‘The Media is Invested too Heavily in the Market to tell the Truth about it’ – P.Sainath at IIM Calcutta

IIM Calcutta hosts Mr. Palagummi Sainath for the 14th Institute Lecture Series


8th October, 2014. This date will be etched in the memories of 900+ IIMCians for a very long time to come. For it is on this date the students of IIM Calcutta got the privilege to be the audience to one of the best speeches of the Institute Lecture Series (ILS) of IIMC, by Mr. Palagummi Sainath. The theme of the lecture was “A structural Compulsion to Lie” with respect to the Indian media.

Since its inception, the ILS has been a dialogue between the institute and renowned individuals in various fields of academia, management and entrepreneurship to name a few. The 14th Institute Lecture Series was addressed by Mr. Palagummi Sainath, an eminent independent journalist and former Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu. His work on developmental journalism and the social issues of farmer suicides, famine and hunger have earned him numerous awards including the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay award in 2007. His lecture focused on the changes in Indian media over the last two decades, the cause and aftermath of it and how, we as a nation can fight to change the current scenario.

Mr. Sainath feels that the Indian media today is ‘politically free but imprisoned by profit’. He stressed the evolution of media as a vehicle of social and political change, the voice of a nation in the colonial, pre-independence era to just another revenue stream in today’s world. Every media house today has multiple industrial holdings and are everyday violating the first principle of full disclosure to its readers/viewers. In his opinion, ‘i’. The shift in the nature of Indian media monopoly, according to Mr. Sainath, has been quite significant – from private ownership and measure of market share to ‘narrowly concentrated corporate ownership’ and being a tiny part of a conglomerate thus defining its priority on the basis of profits. He opined that the media today, under the garb of fighting for freedom of press is actually fighting for an unrestricted power to media houses.

Mr. Sainath talked about how the journalists are no longer salaried and tenured employees and have been recognized as contractual labors thus abolishing the job securities of 1000s of journalists creating a ‘zone of silence’. He also highlighted the issues of private treaties and paid news in the media. He has been on the frontline of breaking the paid news scandal of former CM of Maharashtra, Mr. Ashok Chavan.

But all is not lost yet. He apprised us on how to change the system by fighting monopolization, advocating and supporting alternative ventures of media. He defined the role of the government in passing new stronger legislation against such practices and strengthening the public broadcasters like Rajyasabha and Loksabha TV. During the Q&A session, he discussed his views about social media being a deadlier threat than print or visual media and how he sees the future of Indian media few years down the line. The 2 hour session was not for a moment anything but a captivating, engrossing experience which ended with a standing ovation from all the students and faculty members in attendance. Mr. Sainath said, to conclude, “Between fake optimism and cynical pessimism, there is a region called hope; and I like to live there.” The onus is on us now to fulfill that hope.

IIM Calcutta

IIM Calcutta External Relations Cell