In February, during an address to India Inc at NASSCOM, Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had said: “I am inspired by the social media, it is a source of inspiration for me. I am able to connect with so many people through social media.”
Clearly indicating his tilt, Modi stressed upon the ‘Internet of things’ in our lives in his 30-minute speech, saying that Information Technology (IT), an inevitable force in the modern world, can transform the country and our lives. He said: “Sooner it is deployed and mastered, the better it is.” This amplifies how Modi – undeniably the next Prime Minister of the country – acknowledges the ability of the media to bring about the constructive change that we look for. For, even the traditional media most willingly admits that going digital is the only way for its sustenance and longevity; most have already taken that route.
As Vice-President, M. Hamid Ansari, wrote in his opinion piece in The Hindu: “Media platforms and devices for consumption today vary between traditional, non-conventional, and the experimental. They span traditional print, audio-visual, and digital modes. Convergence between news media, entertainment and telecom has meant that the demarcation between journalism, public relations, advertising and entertainment has been eroded.”
The traditional Indian media should take heart in the fact that a man who is often seen as arrogant and abrasive by it is the same one whom the media finds so much to write and talk about. At the least, he is talking of the media being a via media to empower the youth and convert challenges into opportunities without actually being one of the thousands of talking heads promising the fantastic in TV news channel studios.
About a week ago, post the release of the BJP’s election manifesto, Modi said that the BJP aimed to provide a strong and united India which would enjoy the world’s respect. “If I have to summarize our manifesto in two words, I will say: good governance and development… This is not an election ritual. It (the manifesto) is not just a document. It reveals our party’s direction, our aim,” he said.
Connect the dots between Modi’s thumbs up to social media and his call for good governance and development, and you see the obvious linkage between the crucial role media has to play – in case BJP comes to power -- about taking the message to the masses. Media has a crucial role in the promotion of the cause of good governance; its role is imperative in terms of growth and development. Debates and discussions in the media raise the bar for performance by the administration for society’s welfare.
In August-September last year, an Economic Times/Nielsen survey found that nearly three-quarters of Indian business leaders wanted Modi to lead the country after the election. “After a long policy drought, CEOs are impatient for strong leadership, intent, decisions and action,” the Economic Times said.
Indeed. According to a report in the news portal rediff.com, there are reasons why Modi is hailed as astute and result-oriented. It says that most business leaders agree that Modi gets things done. The report quotes the CEO of a large corporation: “Once a project is cleared by his (Modi’s) office, one doesn’t face any problem from the bureaucracy, police or local politicians.” Modi has proved for three terms in Gujarat that he has the capability and stamina to sustain good governance and that has perhaps only been possible because of smoothening of procedures across the infrastructural and regulatory necessities like local taxes, power cost and environmental clearances.
So what is the relevance here in terms of the media? For one, Indian media goes beyond being just an industry having grown exponentially in scale, reach, influence, and revenues. It has to play the role of the fourth pillar of democracy. Unfortunately, it has not seen an equal rise in sensitivity towards non-commercial and non-market dimensions.
Given that the relevance of the media lies in being an informed conveyer of news to the masses in general and thus shape perceptions on a national level, given the strides in technology and its impact on generations, processing, dissemination, and consumption of news, it becomes all the more important for media to continue to exist as it is. For India, it’s important that continuum for media does not mean the disappearance of traditional media for the sake of social media, but the existence of both in their own steam.
As globalization and free-market economy took over, the importance of marketing and advertisement grew on media, as also the influence of other aspects such as businesses, organizations and markets. Even media entrepreneurship grew with increase in per capita income, discretionary spending capability, and attractiveness of India as a market and as a foreign-investment destination.
But then the tides turned post 2008. Just as media was one of the first sectors to benefit from globalization, it was also the first to feel the heat of the downturn. To keep their heads above water, for many media houses, the first concern became financial, above ethics, quality and serving the greater good.
Modi has shown that even during trying times, focus needs to continue on the glass that is half full rather than that which is half empty. He has shown that optimistic, right policies and focus on public interest at large can pay dividends. If he has been found to be supportive of other industries and businesses, there’s no reason why he would let the media industry continue to suffer.
Narendra Modi has come a long way – from a common man (a tea-seller) to waiting in the wings to be India’s next Prime Minister, on whom hope rests of rescuing the world’s largest democracy from all its pains. He has been hailed for his steadfastness, dedication, determination, hard work and perseverance. News reporter. in says: “Since his childhood, Modi has been an early riser. He does not go to bed until he has finished his work. The average Indian finds his own reflection in Modi’s struggle. Like Modi, he can dream big. Yes, he can.” So why should the Indian media miss the bus?