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"The media and the government have a broken relationship": Uday Shankar

Shankar said that the government has neither been able to leverage the impact mass media can have in India nor harness the power of media as an economic engine.

At FICCI Frames 2014, which commenced today, Uday Shankar, chief executive officer of STAR India and chairman, FICCI Media & Entertainment gave the opening remarks and talked about the Indian media industry, it's relation with policy actors and the government of the day.

"The media and the government have a broken relationship": Uday Shankar
According to Shankar, amidst an environment of gloom and doom, the media and entertainment industry registered an impressive growth of 12 per cent last year. "The fact that we have been able to deliver this in light of an overall economic growth of 4 per cent and a major resetting of exchange rates is a testament to the tenacity of the industry's leaders and stakeholders," he said.

Shankar added that this is not a sector whose value is measured just by the size of its financial contribution. Media and entertainment, he said, remains central to defining the direction of India's social and economic path; its work remains key to the imagination and inspiration of a billion Indians every day; and its health will be central to the ethos and values of the society we collectively shape.

Shankar expressed surprise that irrespective of the political party or government in power, the media is expected to always be a flag bearer for the party line. "So, there is no complaint when the media builds up the image of a clean, technocratic Prime Minister. Nor is there any problem when the media trumpets the idea of a youth leader or champions the development achievements of state leaders. But dare they cross the line into seeking accountability or evidence of performance, they are dubbed as incompetent or worse, corrupt," he added.

"Of course, the media has been more than just a silent victim in creating this environment. Too often, the news media has focused on what is sensational rather than what is important. Too often, the point of news seems to be to reduce the extraordinary diversity of the country to the most banal, a contest between extremes that can only be resolved through a shouting match on live television. With singular dominant narratives, the trend seems to be of creating heroes on a particular day, only to be labelled as thugs and crooks the next," Shankar averred.

"Instead, it is now a broken relationship, and one that has dire consequences for both the industry as well as the government. The failure to establish credibility and importance has meant the industry perennially stays on a back foot, defending itself against every new wave of regulation aimed only at further curtailing its wings. In return, the government has not been able to leverage either the impact that mass media can have in India or harness the power of media as an economic engine that can create jobs and wealth," he said.

Shankar opined that the weeks before the elections is the right time to call for a new contract between the government and the media - one that reaffirms both stakeholders to the theme of this year's FICCI Frames: Transforming Lives.

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