Papa, Buy Me That

At the right price, anyone can be a journalist. Thanks to the many institutes set up by our media houses.

If your daughter was enchanted by Preity Zinta playing a journalist in Lakshya and you have money to spend too, media houses have ensured that she can buy her media job as easily as she shops for her clothes. That’s what media houses offer for a six figure fee in their journalism institutes. So even if she thinks that HDI is the name of a disease and there is an agitation for a separate Telengana state in Uttar Pradesh led by Mamata Banerjee, you have to just loosen your purse strings to find her work as a reporter or as an editor. Do not be fooled by the editorial outrage in your newspapers or high pitched voices of protest on television channels against commercialisation of professional education. The rules of the games are not the same for the state and the corporate sharks running media houses.

The sharks have been quick to spot this cash cow. The post-liberalisation expansion of mass media was accompanied by a rise in demand for media “professionals” (for whatever meaning the word carries in journalism).  With a corporate outlook getting entrenched in their functioning, media houses developed bigger noses for the possibilities of making money than for news stories. And this demand had the opportunity of a killing to be made on the supply side. Similar to all scripts of post-liberalisation expansion, the focus and beneficiary of this demand-supply chain has been the class which has the purchasing power and most number of English-speaking young people – the urban middle class and the urban rich. The dominant presence of these socio-economic groups in the staff composition of major English as well Hindi media houses could be traced to the status-quoist economics of this demand-supply chain. Ironically, even Hindi TV media has shown a tilt in favour of recruiting people whose grasp of Hindi does not go beyond Bollywood’s disastrous flings with Hindi.  How?  A brief look at the fee charged by major media houses (the fee details given below are for post graduate courses only) would leave you in little doubt over the class they are eyeing.

1.    NDTV Broadcast Training Programme- The total fee for the course is Rs 1.90 lakh (plus applicable taxes). The institute is run by the group which owns NDTV 24×7, NDTV India, NDTV Profit, etc.  

2.    Times School of Journalism- The total fee for the course is Rs 2.79 lakh. The institute is run by the group which owns The Times of India, The Economic Times, Times Now, etc.

3.     TV Today Media Institute The total fee for the course is Rs 1.2 lakh. The institute is run by the group which owns Aaj Tak, Headlines Today, etc.

4.    Express Institute of Media Studies – The total fee for the course is Rs 1.95 lakh. The institute is run by the group which owns The Indian Express, The Financial Express, Jansatta, etc.

5.    Pioneer Media School- The total fee for the course is Rs 1.47 lakh. The institute is run by the group which owns The Pioneer.

6.    Jagran Institute of Management and Mass Communication- The total fee for the course is Rs. 1.25 lakh (Print Journalism), Rs. 1.5 lakh (TV Journalism) and Rs.1.5 lakh (Investigative Journalism). The institute is run by the group which owns India’s highest circulating Hindi daily Dainik Jagran.

7.    Manorama School of Communication- The total fee for the course is Rs.1 lakh (plus service tax as applicable). The institute is run by Malayala Manorama Group, which owns the widely read Malayalam daily Malayala Manorama, the English weekly The Week, etc.

8.    Some media institutes run by foundations, which have close links with media house, must find  mention here:

(a)  Asian College of Journalism:

Total fee for Television journalism: Rs. 3.25 lakh

Total fee for Print  journalism: Rs. 2.75 lakh

Total fee for Radio broadcasting: Rs. 2.75 lakh

Total fee for New Media Stream: Rs. 2.75 lakh

The institute is run by Media Development Foundation, and the trustees of the Foundation are: Sashi Kumar (Chairman), journalist, TV anchor and filmmaker; N Ram, Director and former Editor-in-chief, The Hindu; C P Chandrasekhar, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and newspaper columnist; and Radhika Menon, founder and Managing Editor of Tulika Publishers.

The institute has a close association with The Hindu and a considerable part of its faculty is constituted by the newspaper’s staff. N Ram, the former Editor-in-Chief and part of the family which owns the paper, is a trustee of the foundation (Ironically, The Hindu has consistently taken a strong editorial stand against commercialisation of education.) What is even more intriguing is that the foundation’s Chairman, Sashi Kumar, has been  fuming against the dangers of capitalist infusion in media houses and yet  presides over an institution which operates with a market model – seeking clients having high purchasing power for its one-year courses.

