“The Indian situation cries out for such an independent, comprehensive, hard look into the culture, practices and ethics of news media and into the questions of what kind of regulatory and governance mechanism need to be put in place,” N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, said while presiding over the Contemporary India Section session at the Indian History Congress here on Saturday.

Through his paper, ‘The Changing Role of the News Media in Contemporary India,' Mr. Ram drew out the paradoxical situation before the media, where it had statutorily established a watchdog, the Press Council of India, without an adequate legal regulatory framework when private satellite television channels had attracted growing public complaints of being a law unto themselves.

Mr. Ram said that to ensure professional and social accountability, the media required to address the demands for well-considered and progressive reforms that expanded the scope of media freedom. Dwelling on the credible-informational, critical-investigative-adversarial as well as ‘pastime' functions of the press and listing the derivatives, he underscored the need for contributing to the building of a worthwhile public agenda, where the media participate with others.

Mr. Ram highlighted the various developments in the media scene across the world. He said the arrival of Julian Assange's WikiLeaks, a completely new kind of digital technology enabling the “not-for-profit” player, had changed the rules of the game for newspapers and news media everywhere. It inspired other experiments or ventures to develop technologies, secure electronic drop boxes and platforms that encouraged and enabled whistle-blowing.

Meanwhile, the newspaper industry faced a double squeeze, where the print business subsidised digital journalism, which could not pay for itself, while the latter increased the pressure on newspaper circulation, readership and business as a whole. However, with the internet enjoying a mere 8.40 per cent penetration in India as compared to 36.30 per cent in China, the media in the Asian region had major challenges and opportunities as compared to the developed countries.

Earlier, presenting his paper ‘Radical Adivasi Movement in Colonial Eastern India, 1856-1922: Origins, Ideology and Organisation,' general president for the 72nd session of the Indian History Congress Binay Bhushan Chaudhari said radicalism was a dominant trend in Adivasi politics, directly affected for the first time by wider nationalist politics.

Professor Chaudhari said the movements were aimed at redressing specific grievances and reforming parts of the social and political order. While radicalism presented a blueprint for political action, its dominant element was rooted in “supernatural help” and the role of the divinely inspired charismatic leader.

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