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Plight of the Periodicals

TN CM with N Ram and Publishers

Last week we witnessed a strange spectacle: of the mighty barons of print medium – The Hindu, New Indian Express, the Daily Thanthi, Dinamalar and Dinakaran-beseeching the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for support with government’s advertisements at special rates. These have also met the leaders of other political parties – Messrs M K Stalin (DMK), Vaiko (MDMK), Anbumani Ramadoss (PMK), Thol. Thirumavalavan (VCK), K S Alagiri (Congress), L Murugan (BJP).  I hope the procession is still not complete. They have left out Vijayakant (DMDK), TTV Dinakaran (AMMK) and Seemaan (NTK), all aspirants for the chief minister gaadi.

They have pleaded with these to take up the matter with the Centre for release of government advertisements with an added plea: of a 100 per cent increase in the advt rates.

For the 2008 – 19 global economic meltdown the US extended liberal support to large corporations. These included General Motors and Ford Motors. Did we find independent media giants like the New York Times or the Washington Post seeking assistance?

Ram, Chairman of The Hindu Group Publishing is a popular media baron projected as a champion of the independence of media. His paper has been stridently critical of almost all policies of the Modi government. If the government accedes to his pleas, can he continue with this tirade?

Remember the multi-jacket advertisements of large newspapers through 2019? These enjoyed a boom in advertising in recent years and breezily increased their advertisement tariffs. This was multifold over the last decade. In parallel they have also been profligate in recruiting the staff on high salaries, expanding their editions and indulging in no holds barred competition.

These publications have been businesses flourishing for decades. Once the economy picks up, advertisements could flow for these large newspapers. There will be a blip for a few months. But surely these mighty enterprises have the wherewithal to suffer loss for a year with the hefty profits they have made for decades. After all they are large business enterprises and not providers of service or charity.

Look at the plight of the periodicals including the 94 year old Vikatan, Kalki (79 years), Kumudam (72 years) is including our, 52 year old IE. These have been denied full accreditation and more importantly, government advertisements.

The Covid19 had hit the periodicals the hardest: these are dependent on the postal and railway services for reaching  copies  to their readers. IE missed out its April and May issues. We are making do with an e-edition in a truncated form. But copy sales and advertisement billing were zilch.

With the massive spread of internet and mobile telephony with resultant instant information flow, newspapers have lost their principal role of purveying news. In line with other developed countries daily newspapers have been losing out to the electronic media. The time has come for them to focus on ruthless cost-cutting with a simultaneous focus on reducing their advertisement tariffs making these affordable by wider sections.

The media barons of large newspapers didn’t bother to take the periodicals and smaller publications along. They enjoy the privileges extended by the government in terms of inclusion in media delegations on the foreign visits of the President, PM… as also membership in important committees.

Small was considered beautiful for its own special characteristics. Keeping aloof of politics, specialist publications like ours spend a lot of effort and expertise in researching and analysing news.

I am aware of the power of the barons of the print medium and their lobbying strength. The periodicals are no match to these. In terms of equity their case should also be considered.

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