'Need to increase diversity in online journalism'
A report authored by an associate professor of Jamia Millia Islamia and titled ‘Mapping Digital Media’ was debated at length by various experts from the legal and media fields in the city on Sunday.
The report, which states that the ‘digital divide’ in the country is not as clearly demarcated as in other countries, says that 60 per cent of all households in the country have cable and satellite television and that the public broadcaster, Doordarshan National, covers about 92 per cent of the 1,200 million plus population which includes a sizable share of the estimated 300 million people who live below the poverty line.
The discussions focused on how digital media influenced policy, law and regulations, journalism and activism in the country. Lawrence Liang of the Alternative Law Forum said that while India had a good history of enabling free speech, it fared badly in understanding questions of ownership and control of infrastructure.
Arun Venkatraman of CG-Net Swara, an online voice-based news portal, said, “With large parts of India having no access to telecom services, there is a need to look at de-licensed technology like Citizen Band Radio.”
Meera K from Citizens Matters, an online news portal, said that while the percentage of Indian’s online remains small, in terms of absolute numbers, they still amounted to 50 million. “Regional language websites and ‘alternative blogs’ represent a vibrant online community. They are. However, faced with challenges of financial sustainability,” she said while pushing for an increase in ‘middle class activism’ with the use of digital tools.
Freelance journalist Geeta Sheshu cautioned against the rising number of bloggers who promoted products through their writing.
“Unlike paid news, there is almost no attention being given to this phenomenon. News websites also tend to mirror traditional media with problems of centralised news production and decreased investment in news gathering,” she said.
Subhash Rai, Associate Editor, newindianexpress.com, pushed for diversifying the social composition of online journalists in order to increase diversity.
“High costs of infrastructure and content management systems will remain a challenge to many news websites and organisations in their transit to digital media,” he said. The report is available online at http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/mapping-digital-media-india.