The future of media in India By Vikram Dutt, Documentary film maker and Consultant in Media Predominantly electrifying.

The change that we desire in the world will be greatly influenced by the media. Many of the pleasures that we wish for ourselves will become available through the media; more specifically our mobile phone: the new face of electronic media as we start the second decade of the new millennium. The history of Mankind will need to take note of three great innovations and how they have come together: the telephone first, followed by television (the moving picture) and finally the computer. Now all together in the palm of our hands in the form of the mobile phone. A confluence of voice, data, applications of all sorts – easily and comfortably referred to as media. At the press of a switch – though now new technology promises that even a breath is sufficient to operate it – mobiles respond to our moods, needs and cravings: with large screen mobiles having remarkable clarity while showing movies and broadcasting the latest music… In other words, this technology blast has started influencing the manner in which media is used and indeed created. Take film and television. With programmes already available on the mobile screen, the earlier grandeur of the 70mm screen – the immortal Ben Hur was the first mega picture on a wide screen with stereophonic sound that persons from our generation saw – the shift in production techniques has started focussing on sharp definition with close ups and no wide screen grandeur. Take music. As kids, we grew up on Vividh Bharti, Binaca Geet Mala from Radio Ceylon (do youngsters even know that Ceylon is the name by which Sri Lanka used to be known?), BBC for serious listening and Voice of America to be in step with the times of jazz and the latest in melodies that we could dance to; or at least fantasize about with the partner of our dreams… Philip Neelam on Delhi ‘B’ and ‘A Date With You’ on Friday evenings had us glued to the transistors to catch the latest blues! We would hunt down friends who had large radios – either Philips or HMV (His Masters Voice) the better to enjoy the bass of the sounds on larger speakers. Then came the

stereos – and the saving up to buy the best with outputs of 100W upwards with speakers that were huge, took up a lot of space and could never ever be played at even half their volume capacity for fear of annoying both parents and the neighbours. Then came the Walkman, the IPod, MP3 and the mobile phone. With unbelievable sound quality. What is critical to note is that the production of media changed drastically as did broadcasting techniques. So new techniques had to be learnt; the older people in the field had to unlearn and relearn to keep pace with the newer generation of broadcast media experts and professionals. On my first visit to New Delhi in the mid fifties, I remember being totally fascinated by a big black box which showed moving pictures in black and white and also had sound. I was accompanying my father and we were staying at the Claridges: still a marvellous hotel. There was just one television set in the lobby and telecast was for a couple of hours only, every day. All the hotel guests would secure vantage seats in the lobby to partake of this mesmerizing manna for the mind. Little realizing that half a century later, it would rule our minds by influencing how we think and subsequently act. When China attacked us almost half a century ago in 1962, the 9 pm news broadcast from All India Radio National Service was our window to the manner in which our military was doing In the face of the enemy. We would wait for the four to five beeps that signalled the time. “This is All India Radio. The news read by Melville De Mellow” galvanised us in the same manner, as when today we get Prannoy Roy as the anchor on prime time television news. It is a signal that something momentous has taken place that warrants the best in the field to make a personal appearance..! Sometimes, Melville (who was probably the first broadcaster to get the Padma Shri in the good old days: if memory serves me right it was in the early part of the sixties) would send voice broadcasts on the television – reporting from the war front. The pictures were grainy: there was no satellite in those days.

Melville de Mellow

Film was shot – sent by air; usually military transport- developed, edited and then put on the news on TV. Shiv Sharma, who later became the Director General of Doordarshan, was the producer at the war front. Three decades and more later, when the Kargil war took place, we actually had greenhorn reporters competing for physical and air space with veteran broadcasters; technology having made every thing so very simple! This is actually marvellous since it reflects the manner in which technology influences the media and whatever it telecasts, broadcasts, web casts or nowadays, ‘mobile-casts!’

Take the internet. When I first wrote for the net – I was writing the content for an NGO site – the style was lyrical, employing words to create a dreamlike quality for the reader. Fifteen or so years later, I was re-reading the site (it had retained much of the original writing) and was simply horrified at the almost insolent manner in which it ‘demanded’ the time of the reader. Toady, forget about it. If I cannot capture the interest of the browser on the first screen, the challenge is lost! This reflects spectacularly on the media teaching methodology as well as curriculum. The future lies in concise yet eclectic writing and presentation styles. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, and my generation had just entered that wondrously joyful part of growing up called ‘college’ the small transistor glued to the ear with its tinny sound was our bond to a most momentous and extra ordinary happening. Today, I can visualise live telecast from the moon surface straight to my mobile screen. The broadcaster today has to combine technological understanding with skills of communication; in a style that was not required earlier, even a decade ago. In India and indeed the Commonwealth, cricket is the religion that binds. As a kid growing up with the exploits of Vijay Hazare and Vinoo Mankad reverberating through the airwaves of again the ubiquitous transistor glued to the ear; I could not imagine that just a few decades later the even smaller than the tiny transistor, the mobile, would bring me the latest news, updates and times for prayer when Sachin approaches yet another century! More importantly, for the media Vijay Hazare professionals, it has been the opening up of a whole new world: new reporting, writing and broadcasting styles. A new world where trial by media has been institutionalised. A la cricket. The umpires’ decision referral system, third umpires and match referees’ reliance on the microphone (snickometer) and video replays to sit in judgement on the play. Then what indeed is wrong in Rathore, Yadav and Sharma having to face trial by the media?! This though is simplistic. More critically, it demonstrates the responsibility of the media in projecting the correct word and visual images; since the people are greatly influenced by the media. Thus the future for all of us in the media is exciting. A century ago and more, The Statesman, Amrita Bazar Patrika, The Leader and other vernacular papers started taking the message of freedom from British rule to the people. Today, it is entrusted with the responsibility for bringing about social equity, a transparent political and judicial system; all leading to a just and equitable

civil society. In simple and straightforward words, the advancement of India is in the hands of the media. We must rise to this stimulating test

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