In September 2010, Alan Rusbridger (@arusbridger on Twitter) told a group of Indians that digital technology was eating up traditional print newspapers. I can’t imagine why, given that (between 2005 and 2007) the number of paid-for Indian dailies grew 44% to over 2000 titles, according to the World Association of Newspapers. That gives India more newspapers than any other country. They are published in more than 30 languages and reach 325 million readers. Every day, six English business dailies roll off the press. In contrast, the U.S. has just one business paper, The Wall Street Journal and the UK has the Financial Times.
At it currently stands, 74 percent of India’s 1.24 billion people are literate. And clearly, they are spoiled for choice when it comes to the media they consume. Sustained by increased literacy and income across the country, the Fourth Estate is growing prodigiously in a time of worldwide decline.
Close to 650 million Indian TV viewers have the benefit of choosing among 500 cable/satellite/DTH channels of which more than 125 are 24×7 news channels. English News media in TV is just 0.7% of the total.
Drastically different from the UK, you would agree.
What I find most interesting though, is the thrust towards increased transparency in the UK. The best example is the News of the World (an Edelman client), whose website currently reads as “THE WORLD’S GREATEST NEWSPAPER 1843 – 2011. THANK YOU AND GOOD BYE”. For those that didn’t follow this (you aren’t a PR or media professional), a row over phone-hacking by journalists led to its closure, the establishment of the Leveson Inquiry, an MPs’ inquiry and the launch of three police investigations.
To further highlight the emphasis on transparency and other issues, I’d like to cite the example of how Trinity Mirror’s Sly Bailey quit her position as chief executive.
India on the other hand is currently mired with the malaise of paid-content and the need for increased accountability! The practice of paid news by media in the world’s largest democracy deceives the principles of ethical journalism i.e. objective, fair and unbiased.
Read about the Times Group’s Private Treaties and you will know what I mean! Equally speculative was the announcement in January 2012 about Reliance Industries, India’s biggest listed company, expanding its footprint in the media sector, with a major investment in the TV18 group.
A common thread between the UK and India is the bifurcation of Trust in the media. On one hand you have The Guardian ‘open journalism’ policy, while on the other you have the tabloids. Similar comparisons can be made in India too. For more on Trust in Media, check out this infographic from the Edelman 2012 Trust Barometer.
I am sure there’s a lot more to learn and share. But where else should a public relations professional start, if not the media landscape. Watch this space…
PS: Since I’m blogging about media in India and the UK, you should know that the first major newspaper in India—The Bengal Gazette—was started in 1780 under the British Raj by James Augustus Hickey. Other newspapers soon followed and they all carried news of the areas under the British rule.
Ash Munshi is a DJE Global Fellow from Mumbai, currently in London.