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Media: A Potent Centre of Power


B.G. Verghese

POLITICAL ECONOMY OF COMMUNICATIONS IN INDIA: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
By Pradip Ninan Thomas
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2010, pp. 268, Rs. 650.00

THE INDIAN MEDIA IN A GLOBALISED WORLD
By Maya Ranganathan and Usha M. Rodrigues
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2010, pp.276, Rs. 650.00

IDEA EXCHANGE: OPINION MAKERS, CRITICAL ISSUES, INTERESTING TIMES
By the Express Group
Penguin, Delhi, pp. 302, Rs. 699.00

VOLUME XXXV NUMBER 3 March 2011

The communications revolution brought on by amazing technological advances and convergence has made the media an outstanding and increasingly potent centre of power. It was no idle remark on the fall of the Soviet Union that public opinion remained a second superpower that would match American dominance. WikiLeaks has confirmed that, howsoever perversely. Information is power. This was always so and is becoming even more so by the day. The transformation of the media or, more broadly, of communications more generally has occurred in stages as set out by Pradip Ninan Thomas in his Political Economy of Communications in India. The colonial phase saw western dominance and efforts to keep the nationalist press in rein. The vernacular press, socalled , was subject to curbs and censorship and the advent of broadcasting saw illegal counterbroadcasting through amateur radio, such as the Azad Hind Radio in 1942. The postIndependence period saw the withdrawal of the British owned press and the rise of the Indian media, including the establishment of PTI as a national news agency. The links between business houses and the larger media chains led to efforts to curb the power of the jute press and saw the growth of conglomerates and the beginnings of vertical integration (eg, Tatas, press and publication). There was a move to legislate diffusion of media ownership and delink it from ownership by business houses through a misplaced socialist thrust. Fortunately this proved abortive. Broadcasting was, however, tightly controlled by the Union Government through AIR and, later, Doordarshan that excluded the state governments as well. The controlling media levers were effectively used by Indira Gandhi as a prime instrument of the Emergency which is when the man on the street came to recognize freedom of speech and expression, of which the media was trustee, as the mainspring of the nations fundamental rights. By far the most interesting part of the volume is a discussion of the third phase of media development post1986 in the New India. Three factors combined to fuel this phase. The end of the permitlicence raj, with liberalization and economic reforms in the late 1980s and, more particularly in the 1990s, saw an economic surge with high growth marked by an investment and FDI boom. This witnessed rapid media expansion, new starts and vertical and horizontal integration with exponential growth in advertisement spends. Secondly, the new technology gave the media an instant and universal reach ...


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