Media Convergence: Paradigm Shift in the Broadcasting Sector

Waqar Ahmed Fahad*
Research Scholar, Department of English and Communication Studies at
Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi

Abstract

Convergence is simply an occurrence of two or more things coming together. Is it really dealing with the overlapping of the erstwhile identity or it is a merger for a better result? The term symbolizes a transformation through a new idea. Change is inevitable (Robert C. Gallagher) but does every change follow a trajectory that leads to a positive development? The art of improvisation is an unplanned expedient which is responsible for a better outcome.

Change can take place in two ways: either evolutionary or revolutionary. Certain subtle intricacies are often overlooked as they signify a deep meaning. The governance of any nation-state is derived through a mechanism that is irksome yet progressive in terms of different implications. There were two great ruling systems in the world (Capitalism and Socialism) and they comprised the Bi-Polarity. A few countries chose to remain aloof from both schools of thought and a new idea surfaced in the form of the Non- Aligned Movement. It came to the rescue of those who were marginalized and fallible. India was a nation that gave birth to the new alliance but it had a mission to cater to the problems of the nations of the third world.

This paper will be discussing how we adopted some new trends and adulterated our economy under the disguise of the new Economic Policy and making NAM a toothless, spineless, and a futile association. “Yes, NAM is still relevant, even if it is not as strong as it was,” says Nihal Rodrigo, former secretary-general of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and a one-time NAM coordinator under the 1976 chairmanship of Sri Lanka. There is a contradiction in this statement because of policy paralysis and no clear mandate for tackling issues about the economic, social, and political growth of the nations. Capitalism gave a new meaning to Imperialism, Consumerism, Orientalism, and Hegemony. This paper will also try to see whether technology is a bane or a boon to the structure of the economy.

The role of Development Communication will also be discussed in the latter part of the paper. It is a metamorphosis that enlightened the nations and helped in reducing a lot of social taboos. The paper will see whether various global economic reforms have led to any gratification. It will also be dealing with some issues relating to cultural influences, expansion of new markets, and imperialist forces taking over with a special reference to the media industry. The aim is to study the paradigmatic changes and how they have reciprocated to different environments.

Introduction

Are we again rediscovering Non- Alignment? The term originated primarily India and Yugoslavia secluding themselves from the other dominant paradigms. The pioneer of the non-alignment, PanditJawaharLal Nehru was not foresighted in terms of governance and failed at various levels. (1)The word itself was conceived in the context of the cold war and it does not necessarily have connotations of success in foreign policy. It is not as if non-alignment was a golden period for Indian diplomacy. Actually, nobody from NAM countries supported us in 1962 when China spurred a war with us. Today, non- alignment sounds like a backward-looking approach and we must compete with other nations to flourish. This paper will examine whether we achieved anything after diluting the economy and what was the impact on the media industry after the convergence of governance.

History

The term development is a very old metaphor which is a polysemic text in nature. It has a lot of different connotations and implications depending upon varied cultural, political, and economic settings. During the Second World War, a lot of countries were completely devastated. The catastrophe was too great in terms of intensity leaving people in a destitute state for long years. Then, a few nations understood the importance of development. They are called Developed Nations or First World. The laggards were by default forced to have a forum or association which would enable them to exchange information and communication by confining their economies to themselves.

The World Bank, earlier known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, came into being in 1945. The deprived nations then had understood the importance of development and reconstruction so that they should be able to reconstruct their devastated regions. It was meant to cater to the economic needs of their zone. Some other financial institutions also came into existence like IMF (International Monetary Fund) in 1945 and the Bretton Woods Institution (1944). The idea behind coming together of all the financial institutions was to meet the fiscal deficit. Soon after the war, the advent of these institutions rang an alarm in all nations to foster their economic growth by lending loans.

Today’s developing nations are those which followed a monolithic process of governance by not opening up their economies. The countries that evolved as Capitalist Nations were ready for any economic intervention. They forged numerous associations for strategic alliances and bodies to enable them to produce and exchange various tradable components which can be instrumental for the nations to grow exponentially.

Socialism, SITE did not serve India well

India was a non- aligned nation but it was non-aligned to the capitalist world because it was not ready for any form of colonial structure to prevail. India had been a British colony for a long time, and it wanted to enjoy the fruits of liberation. But soon there were hiccups in terms of political instability in the country. A lot many religious ideologies emerged, disguising themselves as political ones. The creation of the NAM pool was a hollow response to the large multi-national information and political co-operation.

India got inflicted with social taboos that resulted in no or low development in the early phases of liberation. India devised Five Year plans soon after independence but no benefit can be observed because of the stress caused by the 1962 and 1971 wars. A few sociologists and media theorists tried to find out the reasons for underdevelopment in Asia. The found the Indian society as highly traditional and fatalistic. It related everything to fate. The root cause of poverty was too much interdependence in a few sectors.

India joined the Socialist bloc which was influenced by Marx and the Russian Revolution in the 19th century. Bolshevik sympathies rejected the opening up of the economy for larger betterment.

