Working Paper on Media
Maqbool Ahmed Siraj
LONG TERM GOAL
To secure effective presence in the media
To be among top 5
One English daily with multiple editions and a number of weeklies
Train 1000 journalists
Set up a news agency
One FM channel in every metro city
Enhance Muslim mediapersons participation in radio and TV.
One national TV channel in Hindustani language
Webcast newsagency material on portal
Muslims to have more Internet sites
CD, R&D, Mobile
Encourage Muslims to CDMA technology/ SMS messaging
Human Resource Development
Ensuring our presence in the media and making it effective requires a start from building human resources. It should begin with career counseling, training of individuals, issuing scholarship, setting up resource centres, constantly supporting the upward mobility of the trained individual in the corridors of media.
Career counseling: Experience shows that only the third generation learners become effective mediapersons. Media requires deep insight into history, geography, society and politics. Besides, a high degree of verbal and written communication is very necessary. These qualities can be expected only among high-heeled and well entrenched families with deep cultural roots. Such persons are not easy to get among us as their priorities are either medicine, engineering or management. Talents should be tapped from such families. First or second generation learners could get into vernacular journalism.
Scholarships: Very specialized media study centres such as Asian School of Journalism, Chennai; Jamia Millia’s MCRC; Bangalore’s Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media (IIJNM); Ooty’s Life and Learning Academy for Photography; have come up during the last 10 years. Their fee ranges between Rs. Two to three lakh a year. Even otherwise, the normal fee for journalism courses ranges between Rs. 25,000 to 30,000 a year in universities. Looking at other expenses the scholarships should cover the tuition fee and textbooks and if needed, hostel expenses. The HDI could think of having at least 20 scholarships in the beginning with allocation being on the need-cum-merit basis. There should also be provision for helping the journalism graduates till they find a comfortable niche in the media. Otherwise such graduates divert to other careers or jobs. It is also to be seen that those who get our scholarships, get into the mainstream media where better access to people and Govt. facilities is possible rather than working in the Urdu or Community media.
Mere scholarships will not help. So much should not be expected. At FANA (1988-1996) we issued 70 scholarships and trained at least 15 journalists. They are working in various media organizations and Govt. of India’s (I&B Ministry’s) institutions, but are invisible as a force.
Resource Centres: At least four media resource centres are needed for preparing young talents. These centres could take up counseling, providing media material on all issues of life and development of the country and of interest to the community, hold lectures, seminars, prepare specialized studies, build picture libraries, keep subject wise files and be a constant source of support for mediapersons who are from us and are helpful to us. Primarily, these centres could be set up in Delhi, Lucknow, Mumbai/Pune, Bangalore/Chennai etc. The effort should be directed at providing all kinds of material to seekers of help, be it profiles of personalities and institutions, Constitution and manifesto of political parties, water management, human rights or communal riots, Right to Information Act, Narbada Bachao Movement, et al. Since search engines and Internet have made the task much easier, it is essential to have Internet connectivity at such centre to obviate the need for gathering paper files.
Ideological foundations: It is very necessary that a good deal of discussion on the ideological foundations of the media precedes setting up the media. Islamic media or dawah-oriented approach is pointless in an India where Muslims carry a heavy historical baggage. Indian elite is very perceptive and smells the scent and slant very soon. Media that bites the bait of the ideology is identified very early and gets stigmatized and marginalized.
This is not to question the ideology being pursued by the existing community journals which are ‘special interest journals’ for those who want to access the community or ideology based information. But this should not be confused with mainstream media. There is another category of journals, i.e., “Protest journalism’. Even this does not take you very far. It might be respected, but does not come anywhere near Mainstream Media. If indeed, we are interested in the ‘Mainstream media’, we should have clarity of mind and decide to be subtle in line, tone and tenor, approach and ideology. It is better to buy the existing mainstream media rather than starting one. Ideology should be in homeopathic and sugar coated doses and India’s pluralism should be clearly in view. Credibility is something that is most sought after in the media. There is a precarious balance in ideology and the media. If you are rigid with ideology, media is less likely to be popular. If you only stress the popularity of the media, there is no justification for having alternative media. Editorial staff must bear all this in mind and cautiously plan such as strategy that media with an ethical bottom-line gradually spreads its wings and covers wider civic space.
There should be clear focus on issues. Hiding, fudging of ideology does not go a long way. Mainstream media should identify popular issues rather than pontificating, sermonizing its own ideological vision. We need to have a clear view on democracy, progress, economic development, Information Technology, women’s affairs, place of religion in life and development of the nation, art and cinema, public morality, etc. etc
There should be a two–pronged approach:
1-To set up our own media and
2-secure foothold in the popular media.