(b) The Statesman Print Journalism School: The total fee for the course is Rs 1.1 lakh. The institute is run by CR Irani Foundation, which as the name of both the institute and the foundation suggests, has a close association with The Statesman.

In The Hindu in April this year, media scholar Robin Jeffrey had sought to expose the faultlines of caste exclusions in Indian newsrooms. To add to that, the class divide has also been too visible to miss in newsrooms and editing desks of major media houses. The market model of media training is dangerous for obvious reasons.

First, it would tend to perpetuate the skewed class composition of the media workforce in favour of the privileged sections.

Second, as access to opportunities is guided by the family in which you were born and how affluent your parents are, even those who are not qualified but are from affluent families have a lion’s share of media jobs. Merit and quality media work have suffered because of such obvious biases in the system.

Third, generally speaking, the cocooned coffee-shop world of a growing number of journalists (having an affluent and insulated background) makes media narrative vulnerable to naive and shallow understanding of the heat, dust and banalities of everyday life. It shackles journalistic engagement.

As Manu Joseph tersely observes: “They are, after all, the easy beneficiaries of India’s inequities. It is not just about the maids, the baby maids, the cooks, the gardeners and the drivers, who come at laughable rates. The comfort is much deeper. As long as one is from a certain background, one does not have to be exceptional to go a long way in the private sector, academics, arts, media, anything really”.

There is something interesting and perhaps disturbing for the votaries of laissez faire economy to remember. One of the original high priests of liberal economy, Adam Smith had suggested that institutionalised education should be the prerogative of the state only (the public sphere),  and should not be owned by private entities. The nature and consequences of market-modelled media education in India manifest the dangers he had foreseen. When we read newspapers, watch news channels and try to understand the media narrative in general, we suffer the consequences of entrenched status-quoist class equations in newspaper offices and television studios.


Image by- Sumit Kumar

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  • I don’t see any evidence of hirings by these media companies being skewed to hire people from their institutes. You haven’t shown any evidence of jobs being promised to prospective students. Neither have you given any numbers on what percentage of the students that clear courses from these institutes get placed in media houses run by the parent group. Nor have you shown what percentage of new hirings are from the parent groups institutes what percentage come from outside.

    Guess you can add a another category in the quick and easy journalist route – get a website/blog and call it a news site.

    While I agree that the practice of groups owing media schools and media companies is questionable, but I don’t think it is a factory that turns anyone who can pay the fee into a journalist employed by the parent group. The basic economics of it all and plain old common sense would dictate against such a policy.

    • Seema

      The article has made very valid and meaningful analysis, and exposed the commerce of media training courses. Aditya, the evidence is for all to see, and statistics are not required for that. And remember it is an article, not a thesis. So author has done great work. Thank you Anand and Newslaundry for this article.

      • Azous D’Pilid

        It is an article, so therefore the author can say what he wants without even one number to back it up? Wow, such fantastic logic. Clearly this is a case of sour grapes talking. No worries.

        Manu joseph writes:
        “As long as one is from a certain background, one does not have to be exceptional to go a long way in the private sector, academics, arts, media, anything really”

        And of course, the Public Sector in India breeds absolute meritocracy. The Indian Public sector consists of people who are the salt of the earth.

        • Seema

          To be fair to the author, you can have these numbers if you make effort to look for these. All these journalism institutes owned by media houses boast about their placement records and they themselves provide numbers about their students hired by different media houses. So I hope Akshay (I called you Aditya in earlier comment) and Azous, please appreciate the very valid and excellent analysis in this article. Congratulations to Anand and Newslaundry for excellent stuff.

          • “To be fair to the author, you can have these numbers if you make effort to look for these.”

            If I were writing an article on the topic, I would’ve made an effort to look for the numbers, but I haven’t written the article, have I?

            In the article the author states that the composition of the media is skewed towards people from privileged backgrounds, but does not clarify what he means by privileged background. Middle class, upper middle class, Upper class, filthy rich, what? I’m going to assume he meant middle class or upper middle class, because both would be able to muster up the amounts of money needed for these courses, for the education of their kids. But again he just makes a “claim” without substantiating it with any evidence. The Hindu article he quoted was similar in lack of any evidence or numbers. It says there is a lack of Dalits in the higher up positions of the media, but fails to quote how many dalits applied for such positions, or how many dailts are interested in working in the media.

            Another thing that the article fails to observe is that the reason weaker sections of the society aren’t represented well in the media is because the education system failed them. How many of them can string together 3 coherent sentences in English, whether written or spoken? Or in Hindi, good enough Hindi to write for a newspaper? I’ve met many who can’t do that in either language, but English is almost always more deficient.

