Resolution on People’s Progressive Culture and Modern Media

Manorama Group, Sahara Group, Sun Group, Bhaskar Group and Jagaran Group. Tatas, Goenkas, Birlas, Ambanis have invested heavily in media groups which act as the political arm of corporate power, propagating the virtues of further liberalisation of Indian economy – FDI in retail trade for example – and going soft on corporate crimes their patrons are accused of.

20. We oppose concentration of all forms of media in the hands of a few houses and cross-media holdings (where television, radio channels and newspapers in different languages have a common owner, who sometimes also owns the means of distribution such as a cable or internet network) because democracy is inconceivable in the absence of plurality and diversity of opinions. We therefore demand progressive legislation as well as appropriate rules to be framed for the purpose by statutory bodies responsible for regulating media in the country. At the same time we oppose the recent decision to allow up to 74 percent FDI in the broadcast sector.

21. Also rampant is the phenomenon of politicians owning and/or controlling electronic or print media companies. Since all
forms of mainstream media rest upon advertising revenue (some
newspapers allocating up to 80% of print space to advertising), the “advertorial route” to bribe and influence media is fairly common among politicians and corporations alike. Several Chief Ministers have been in the news in recent years for doling out large sums of public money in media management. As the Radia tapes controversy clearly showed, business- politics connections are sometimes forged through influential media personalities, giving rise to a veritable media-corporate-politician nexus. In a situation like this, it is only natural that corporate and political crimes and corruption often spill over to the media sector or translates into media abuse in multiple ways. To take one instance, the 1.86 thousand crore Coalgate scam exposed by the CAG of India involved such companies as DB corp. Ltd. which runs Dainik Bhaskar, Usha Martin Ltd. which owns Prabhat Khabar, and so on. However, no nexus is free from internal tussles, and at times mutual blackmailing and extortion are also reported, as in the recent case involving the Zee group and Jindals.

22. The preponderant corporate and political influence over print and electronic media naturally result in paid news, manipulated stories, distorted information and half-truths as well as suppression of important news items. In 2010, the Press Council released a report on the phenomenon of paid news, and in 2013 a Press Council team indicted the Bihar Government of muzzling and arm-twisting the press. The pro-saffron press played by no means a minor role in fomenting anti-Muslim and anti-Christian pogroms in Gujarat and Kandhamal (Odisha). With their coverage of anti-terror investigations and arrests, most of the dominant media act as partners of the police and investigative agencies in conducting a witch-hunt of large numbers of innocent Muslim and Kashmiri youth. Almost the entire corporate media routinely betray dominant class, caste and gender biases in reporting and news analysis. They also act as vehicles of national chauvinism, no longer against immediate neighbours alone but also against weaker nations. A small yet perhaps trendsetting instance of the latter was noticed in the jingoist/chauvinist outbursts in a section of the national press against the Maldivian government (some comments even suggested strong punitive measures against it) on its very reasonable cancellation of a contract with the Indian company GMR for construction of an airport in Malé. Such subservience to the politics of the ruling classes finds glaring expression also in subtle political propaganda against working class strikes and organised mass movements – especially those led by revolutionary forces – as well as in a conspiracy of silence, which blacks out even major popular campaigns even as anarcho-militarist activities are deliberately sensationalised.