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Of diversity and inclusion
There is nothing like media ethics. It is not a tool to preserve cultural diversity. It is controlled by the owners and is focused on marketing. It is clear on where it wants to go concerning its commercial interest - Kapil Kumar

Right from independence, India has established a close rapport with Canada. A large number of Indians have migrated to Canada. Today, three of the Canadian ministers are of Indian origin. 

Recently three ministers of the Government of Canada with delegations of 200 business representatives visited India to participate in the Canada-India Technology Summit. High Commissioner Nadir Patel pointed to the fast pace of growth of Canada-India bilateral trade, presently around $ 15 billion.

The Canadian High Commission has also involved itself in promoting thought on social and cultural issues. The country has been organising interactive discussions on a wide range of subjects presenting media professionals, academics and leaders from different sectors as an annual exercise. In early November the High Commission hosted, as part of Canada 150 years, a day-long workshop on the subject of diversity and inclusion. It held five sessions devoted to gender diversity, ethnic diversity, linguistic diversity, religious diversity and cultural diversity. The discussions were free, critical and provoked a good deal of thought on the shortcomings of media in appreciating the diversity.

 

Gender equality can add $12 trillion!

High Commissioner Patel pointed to the credential of Canada as a nation of immigrants with vast ethnic, linguistic, religious and cultural diversities. The very fact of this person of Indian origin, the ministers I 

referred to and Dr. Sheema Khan among the panelists, reaching prominent positions in Canadian public life is proof of this. Sheema Khan, born in Varanasi, moved to Montreal with her parents, got her doctorate in chemical physics from Harvard, did post-doctoral research at MIT and McGill. She made lively presentations on the high points of gender and religious diversity in Canada.

Patel, citing a study said that by advancing women’s equality, $ 12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025.

 

Only 15% women employment in cities!

A recent conference in Chennai pointed to the dismal ratio of women in the total workforce. Strangely, cities are behind villages in gender parity: “rural participation rate for women in India is 30 per cent compared to 15 per cent in the urban sector and even in services the ratio is about 20 per cent,” said Subir  Mehta of HSBC. He also expressed disappointment over this dismal share despite 42 per cent of graduates in science and technology, coming out of universities are women!

 

Thriving ethnic diversity

The renowned civil servant Wajahad Habibullah pointed to India thriving with ethnic diversity for thousands of years despite the major blow caused by partition. The popular television anchor, Vishnu Som of NDTV 24x7, expressed concern over the obsession of news channels with TRP ratings that decide the content: programmes are tailored towards men in the age group of 25-45 on their consumption patterns. This continues to control the purse strings, said Som. He pointed to most TV channels tailoring their programmes entirely for these. 

I should compliment  Prannoy Roy and his NDTV team for continuing to focus on major issues of social concern like electrification of villages, environment protection, cleaning of rivers...

Linguistic diversity is also rapidly thinning. Panelists in this session pointed to dialectics dying, a lack of facility on the part of writers to communicate effectively in Indian languages: the urban population losing its proficiency in language communication. Communicating in vernacular  has undergone a significant transformation in the expansion from the print medium to TV, to the web. TV anchors believe in needlessly dramatising the presentation, said Pratiksha Pandey, founder of the Hindi websites The Lallantop and Odd Naari. 

 

Third of contribution to news is from corporate PR…

T V broadcaster Alok Mehta pointed to 30-35 per cent of the contribution of content coming from the public relations officers of corporates. Anchors and presenters do little to change: From Sanskritised Hindi and Urdu they have graduated to Hinglish.

On religious diversity, Dr John Dayal, a human rights activist, was outspoken in his opposition to polarisation and the lack of freedom of religious belief. He pointed to expanding violence over caste, to lynching and the insensitivity of  the media. He accused press of its failure and lack of sense to present the right perspective.  I had to protest his grossly one-sided criticism. I pointed to several news channels highlighting the wholly unacceptable and unpardonable act of lynching and rousing public attention on the national plane.

 

High decibel cacophony of news channels...

Of course, we should admit to the disservice of Arnab Goswami and his ilk, converting prime TV time to shouting matches, all heat and little light. Sadly, look at the futility of his inviting participants from Pakistan and the absurdity of shouting at them expecting them to fall in line with the Indian point of view. This disease has spread to the language news channels as well. They routinely present participants like DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu,  with conflicting viewpoints and end up in high decibel cacophony.

Of course, this noise is sound economics for them: The participants are mostly not paid and it saves the channel the cost and energy of making field-based stories. As pointed out by Dayal, the degeneration of media through inflammatory reporting often  contributes to violence.

Kapil Kumar, Director, Electronic Media Production at IGNOU, was frank: “there is nothing like media ethics. It is not a tool to preserve cultural diversity. It is controlled by the owners and is focused on marketing. It is clear on where it wants to go regarding its commercial interest. – SV

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