world, continues to grow. The market for Indian newspapers, with over 90 million copies in circulation, is expected to grow at a double-digit Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 10% and emerge as the world’s sixth-largest newspaper market by 2017.

“The regional and vernacular print sector, in particular, is growing on the back of rising literacy and low print media penetration as well as the heightened interest of advertisers wanting to leverage these markets.

“Today, according to industry sources, print media has a combined market penetration of only 14%. There is considerable potential, therefore, to expand readership across the national canvas.

“These are changing times and it is not possible for the newspapers to be spared from the consequences of the evolution of ideas and the embrace of technology. It is essential for newspapers to be alive to the challenges of technology, and to harness responsibly the opportunities that present themselves.

“The history of the Press in India bears testimony to the fact that the pioneers created strong and durable institutions as well as traditions.  That is your inheritance and you must build on it. It is incumbent upon you as a Society of newspapers and periodicals to weed out such aberrations as might have crept into the functioning of the media.

“Let me point out in this regard that it is distressing to note that some publications have resorted to “Paid News” and other such marketing strategies to drive their revenues.  There is need for self-correcting mechanisms to check such aberrations.

“The temptation to “dumb down” news should also be resisted.

“The nation faces critical challenges that go well beyond the pressure of ‘Breaking News’ and immediate headlines.

“While you must continue to be effective raconteurs, you must also be visionary nation builders.  You are after all the crystal ball that millions of Indians gaze at. It is your responsibility and your bounden duty to ensure that ideas are debated dispassionately and thoughts articulated without fear or favour so that opinion is always well informed.

“The influence, credibility and quality of our media is well recognized. Newspapers must be keepers of the conscience of our country.  They have to be active participants in our continuing endeavour to nurture a democratic republic committed to achieving justice and fundamental freedoms for all citizens.

“Journalists must bring to public notice the array of ills and deprivations that continue to beset large numbers of our people – be it malnourishment, continuance of discriminatory practices against sections of society, particularly dalits, or the burdens and tragic consequences of indebtedness. They must shape and influence public opinion even as they provide objective and balanced coverage of news.

“The media has an important role to play in cleansing public life.  However, to undertake this role, the conduct of the media itself should be above board.  It must be always kept in mind that ends and means are both important.

“The highest standards  of ethics must be maintained at all times.

“Sensationalism should never become a substitute for objective assessment and truthful reporting.

“Gossip and speculation should not replace hard facts.

“Every effort should be made to ensure that political or commercial interests are not passed off as legitimate and independent opinion.

“Integrity and independence are two sides of the same coin and both must be equally important for our media and for every one of us.  There should be recognition that the media is accountable to its readers and viewers at large and through them to the entire nation.

“As the fourth estate, the media is the mediator between the public and public servants. It is a watchdog of public interest. It gives voice to the downtrodden and dispossessed. It is inherent in the role of a watchdog that the media draws attention to what is wrong. But, gloom and dark alone should not dominate news coverage.  A conscious effort must be made to highlight the positive and inspire change for the better.  The power of the media should be used to engage in a nation-wide endeavour to reset our moral compass.

“I call upon INS and all its members to remain torch bearers of responsible journalism. They must always be a voice for justice and equally, spokespersons of hope and reason.

“In conclusion, let me remind that one of the most prolific and influential journalists as well as publishers of our nation was Mahatma Gandhi. His thoughts on journalism are most illuminating and must guide our media.

“Gandhiji wrote in My Experiments with Truth:

The sole aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges whole countrysides and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within.”

He also wrote:

Week after week I poured out my soul in its columns and expounded the principles and practice of satyagraha as I understood it.  I cannot recall a word in these articles set down without thought or deliberation or a word of conscious exaggeration, or anything merely to please.  Indeed, the journal became for me a training in self-restraint and for friends a medium through which to keep in touch with my thoughts.”

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Look, who’s putting up a statue for press freedom

Of all the noxious fumes that emanated from the coal allocation scam that hit UPA-II in 2012, was the perils of political and business interests of media owners and groups, which extend beyond the media.

For, among the impressive list of beneficiaries of “Coalgate” was the name of Vijay Darda, the Congress MP who runs Maharashtra’s largest circulated newspaper Lokmat.

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Darda refuted the charges in September 2012, but his son Devendra Darda and nephew Rishi Darda (son of his brother Rajendra Darda, a Congress MLA who is Maharashtra’s education minister) were questioned by the central bureau of investigation (CBI) in November that year.