The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE), an experimental satellite communications project, launched in India in 1975 was designed jointly by NASA and the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The project made available informational television programs to rural India. The main objectives of the experiment were to educate the poor people of India on various issues via satellite broadcasting, and also to help India gain technical experience in the field of satellite communications. The experiment ran for one year from 1 August 1975 to 31 July 1976, covering more than 2500 villages in six Indian states and territories. The television programs were produced by All India Radio and broadcast by NASA’s ATS-6 satellite stationed above India for the duration of the project.

I call this project as the biggest failure in the intellectual history of communication. The reason is that India was never the first option for the United States. They wanted to conduct this experiment in China as their first preference but China’s communist ideologies prevented that. The Chinese could sense a threat of revolution and moreover, they (Chinese) never wanted to allow the satellite broadcast, just like All India Radio still does not want any commercial broadcasters to have the right to deliver the news. The question is when TV channels are allowed then why can’t radio be allowed news broadcast?

The second choice for SITE was perhaps Brazil. But by 1967, (when an MoU was signed between the Indian and the US governments), most of the Brazilian population had started migrating to urban centers. The premise on which I call it unsuccessful was that after one year, in the year 1976, NASA did not continue the project although the Indian government wanted it. The project had suffered huge losses. They did not want to pursue it further because India was still reluctant for the next phase of development and they could not carry on in an environment of illiteracy, poverty, and lack of knowledge. SITE could have been useful in different ways if we had set some achievable goals. Till the time we do not have sufficient electricity supply how could we be expected to watch TV?

Media and monopoly

In the late 80s when the USSR started collapsing, a new form of dependency emerged. It is a theory of social science predicated on the notion that resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former. It is a central contention of dependency theory that poor states are impoverished and the rich ones are enriched by the way poor states are integrated into the “world system.”(2)

Russia was richer than Kazakhstan and hence Kazaks had no source to produce the media content because they could not invest or think of owning the infrastructure. The Russians took advantage of being richer in terms of resources and they got the weaker nation (Kazaks) to get their programs made in Russia which offered the content demanded but the programs were often dubbed and most of them were being produced for the Russians only. Kazakhstan was dependent completely on Russia for its programming content, as they lacked the technical know-how and the knowledge required.

The media in India was also facing a form of dependency but that was subtle in nature and very difficult to tackle. The Indian media was not ready for any form of outsourcing and hence all the content had to originate in India.

The Indian media was seeking autonomy for a very long time; the entire media was under the clutches of the government. Before the infusion of NEP (New Economic Policy), Doordarshan and AIR were not ready to shell out their powers to anyone and they wanted to enjoy and exercise complete authority. This form of monopoly led to a new debate of domination and hence no diversity in the programming content.

In India, telecommunications have been a scarce commodity, but then we have evolved into the world’s largest telecommunication network only through the opening up of the economy. The planned economy had nothing to offer but led to a public player to deal with the world’s second-largest population. The network had to be expanded but the government was a failed player, unable to deal with debts. The policy paralysis was not only a cause of adulterating the economy but was a consequence of not ruling the nation with one sector only. The call for a convergence of economy was heard loud and clear and India was ready for a paradigm shift.

The political economy of communication and concentration of ownership

It is that how values of all kinds are produced, distributed, exchanged, and consumed (the economic); how power is produced, distributed, exchanged, and exercised (the political); and how these aspects of the social world are related at any given place and time in history. A political economy of communication is therefore concerned with understanding how communication figures in political-economic formations more generally. (3)

At one point in time Rupert Murdoch, CEO, News Corporation, held 64 percent shares of the world media. It shows how the concentration of ownership has taken a new leap in which all small actors are marginalized by the conglomerates. The dichotomy of quality and diversity cannot be quashed out completely as they are in a Catch 22 situation. The concentration of ownership has redefined media convergence; media is not only integrating vertically but also going for cross-media ownership. Earlier trends in media show that it has no pluralism but now media houses have their print, electronic and online arms, thus making it a new form of convergence.

Media is not only increasing its share in the same domain by investing but also buying shares in other sectors too and vice- a- versa. For instance, Reliance has started a production company and a TV broadcaster as well as a radio station. The increasing levels of consolidation may lead to a new monopoly which will be a private monopoly. From a public monopoly to a private monopoly is again bad for healthy competition in the market and it kills the motto of the free market. It is apparent that these are the gifts of corporate capitalism but regulations can curb the system efficiently. (4)

Gramsci speaks about hegemony which is nothing but indirect imperialism, but it is related to culture. Every country has its own culture but these political economists are trying to turn the world into a global village by making villages a new urban-centric species which will only consume their culture. They are the ones who believe and advocate the demonizing theory of consumerism, make people consume more and more things, and promote their culture by making it universal and churning a large number of profit from it.