            This article is nothing but conjecture. It is grounded only on one piece of solid fact, which is the media schools operated by media houses, and does nothing to link that to the accusation laid out.

            I know for a fact that these media schools don’t promise jobs, at least the NDTV one doesn’t. A friend who has done Mass Communication inquired and was told that there is no guarantee that he’d be placed with NDTV after completing the course.

            And it makes no economic sense to take on everyone they admit in the schools, as they’d pay out a lot more in salaries than they’d make in the fees. And at the same time they’d lose out on better, more qualified people to their rivals, reducing their quality and hence harming their business. Or they’d take on extraneous employees, paying extra salaries to people they don’t need. It doesn’t make any bloody sense.

          • Seema

            As I have been working as an instructor in a journalism institute and watched the class composition of other such schools and media houses , I agree with the valid points the author of the article has made and very insightful questions he has raised.
            The tragedy is that comfort zone of some people stops them from understanding the reality that middle class is also a privileged class in many ways, and its purchasing power and aspirations are driving the commerce of money-minting education machine. And please understand that numbers are not required in an article for very obvious things. Robin Jeffrey’s article in The Hindu which author quotes in the article is based on very good research (and for numbers and empirical data, please read his detailed analysis in his books and academic publications). And author has not said that the same media house absorbs all students of the institute, but the excellent point the author makes (and very true) is that students get employed in some other media houses also ( the fraternity business) because of a comfortable starting line they got by purchasing the opportunity for a high fee.
            This article has also made very incisive observations and author chose not to burden a short article with statistics about very obvious things which are there for all to see. As I have watched these things as an instructor in a journalism institute, I completely agree with this article.

          • Please go back and read the first paragraph of the article, specifically this part –

            “If your daughter was enchanted by Preity Zinta playing a journalist in Lakshya and you have money to spend too, media houses have ensured that she can buy her media job as easily as she shops for her clothes. That’s what media houses offer for a six figure fee in their journalism institutes.”

            The author doesn’t outright say that the media houses absorb these students, he very strongly insinuates it. And for a good article, you need facts and figures to back up what you say. Can’t believe that someone who is an an instructor, rather claims to be one, at a journalism institute can’t see that.

          • Seema

            You have made up your mind to not agree with the article , you are free to do that. But, I think the article is very solid and insightful. There are many ways of writing an article ( and one should never try to define a ‘good article’) and author has chosen not to burden it with placement data of institutes because he might have thought of not giving space to things which you can find easily in the prospectus, brochures and ads of these institutes.
            The article has data about fee because it shows the economic class targeted by the institutes. The simple thing is that anyone spending money for the course will find work in one media house or other ( not necessarily that media house, but the student completing the course will be hired by other media houses). That’s what I have watched closely as an instructor in a journalism institute. And if you doubt that , you are welcome to doubt that. But, experiences tell me that the article is very valid and solid.

          • I haven’t made up my mind about anything related to this topic, I’m just lamenting on the lack of any hard data provided by the author.

            “The article has data about fee because it shows the economic class targeted by the institutes.”

            Nope it does not. Do you have a break down of the costs of the operational these institutes to justify saying that they are overcharging? Or do you expect them to turn into a public service/charitable organizations and give education at a loss? Going by your logic, private colleges, every private Engineering college, most medical colleges, most MBA institutes are targeting certain economic classes.

          • Seema

            You are distorting the argument to suit capitalist enterprise. That is where these media houses find justifications for their corporate roles- people buying the capitalist logic. But these media houses show hypocrisy in criticising commercialisation of education. But, this article has excellently exposed this hypocrisy. That’s why I agree with the core of the article and my experiences have shown that observations of the author are corrrect and insightful. Anyways, leave this debate here. You are free to have your views and I am free to have my views.

          • “But, this article has excellently exposed this hypocrisy.”
            How can you say that when the author doesn’t even this even once in the entire article? That, though, would’ve made a great article, he even had the facts to back himself up, assuming that the media does attack commercialisation in education enough to warrant that. Sadly he went in another direction without backing anything.

            And I am not distorting any facts, just pointing out that you and the author don’t have any to back up your claims.

          • Seema

            In my view, the article is excellent – it has brilliant analysis, great writing and has put things in correct perspective. This is what I think about this article. You may not think so. You are free to have your views. That’s all. We can have our differences. I hope you allow difference of opinions.

