Uday Sahay talks about his new book on media and public communication
Government and the media always share a tumultuous relationship. But Uday Sahay is in a unique position. He has served in the Indian Police Service as well as in Prasar Bharati. After taking voluntary retirement from the IPS, Uday turned a media commentator and is now posted as the Additional Director General (Communications) in the Organising Committee of Commonwealth Games, Delhi 2010. To top it all, he has a seasoned media professional, Vartika Nanda, as his soul mate, who teaches journalism at Lady Shri Ram College.
A compilation of their articles has been published by Samayik Praksahan as “Media Aur Jan Samvad”. While Vartika has written on the media, Uday has contributed on public communication. “The book is for lay readers as well as the media professionals. I have written on issues like the impact of globalisation on the media and vice versa. The cosmetics of news, dependence on TRPs?.Yes, it is a compilation of articles published in different newspapers, but we have taken care to make suitable changes to make them contemporary. In newspapers you have a word limit. Here we had the opportunity to develop the thought extensively.”
Uday, who edited Making News: Handbook of the Media in Contemporary India, gives an interesting insight into globalisation: “In India the first feature film was Raja Harishchandra, while in Hollywood it was The Great Train Robbery. It brings out the difference in public communication. While the former gives an insight into the problems an honest man faces in the society, the latter talks about the lust to make the quick buck in American society. Both represented their cultures. It is no longer the case. Earlier, we had a variety of local songs for the marriage ceremony in different parts of the country. Today it is almost the same. We find the same five fruits everywhere in the country?.”
Talking about the government-media relationship, Uday cites examples from the coverage of the upcoming Commonwealth Games. “There is enough scope for positive stories, but the government bodies rely on advertisements and shoddy press releases. As of now, the media is concentrating only on delay in completion of projects and the security aspect. I have identified 34 areas around the Games, where positive stories could be done. It includes catering, housing culture?.”
Emphasising the responsibility of the media, Uday says, “The media is covering it as part of city reporting. They should give it the importance of defence and external affairs where a certain restraint is observed because of the national interest. They are not realising that all the stories go to the Net and the world is forming an opinion about the Games through such stories.”
But the Sports Minister is also contributing to the chaos by making off-the-cuff remarks, at times comparing the Games with a wedding, where everything falls into place at the last moment. “He was just making a cultural reference. Preparations for Games of such magnitude can’t be done without detailed planning.” Uday emphasises on more and more press conferences so that the media doesn’t have to rely on ‘sources’.
“You can’t hide the information. If you do, the journalists will go to disgruntled elements in the system for their stories. There is a need for micro communication, and the media should be given logical explanation for the delay. Ten venues will be ready by December and the other two will be completed by March. The media need to be told that the cycling track had to be redone. First, it was made in concrete but later it was turned into a wooden track.”