Vijay Darda himself was interrograted earlier this year. (Shortly after the coal scam hit the ceiling, the Congressman made news for calling the BJP’s Narendra Modi a “lion of Gujarat“).

Now, Lokmat Media is setting up a “Statue of Freedom of Press” at its state-of-the-art printing plant at Butibori in Nagpur. Unveiling the statue on Sunday, October 13, will be the Union home minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde, “in the august presence of dignitaries from different fields”.

Besides Lokmat in Marathi, the group also publishes Lokmat Samachar in Hindi and Lokmat Times in English. It also owns IBN-Lokmat, a Marathi language news channel.

Vijay Darda is a former president of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS).

Also read: From the desk of the hon’ble MP

Power plans of DB Corp, Dainik Bhaskar & DNA

Justice Katju ‘Sorry’ for calling journos idiots

Within days of his appointment as the chairman of the Press Council of India in October 2011, immediately following his retirement as a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Markandey Katju ran afoul of his colleagues on the council with his sweeping remark that he had a “poor opinion” of most journalists.

The “tendentious and offensive” remarks, which amounted to the fence eating the crop it was supposed to defend, were roundly criticised by the editors guild of India and the broadcast editors’ association, and by media itself.

Katju was also, often, boycotted by the industry representatives on the press council.

Now, over a year later, some kind of rapprochement has been reached with Justice Katju expressing his “regret” to the Indian newspaper society (INS), the association of media promoters and publishers.

Below is the full text of the INS press release, issued by V. Shankaran, secretary-general of INS:

New Delhi, 19 November 2012

The executive committee of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), which met at New Delhi, considered the regret expressed by Mr Markandey Katju, chairman, press council of India, vide his letter dated 21.09.2012 addressed to the President, INS on his remarks that “majority of media people are of poor intellectual level”.

The members of the Executive Committee after deliberations decided to accept the regret now expressed by Mr. Katju.

How papers are working around wage board

With the Union government having notified the recommendations of the Majithia wage board for journalists and other employees, newspaper managements are on a collision course.

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has slammed the government go-ahead despite industry representations; at least three newspaper houses have filed cases against it; and insiders say a November 16 meeting of INS was “defiantly unanimous” that newspapers should not implement it, come what may.

Meanwhile, some newspaper managements, like that of the Bombay tabloid Mid-Day (now owned by the Dainik Jagran group) have commenced their own measures to deal with the debilitating economic effects of the implementation of the wage board recommendations by circulating a bond for its journalists to sign.

Point no. 3 reads, inter alia:

“We, therefore, exercise our option to retain our existing salaries and wages of existing emouluments as defined in Majithia wage board award along with all existing allowances of whatsoever nature as well as method of determination and extent of neutralisation of dearness allowance being following by the newspaper extablishment (Mid-Day) year after year, with retrospective effect. We also realise and agree that all such future increments as may be granted by the newspaper establishment (Mid-Day) in respect of pay, allowances and emoulments shall be in our interest and we shall abide by the same.

“Now in witness whereof we being all the employees of newspaper establishment (Mid-Day) in exercise of our option as available under the Majithia wage board, retain our existing payscale and “existing emoulments” including allowances with retrospective effect by affixing our individual signatures hereinbelow.”

M.J. Pandey of the Brihanmumbai union of journalists (BUJ) writes:

“The Mid-Day management has got its staffers to sign a special undertaking that they are not in favour of the wage board and wish to opt out of the award. Last week, the staffers were called in and made to sign the opt-out form individually and on the spot. No copies of this undertaking were given to them.

“All the journalists, who are on contract, have complied. However, the non-journalist employees, who are part of the Maharashtra media employees’ union (MMEU), have refused to sign the undertaking and are awating the implementation of the award.

“It is incredibe that these journalists have made no calculations of the benefits they would have got under the wage board. This wage board, for the first time, brings the wages of non-contract employees on par with the contract employees – especially in larger media conglomerates – and that’s part of the reason for the stiff resistance of the latter to the wage board.”

Image: via Geeta Seshu

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

POLL: Should newspapers implement wage board?