The premise of making people consume more is to make them volatile. For example, India was under the strong influence of socialism but when India and some other nations were unable to return the debts to the IMF, the then President of IMF Mr. Robert McNamara came up with Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) which are policies implemented by the IMF and the World Bank (the Bretton Woods Institutions) in developing countries. These policy changes are conditions for getting new loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank, or for obtaining lower interest rates. Conditionalities are imposed to ensure that the money lent will be spent following the overall goals of the loan. The goal of the SAPs is to reduce the borrowing country’s fiscal imbalances. The form of the borrowing country’s loan depends upon the type of necessity. The SAPs are supposed to allow the economies of the developing countries to become more market-oriented. This then forces them to concentrate more on trade and production so it can boost their economy

It is also known as manufacturing the consent of a nation that opens its economy because it is compelled to do so. The world was shaking with a huge oil crisis. All oil-importing nations had forced an embargo as a form of protest. When India ultimately diluted the economy the private international and local players entered the market, making it difficult for all those who lacked finances. Privatization came to the rescue of the economy but had other malicious agendas on the fringe.

The new entrants in the media started proliferating rapidly but still, a lot of new forms of regulations started making it difficult for them. One of them is TRAI, a media regulator. But it was never able to address and resolve any dispute. Media was unknown territory for the government which was unfamiliar with issues related to it. As international broadcasting was seen as a monster in India, they started inviting more players to invest and divest the sector completely.

The new media is evolving and replacing the other media with unmatchable speed. Development communication can bring a lot of changes in the country but first, we need to be ready for any form of development, and till the time we are not receptive, development cannot be done at any level.

Internet as the convergent media

With the advent of www (World Wide Web) new public spheres have started emerging (5)Public sphere is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems and through that discussion influence political action. It is “a discursive space in which individuals and groups congregate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment. The public sphere can be seen as “a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk” and “a realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed”. The new media spaces are helping people to interact and be part of global communities and making the world a Global Village (6). The idea of a citizen is also collapsing as now only residents exist in the nations but the internet has made everybody Netizens.

It is also highly dangerous for floating propaganda as well. The Propaganda Model (7)states how propaganda, including systemic biases, function in mass media. The model seeks to explain how populations are manipulated and how consent for economic, social, and political policies are “manufactured” in the public mind due to this propaganda. Under this model of owning a particular media censors a fair and unbiased version of the media. The largest propaganda machinery of the United States has the largest number of media organizations dominating the entire world with their homogenized programming, making it compulsory for every nation. In the name of hybridism the diversity has been reduced and giving us no option but to believe in their culture as better than ours. It helped e-commerce to encapsulate the market with the quick and instant sale, by often luring the audience with exaggerated claims. The developments in ICT (information and communication technologies) also gave birth to demand goods and services as needs. Leapfrogging in the technical areas led to the quantum jump in sales of various things and made it difficult for physical markets to operate. Internet markets became unmanageable and ungovernable as international codes and ethics vested their interest in making new markets in Asia.

It led to aesthetic compromises mentioned, for example, in Orientalism (8)which is a great masterpiece by Edward Said in which he explains how the west always fantasized about the east (orients). Hegemony or Survival by Chomsky is an anecdote of factual details of the US being the most atrocious nation which says that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon because it is an uncivilized nation though only the US has ever used a nuclear bomb in history. The media moguls have always tried to maintain their reign and absolute power over all the nations. The other developments in the new media technologies are incorporating for improvisation.

Conclusion

The imbalances of information and communication which were sought in the 1970s by the McBride Commission (9) was nothing but an alarm for the entire East that now West will dominate the world communication structure and it cannot be challenged or else the major source of funding will be kept away. Not only because of less transparency and accountability in the UN and US media policy but a lot many other factors contributed to set up a new communication structure. The convergence of the Indian governance not only came up to meet the economic and social deficit but also gave corporate dividends which were inevitable to the process. It led to larger mayhem flourishing many other inter-connected evils.

The media industry is not only privatized but also ‘penalized’ in more than one way. If it is providing a new diversity in terms of technology and content it is also eroding the local and regional programming, making people addicted to foreign programming, adapted programming, or dubbed programming. If governance had not opened and converged or assimilated then this sabotage of our own content and creativity would not have been done. The knowledge is not being utilized in making any innovative media shine but to adopt different and convenient media. The holocaust cannot be quantified, but its great magnitude can be seen in the content, technology, infrastructure, knowledge, and information. The new co-regulated government of India has broadened the horizon to embed new forms of media. This is a new form of imperialism that has come under the liberalization of the economy and left the nations with no other choice but to Deregulate, Decentralize, and De-monopolize our market and media.

Bibliography and References

  1. Gharekhan.R. Chinmaya (2012) “Rediscovery of Non- Alignment”, the Hindu, Saturday 24th March, Editorial
  2. Frank. A.G. (1970) “Dependency theory of Modernization”
  3. Graham.Phil “Political Economy of Communication” A Critique
  4. Gramsci Antonio (1921) “Cultural Hegemony”
  5. Habermas. J. (1962) “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society”
  6. Mcluhan Marshall (1962) “The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man”
  7. Herman & Chomsky (1988) “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”
  8. Said Edward (1978) “Orientalism”
  9. Sean McBride (1981) “Many Voices One World” UNESCO Report

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