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Papa, Buy Me That
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Papa, Buy Me That

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

By Anand Vardhan

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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.

Papa, Buy Me That

Image by- Sumit Kumar