The market has driven out music from the pages of the Indian press. It is time now to reverse the trend, and influential newspapers should take the lead in devoting more space and attention to the classical fine arts, N. Murali, Managing Director of The Hindu and president of The Music Academy, Chennai, said here on Saturday.
Mr. Murali was speaking at a seminar organised by the ITC-Sangeet Research Academy at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai.
Highlighting the role of the media in preserving the tradition of classical music, Mr. Murali said: “Unless the print media takes up coverage of classical fine arts in a big way, the awareness is not created. I am sorry to see many of the sections of the media, particularly the print media, cover the musicians and their lifestyle more than their music itself. I urge print media to devote more attention and space to classical fine arts.”
‘Lack of coverage’
Mr. Murali said that while western newspapers such as The Guardian or The New York Times produced high quality and well-informed reviews of music concerts and major performances, there was a lack of the same in our print media. “Lack of coverage restricts the interest or awareness and the numbers that come to these concerts,” he said.
The audience applauded in acknowledgement when Mr. Murali said The Hindu continued to give as much coverage to classical music and had a special supplement in addition to The Friday Review during the music season in Chennai.
“ The Hindu’s coverage and space for classical fine arts, especially to Carnatic music, has gone up. It is not always commercial considerations which should determine what a newspaper should do. In that larger spirit of journalism, I would say it’s unfortunate to see that the coverage given to classical fine arts, particularly to reviews of music concerts or large performances, has drastically reduced. This trend has to be reversed,” Mr. Murali said.
Romit Chaterji, consultant, Public Relations and Communications, NCPA, pointed out that a major city like Mumbai did not have an arts magazine.
Where are the skills?
Panellist V. Ramnarayan, Editor-in-Chief of S-R-U-T-I, who was conferred the ‘Music Forum Award for Media Excellence’ on Saturday, spoke favourably of the coverage of arts in the Chennai press.
He said the quality of this criticism, however, was declining. “There is space available in the south for coverage of the arts, but there is a dearth of skills, in terms of language as well as in terms of knowledge of the arts. Quality of criticism is not that high though there is plenty of coverage,” Mr. Ramnarayan said.
The lack of expertise was evident from the deplorable awareness levels among journalists. As a professor at a journalism school, Mr. Ramnarayan said just a handful of his students had any knowledge of the arts. However, he said it was time to approach the young and take the music to them. “People don’t come to you; you have to go to them. Some of us are experimenting with going to schools.”
‘System failing the young’
Writer Shanta Gokhale, who moderated the discussion, put the finger on the real problem by highlighting the excessive textbook-based learning model of our education system, where no sense of the arts is given to the children. In this respect, “many institutions are failing the young,” she said.
Dileep Padgaonkar, consulting editor of The Times of India, assessed the larger media environment, constrained by market pressures that had taken the media into an entertainment mode and perpetuating the trend of celebrity-driven journalism. He said the issue of lack of coverage for classical music and reviews had to be seen in this context.
Mr. Murali held that while the situation was complex and the pressures real, the changing context of market and readership could not be a rationale for what the newspapers had done over the past few years.
“Post-liberalisation, newspapers who have embraced the market forces have sometimes given the go-by to the journalistic values which they upheld. Serious newspapers which pursue serious journalism also have a role not to be led by the market. They have to be alive to the changes, but some of the things, which they hold dear, could not be forsaken just because the market wants that. The agenda-setting role of the newspapers cannot be submerged in the name of changes and what the readers want,” he said.