          • It wasn’t a difference of opinion that lead to this debate, it was the justifications you gave for your position that lead to it. You know, justifications like articles don’t need to present facts and that people who want them should go look for the facts themselves instead of asking the journalist for them(would like to someone telling that to a judge in case of a libel lawsuit – not for this post, just a general observation).

            Anyways, I guess this is the end of the debate. Was fun.

          • Azous D’Pilid

            Seema must clearly be the author masquerading as someone else.

          • That thought crossed my mind. Wouldn’t be surprised if she is.

  • Prat. Delhi

    Brilliant article. Really great to read such great observations and fine writing.

  • Delhi Belly

    Not more that 10% of the students are absorbed by the companies that run the institutes. And that 10% is a very small number. Period

  • Singh

    IIJNM (Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media), which follows the curriculum of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is the most underloved and underrated of all J-schools. Yes, the fee is high for journalism in private institutes, so is MBA expensive. And how many MBAs land themselves a ‘satisfying’ job after paying through the roof?

    IIJNM and ACJ (and not IIMC for some reasons) are good J-schools. Mr Anand must visit these two colleges and say the same things he has written here. I bet the brilliant counter-arguments will make look like a sort of buffoon. There are some really good future journalists in these schools, Mr Anand. Don’t generalize things after seeing some idiotic crime reporters who graduated from Times-Pioneer-NDTV media “iskools” in lawless Dilli.

    Do you have any idea what an IIJNM students does from 5 am to 11 pm every day? Story, story and more stories. Editing. Lots and lots of legwork. In actual real world comparison, these students will put to shame all the ‘telephone journalists’ who write crappy intros and copy+paste entire stories from pressers.

    What they do for a full-year Rs 1.5 lakh course in IIJNM is much, much better than what a full-fledged mediocre journalist of Rs 5 lakh CTC does in a year. These students learn how to file RTIs, chase officials, write good copies, make pages, and more. IIJNM has a simulated office environment in the last semester. Every student performs a role — from news editor to photographer turn by turn. Many of them have gone to work for foreign firms (NYT, CNN).

    I have met some students who took the loan to learn journalism in IIJNM, and they graduated nicely, got good jobs and importantly, did good journalism. Some of them had the passion — which you mock at — and IIJNM chiseled them into fine journalist. The college is bang in the middle of nowhere on the outskirts of Bangalore. Basic legwork and reporting for rural issues start automatically there, no matter who you daddy is.

    To understand the matter, you have to visit IIJNM and talk to the students. Until then you will have the virus in your head. See for yourself first.

    In my opinion, the problem is with the so-called J-schools run by media organisations in cities like Delhi. The city is not a good enough laboratory for budding journalists. There is a mad rush for things, things, things. Students only see the Capital, and are blind to what is happening in the country. There are wants and desires and material longing in this city — like in any other profession — that student journalists ape the wrong role models. We have a chief editor of a large daily who writes about music. Most ‘good’ journalists are the ones who manage to print their crappy passport sized photos in supplements. There is no public and visible recognition for a journalist who has not eaten in the Taj or someplace ‘expensive’ enough.

    What these cheapster j-schools run by media firms must understand is that journalism is not MBA, finance or banking. You can’t cram some people in a room and run slides to teach reporting and writing. Maybe they will write some good English and learn to talk to sources over the phone, but they will be mere robots.

    IIJNM and ACJ don’t churn out robots. That is the difference. I wish the writer had clearly distinguished the deserving j-schools from the third rate ones and then written this comment.

    Anyway, the invitation to visit IIJNM is still open. Perhaps, who knows, you will return a changed person.

  • What has not been underscored is the fact that institutions like Asian College of Journalism do offer scholarships to those who can’t afford the high fee structure. As a former student, I received 50% scholarship when the Chairman, Shashi Kumar was apprised of my economic constraints. I can’t disagree more.Sashi Kumar stands by what he says.

  • Rashmi Singh

    Excellent piece of writing. Anand, as usual, you have provided brilliant analysis and good observations. I agree with you when you write ‘class composition of media workforce is skewed in favour of privileged sections’. And you have correctly analysed how these money-driven opportunities are in favour of the rich from the starting point itself- access to media training and then job opportunities.

  • A high quality article.

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  • Hirsute Hippo

    Excellent. While this is admittedly more of an opinion piece, rather than a newsy story; great, sharp stuff to ponder on.

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