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Media and the State

Aasim Khan

By Sunetra Sen Narayan
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 307, Rs. 945.00


After decades of success in buying out some of Britain’s most iconic media institutions, Australia born media baron Rupert Murdoch’s ambitious plans hit an extraordinary road block in July 2011. His bid to increase his stake in the British Sky Broadcasting, the distribution arm of his television network in the UK, was not only thwarted but in the ensuing investigations Murdoch also lost a jewel of his news media empire. As the News Of The World scandal unfolded it ignited a public debate about the role of the press and media in contemporary British society. Eventually not only was Murdoch forced to shut the weekly broadsheet, many of his editors and top advisors ended up in court rooms. Only history would decide which precise factors led Murdoch’s BSkyB bid to get so heavily politicized but as far as public opinion was concerned, it was clear that even in a country like the UK, which has a long history of privatizing its ‘family silver’, the people simply did not trust a global media mogul as far as nation’s airwaves were concerned.   This episode resonates with many recent media regulation and ‘paid news’ debates in India and elsewhere. Not so long ago the global media and their owners seemed invincible, with the state seen in permanent decline and losing its ‘iron grip’ on national communications networks. The emerging global media and communications networks were ‘flattening’ the world once and forever, or so it was thought. But lately, and somewhat surprisingly, the debates on the political economy, cross ownership, as well as on that often derided concept of ‘press regulation’ stands resurrected. Viewed against this backdrop, Sunetra Sen Narayan has produced a very timely book. The subtext of her study of globalization and television is all about the role of the state in India and the way in which it has tried to deal with the television and broadcasting industry since the early 1990s. For anyone interested in comparative politics and state-press relations, this book makes a useful contribution by providing a detailed case study of one of the world’s most mediatized democracies.   However, the main theoretical puzzle explored does not directly explore the changing state and media relationship in a comparative political framework. Instead, a lot of effort is focused on testing India’s case against theories of globalization and international relations. The core objective of the study ...

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