Atul Aneja

Print medium in India recording spectacular successes: N. Ram

DUBAI: Based on sound principles and practices, media outlets in the Arab world, India and the rest of Asia can work together in order to avail themselves of the vast opportunities that are being thrown up by the media boom in the East, Editor-in-Chief of TheHindu N. Ram said on Wednesday.

Speaking before a regional and international media audience at the annual Arab Media Forum in Dubai, Mr. Ram spelt out some of the ground rules for developing the media of the future, largely emerging outside the West.

Mr. Ram said that unlike in the industrialised world, the print medium in India was recording spectacular successes. Compared to China's 384 million users, low Internet penetration estimated at around 81 million in India was one of the drivers of its print medium surge.

Pointing to the stunning success of the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television network, Mr. Ram said that based on this experience, he was optimistic that the Arab media would have much to offer to their prospective media partners in Asia. “The Al Jazeera project is very impressive. It is imaginative, lively, informative, challenging, and agenda-building to the extent that it suggests that there may be other projects in the Arab world that we need to learn about.”

Mr. Ram raised three points, which in his view, could cater to the lasting success of the emerging media. First, commonalities that could bind the Arab media with their counterparts in countries such as India and China needed to be identified. “I think that there is great need to discuss, analyse and to document and to draw lessons from our common experiences, including the differences,” Mr. Ram said.

Second, the non-western media should not “gloat” but, instead, absorb and benefit from the best practices adopted by the media in the industrialised world, which was currently facing a downturn. “While we do not envy the situation in the other media world, we do not have to gloat over those trends because there is much that is admirable and we can benefit form it.”

Third, there was a real danger that “external regulation” would be imposed on the emerging media, if “rogue elements” steeped in corruption were not quickly weeded out. “If we do not watch out, and allow these bigoted trends to develop and overwhelm major sectors of the media, we cannot possibly stop the public demand for external regulation.”

Instead of external regulation, “there should be self-regulation, codes of practice, templates for socially responsible and ethical journalism, which are basically the same all over the world.” Mr. Ram stressed that “professional codes of conduct, codes of practice, adoption of institutions like that of a readers editor” were part of the tool kit required by the media for healthy self-regulation.