New Delhi: In contrast to the West, the Indian newspaper industry will grow strongly for another decade and a half due to mounting literacy, says international media watcher Robin Jeffrey.
“My prediction is that newspapers will continue to grow for at least another 10 years and television will consolidate – painfully,” Jeffrey said in his Rajendra Mathur memorial lecture at here Saturday evening.
“I think print in India has 10 to 15 years to go before it hits the sorts of downturn that is changing the print landscapes in the US and elsewhere,” said Jeffrey, author of “India’s Newspaper Revolution” book.
He was speaking on “Media Meditation: History, Prospects and Challenges for India”, organised by the Editors Guild of India.
He attributed the continued growth of the print media in India to rising literacy.
Pointing to the 30 percent illiterates, Jeffrey said, “more than 300 million people are still to be equipped with the ability to read a newspaper”.
Re-use value of the old newspaper is another factor that Jeffrey thinks would not shrink the newspaper industry in the country unlike in the West where many media establishments have shut down.
He says in India, where hundreds of millions live without luxuries, newsprint is so useful because it can be recycled and “can be used for so many things – from lining walls and ceilings to packaging bhel puri”.
Jeffrey, who has been a journalist in Canada, and has also lived and worked in India, Australia and Singapore, said the challenges the media faces in India were both “uncomfortable” and “exhilarating”.
Cautioning the media to guard against paid news, Jeffrey said: “None of this is to say that the society – or the media industries – should tolerate ‘paid news’.” He described as abhorring the practice of “selling the news pages for propaganda masquerading as reporting”.
He advised Indian media publications to be vigilant against the invasion of privacy.
Industry should not “tolerate the tasteless, cruel and illegal invasion of privacy that brought the downfall of the UK’s News of the World”, Jeffrey said.
He added: “The contest over ethics, taste and security in Indian media are similar to those that have gone on in the US, UK and other English speaking countries for more than 200 years.”
Why is India not having a respected, “global Indian voice” like Al Jazeera, BBC and CNN?
Jeffrey said an Indian global news presence could become a world standard because India has it all and “there is no country in the world better able to reflect the world” than what India could do.
“India has a huge pool of talented, multilingual, English speaking journalists” coupled with the Indian diaspora on every continent who can provide both journalists and contacts.