Allow me to point out, Mr Arnab Goswami

INS: ‘Wage board move will kill most newspapers’

After dithering for months, the Union cabinet has approved the recommendations of the G.R. Majithia wage board for journalists and other employees of newspapers and news agencies, subject to the final order of the Supreme Court which is hearing petitions from at least three media houses.

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS), which had steadfastly opposed the recommendations, has slammed the government’s move.

Below is the full text of the INS press release.

NEW DELHI: Ashish Bagga, president, the Indian Newspaper Society, has expressed grave apprehension that the decision of the Union Cabinet on the eve of Diwali to accept the recommendations of the Majithia wage boards may lead to the closure of a majority of small and medium newspaper publications across the country as the proposed wage hikes are very high and beyond the capacity of the industry.

He cautioned that even large publications would find it difficult to implement these steep wage hikes.

It is indeed unfortunate that the INS’ request for re-examination of the flawed and one- sided report has not been considered by the Government. A number of petitions challenging the Working Journalist and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1955 and the Majithia Wage Boards recommendations are before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and the decision of the Government would be subject to the final order of the Supreme Court. After the recommendations are published, these petitions may be amended if required, he added.

Bagga said that the Fourth Estate of our vibrant democracy is under threat of losing its well-nurtured fabric of plurality of ownership and the situation created by the Government’s decision will throw up a clear and imminent possibility of consolidating media power in the hands of a few. This coupled with the danger of large scale retrenchments as a consequence of possible closure of a large number of newspaper establishments throughout the country not only pose a great threat to the Fourth Estate but could also lead to colossal job losses in a job-scarce country such as ours.

Also read: INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

POLL: Should newspapers implement wage board?

Why doesn’t INS oppose ‘no-poaching’ pacts?

The Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has branded the recommendations of the Majithia wage board as an attempt to muzzle the freedom of the press. But why does its heart beat for media freedom when competing newspapers enter no-poaching agreements which curtails the freedom of journalists?

That is the question that Yogesh Pawar asks. Pawar, a former Indian Express reporter who did a stint with NDTV before joining DNA recently, has been both a wage board employee and a contract comployee. He says both systems have their pluses and minuses.

But he uses tacit no-poaching agreement between papers (essentially to keep wages down) to drive home INS’ hypocrisy in ranting against the Majithia wage board in the name of media freedom.

Pawar writes:

“When there were only two broadsheets in town (The Times of India and The Indian Express in Bombay), they had a deal disallowing movement between themselves.

“What this did to morale and salaries can only be guessed as the drive to do well and get noticed simply stopped mattering. While some moved to television briefly as a bridge arrangement before coming back to their jobs of choice, others moved to Delhi where there were more options. The ones who couldn’t simply languished.

“Apart from your annual appraisals from within, when offers are made from other firms, it means the other organisation recognises your value. When media organisations changed to contract regimes, it was said that media-persons confident of their work need not be afraid.

“Doesn’t this work the other way round too with anti-poaching deals?”

Read the full article: What is sauce for the goose

Also read: Should papers implement Majithia wage board?

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

External reading: Why not wage board for all journos and non-journos in media?

Should papers implement Majithia wage board?

Notwithstanding the exponential growth of the print media post-liberalisation, it is clear that the voice of journalists in the publications they bring out is subservient to that of the proprietor, promoter and publisher on most issues and certainly so on the Majithia wage board for journalists and “other newspaper employees”.

Although owners and managers have unabashedly used the columns of their newspapers to rile against higher wages and build “public opinion” against the Majithia wage board through reports, opinion pieces and advertisements, a similar facility has been unavailable for journalists to air their views in the same publications.

It is as if journalists and “other newspaper employees”, whether on contract or otherwise, are in sync with their organisations in opposing the wage board’s recommendations. Which is, of course, far from the truth. Which is, of course, why a nationwide strike has been slated for June 28  to draw attention to journalists’ demands.

So, what do you think?

Is there a case for higher wages for journalists and “other newspaper employees”? Should the Majithia wage board be implemented or should wage boards be abolished? Are newspapers, which are rolling in profits, exploiting journalists with low wages and longer working hours? Or should journalists wisen up to the realities of the modern work place?

Is there truth in the charge that industry organisations like the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) are being used by big newspaper groups to prevent if not stall the new wages? Or is the contention of newspaper owners that they will wilt and crumble under the pressure of a higher wage bill justified?

Note: This sans serif poll is protected from repeat voting. Only one vote per computer, per IP address.

Also read: Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”