Daily Newspaper: Though there have been frequent demands for a community owned newspaper in the country, it does not look like a possible option given the present economic constrains. To begin with only a Producers community can hope to sustain a daily for long. Muslims are not wealth-creators nor producers. They do not have a strong advertising base either. English daily is a fancy idea. We get into this trap very easily. With a Muslim tag, it can hardly sell in our metros. The Asian Age and Midday are owned by Muslims, but only so in the name. Perhaps they represent a better commercially viable strategy than having something like a Muslim-owned, Muslim-manned and Muslim-read daily. Decline of Muslims in the North is steep and Muslim media has taken a nosedive there inasmuch as all popular Urdu-Muslim dailies have closed. Urdu dailies by non-Muslims have replaced them.
The future strategy could be one of starting English-Muslim daily with a popular appeal from South Indian metros and bringing out their edition in Delhi later.
Meanwhile, the Muslim-owned media in the South (including Mumbai) is on the rise. The Asian Age is coming out from Bangalore, Mumbai. The Pioneer of Delhi has entered into a partnership with a Muslim businessman in Kochi and is coming out for the last two years. Deccan Chronicle under the editorship of M. J. Akbar is coming out from several centres in Andhra Pradesh and Chennai. Kannada daily Vaartha Bharthi and Malayalam daily Madhyamam have strong presence in Mangalore and Kerala. Urdu-Muslim press in Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore looks more vibrant. Malai Murasu, a Tamil daily from 12 centres in Tamil Nadu has 49% Muslim partnership in four centers. What it amounts to telling is that unless the Muslim are a economically flourishing community, the media could be a mirage. So would be the credibility of the media that caters to only Muslims.
News Agency: A news agency seems to be a better and less expensive option for the present. Information Technology has brought down the cost of transmission of news, photographs, colour and motion much cheaper, faster and cleaner. A network in India could also lead to exchanging news with similar networks in several countries. It could also provide a platform for training for several budding scribes who can later join other networks. It could start operations in English and Urdu to begin with and slowly add on Hindi and possibly Arabic later. Just imagine the impact if this media takes up the following in its visual coverage:
The News Agency could be patterned after the rediff.com and may possibly provide the e-mail services under its domain name and even a search engine could be thought of. It could even provide photographs and features and commentaries.
It may need the following human resources:
Delhi: Editor, a news editor, a sub-editor, two correspondents on 12 hour job, two photographers, one cartographer cum infographer, staff for scanning, uploading etc.
Mumbai: two correspondents, one photographer.
Chennai: One correspondent
Bangalore: One correspondent
Kolkata: Two correspondents, a photographer
Hyderabad: One correspondent
Lucknow: One correspondent
Bhopal, Patna, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Trivandrum, Guwahati, Srinagar, : one stringer each.
A 2-room office within two kilometer radius of the Parliament and Central Secretariat.
A cubicle in newspaper offices in all places where there is a correspondent all with computers, digital cameras, scanners and other accessories.
Nature of Coverage: The News Agency would cover only news that would be of international and national interest with a slight bias towards the community. It will upload text and photograph onto the website all through the day. The subscribers would be asked to provide credit to the news agency and byline to the writers. It will attract advertisements for its news domain. Let the first six months be absolutely free for downloading and use. Later the media should be monitored for identifying the use. An annual tariff should be fixed thereafter and marketing and sales staff should collect the service charges.
Output: Let us think of putting on the website at least 20 items (news and features included) in the beginning with at least 5,000 words a day on English and Urdu website each and 20 photographs. At the end of the 2nd year, it should be able to enhance its output to 20,000 words a day and 50 photographs.
Overseas Linkages: We will try to build overseas linkages particularly with media in the Gulf, the USA and the UK and other English-using countries for use of the News Agency material.
