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Looking ahead with a new media system

The digital revolution, which has transformed media and communication around the world, has even greater impact on a country of the size and scale of India. The euphoric celebrations of the digital era into which the Asian region and its subvariants, the Asia Pacific, the ASEAN and South Asia have leaped is reminiscent of many such parallels in the past. Both colonial and post-colonial developments have highlighted the techno-centric dimension of media. The earlier conceptions of media imperialism formulated by scholars such as Herbert Schiller were largely UScentric. With the significant rise of media in Asia, the observation is that ‘Asianness is colonising international communications markets, influencing the production of hardware’ (Liu et al., 2017: 1).

The growth and spread of telecommunications in India has gone beyond the historical perception of the telephone as not only a luxury but also expensive.The teledensity as of February 2020 was 90 per cent, with more mobile users than landline. Modi government’s‘Digital India’programme launched in 2015 intends to build on the expansion and further reach out to remote and rural areas to make it inclusive and universal. At least two factors of the relationship of developments in telecom to legacy media are recognized. The adaptation of digital media opportunities by the print and broadcasting, and increasing use of social media by different sections of the population needs to be underscored.The print media have adapted to digital formats and transmission (Aneez and Neyazi, 2019). In social media, disinformation, also referred to as fake news, is a more serious problem (Alisha, 2018). Concerns about the spread of rumours in volatile situations have led to Internet shutdowns across the country’s sensitive and troubled areas (Rampal, 2019). Journalists and reputable media institutions are worried about this rumour-mongering, including the responsibility they have to disseminate verified and credible news (Panneerselvan, 2019).

Colonial origins and experience have considerably influenced the media system and structures in India.The nationalist cause codified their functions including formalizing the Indian language media as an important element. Post-independence, the media system, including broadcasting, was shaped by political and economic factors, including responses to globalization that have led to corporatization of the media. The public-broadcasting system is tenacious and valiantly trying to discharge its social sector obligations. Recognizing this complex interplay, the Sectoral Innovation Council of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has articulated the need for a comprehensive media policy that integrates all existing media segments, including the need for regulation to address new ground realities (Swaroop, 2012). In the current economic conditions, we cannot ignore the exclusionary realities of the digital media system. The unfolding policy dynamics of digital India faces challenges of social and economic exclusion, not only with regard to media but in financial and governance matters.

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