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REVEALING IT FROM INSIDE

Making a debut in book-writing this past week with "The Indian Media Business", journalist Vanita Kohli tells SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY there is no conflict of interest between profit-making and the quality of contents of a media organisation.



Vanita Kohli... media laid bare. Photo: V.V. Krishnan.

READING JOURNALIST Vanita Kohli's maiden book, "The Indian Media Business" at no point gives you a dull moment if you are keen on digesting information about the $ five billion and still growing media industry of the country. And, if you happen to strike a conversation with her on the subject, you realise that the racy, conversationalist tone and language of the 238-page tome just

cannot be anybody else's for, she talks the way she writes.

"My book does not look into the socio-economic impact on media but to provide some perspective on the business of media. To my knowledge, there is no single book available so far which would impart information on the business of media and so, here is an attempt," Vanita makes it clear at the beginning itself. Teaching at the Xavier's Insitiute of Communication in Mumbai before joining "Businessworld", she says she would always fumble when asked by students to refer to a single source of information on the business of Indian mass media.

"It used to be a real difficulty. Though I should not say that my book has it all, it at least touches the basic components of all the five major segments - press, television, films, music and radio," says Vanita. And yet, the "basic components" of this SAGE publication released this past week in

New Delhi, dish out interesting anecdotes like how the first publisher of an Indian newspaper, a Britisher, was jailed for publishing gossips about his own community; how one of the first TV images in radio-friendly India was that of a gramophone record being shown on the screen as the music blared away; and that privatisation of radio is not a new phenomenon in India but

witnessed way back in 1925 etc.

But what her book eyes at primarily is on how the domestic media industry can reap more profits without compromising its contents. "Look at our newspapers. Even 56 years after freedom, they are still in that pre-independence mindset that `we are here to serve and not to make money'.

Actually, if you look at the instances across the world, there is no conflict of interest between profit-making and the quality of contents of a media organisation," Vanita claims, wondering what is impeding Indian press to go the whole hog. Offering the example of The New York Times, this

Cambridge University fellowship holder argues why it can't be made possible here too.

Although she says, there are a few newspapers in India who are into selling not only their advertising space but also their contents, she writes them off in the same breath.

"If you look at the world examples, those organisations are bound to crash. One cannot evade logic for long. The advertisers would soon realise that if they can get a story published by paying money, why would they go for advertising their products by spending extra money in the same paper," argues Vanita.

Unlike print media, this business writer says television in India is beginning to mark an etch in profit-making, but the medium of radio still has to tread a long stretch. "Unless we have more frequencies on offer and the huge licence fee gets reduced, radio can't flourish in India. The concept of community radio has not caught up in our country yet. Also, there is no news slot yet on private radio," she adds.

Dipping herself in research for "a couple of years" to churn out the book, all that she asks from you now is "a rethinking" and also "to think about things that way".

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