Policy framework : The news agency to be guided by the following broad policies:
1-Being positive in outlook towards all those who talk and work for peace, liberty, freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, ethical values, scientific development, and oppose imperialism, oppression, dictatorship, economic exploitation of weak and small countries, economic monopolization,
2-Highlights West’s double standards on democracy, press freedom, nuclear proliferation,
3-Uphold pro-people economic policies that guarantee equal distribution of wealth, sustainable development and preservation of nature, elimination of nuclear weapons, strengthening of UN, link freedom with responsibility and ethnical values,
4-Acts fast on new concepts to deepen democracy, freedoms, expedite development and empowerment of all, breaks monopolies, et al
5-Highlights impact of sexual licentiousness on family system, vulgarity and obscenity in media, exposes the nexus between corporates, media and lawmakers in the West (and its stooges elsewhere), dissects the domination of industrial lobby on democratic institutions,
6-Highlights alternative concepts such as interest free banking, coopertivisation of key economic sectors, IT-linked services that allow more democrtisation of societies, suppression of vices and their role in curbing HIV / Aids, reduction of wants and austere lifestyles being key to sustainable development, corporate social responsibility, use of simple medicine, Herbal cures, environment-friendly tourism,
7-Highlight ethical values in administration, business, industry, trade, tourism, mineral exploitation, et al
Combatting anti-Muslim / Islam propaganda
The Sangh parivar and anti-Muslim media depends a great deal on the research work of the RSS historians, demographers, theologians etc to tar the Muslim image in the media. They have usually 35 points to defame Muslims and Islam and spread canards. Work needs to be done on them and a lot material also already exists. We need not use our mainstream media such as news agency to combat their propaganda. Rather we should:
1-Hire non-Muslim journalists to make a sound study of these myths and facts from history, society, culture, Constitution and demography etc to prepare adequate responses. We should also supplement these from our side.
2-There should be two separate and parallel approaches to this combating effort: 1-to explain the Islamic point of view 2-to present positive and factual material about the Muslim history, society and culture
3-Launch a PR campaign to establish rapport with non-Muslim journalists, invite them to our feasts and festivals, present them gifts and greeting cards, involve them in dialogue, arrange tours to Muslim countries, help them when in need,
4-Hold workshops for media persons and intellectuals on demythicising Muslim image.
5-There should be a legal approach too. When a newspaper or audio-visual media consistently indulges in patently defamatory campaign, there should be legal cells to sue them from places like Jhumritelaiya, Balasore, Pudukottai, Sopore, Varkala, Jamnagar, Dibrugarh, Shillong or Medak. Help from other minorities and underprivileged section who are constantly at the receiving end should also be enlisted for this purpose. Newspapers should be asked to explain as to what they refer as ‘reliable sources’, ‘informed sources’ etc when they publish malicious reports against certain groups.
Research in Journalism:
There could be several avenues for research in journalism and media. Following are a few:
1-Corporatisation of media and its negative social impact
2-Media and ethical and social responsibility
3-Objectivity of Hindi media, a comparison on certain issues pertaining to various communities
4-Developing a de-Sanskirtised lingo for Hindi media (which will facilitate entry of Urdu-knowing people in Hindi media)
5-Analysis of advertisement lobby on media
6-Analysis of crime reporting on TV – difference between newsreporting and gaining advantage by sensation and sleaze mongering.
7-Exposing the farce of objectivity of industry dependant media. Research should be conducted on ‘Can a media dependant on advertisement and thereby on business and industry could be objective’. An alternative concept of socially responsible media which draws its strength from people rather than business should be developed.
Financial Outlay for 2006-07
20 Scholarship for PG courses in Journalism and Mass communication
Each scholarship to carry an annual sum of Rs. 25,000 x 20 = Rs. 5,00,000
Processing of applications, orientation programmes, secretarial
assistance etc Conveyance, traveling expenses, books etc Rs. 1,00,000
Delhi: Editor Rs. 15,000
One sub-editor/news coordinator Rs. 10,000
two correspondents Rs. 24,000 (12,000 each)
One photographer Rs. 10,000
One cartographer-infographer Rs, 8,000
staff for scanning, uploading etc. Rs. 10,000
Mumbai: one correspondent Rs. 10,000
one photographer Rs. 8,000 .
Chennai: One correspondent Rs. 10,000
Banaglore, Bhopal, Patna, Jaipur,
Chandigarh, Trivandrum, Guwahati,
Srinagar, one stringer or freelancer each.
All together 8 Places x Rs. 5000 Rs. 40,000
Monthly salary bill Rs. 1,45,000
Annual salary bill Rs.17,40,000
(In order to reduce cost and begin the operations, we can just begin with two correspondents in Delhi, one in Chennai, one in Mumbai and some stringers elsewhere. For further cost cutting stringers at Chandigarh, Trivandrum, Srinagar, Bhopal could be done away with altogether.)
Infrastructure for offices at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata Rs. 3,00,000
(It will involve hiring place, Internet connectivity, telephone, scanners, office furniture, camera, web designing, portal hiring, web-hosting etc.)
Monthly current expenses at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata
Rs. 15000 x 3 places Rs. 45,000
(These may include rent, phone, internet and power bill, photo-processing, city conveyance etc.)
Annual current expenses at three places Rs. 5,40,000
Total Annual Financial outlay on News Agency Rs. 25,80,000
We can postpone the resource centres for Year 2009.
Preparation of brochure in English/Urdu especially for Muslim students Rs.5000 Career lectures in 10 Muslim-concentrated areas or colleges across India Rs.25000