A week is a long time in politics; a quarter is a long time in journalism. Just a few months ago, Indian media organisations were pracing around in joy, launching new channels, new editions, new supplements, new “events”, as if there was no tomorrow.
Now, suddenly, media managers are acting as if there are ants in their pants which is on fire. Hundreds of media workers have been laid off, all plans are on hold. Cost-cutting, salary cuts, freeze on recruitment are in. The sizes of most newspapers has seen a decline, as advertisments see a sharp fall.
In the midst of all this, a delegation of three newspaper publishers and editors—Shobhana Bharatia of Hindustan Times, Shekhar Gupta of The Indian Express, T.N. Ninan of Business Standard—has met officiating information and broadcasting minister Anand Sharma to plead for a “bail out”.
Questions: Should the government bail out corporate media? Should the corporate media which has often ranted against subsidies for farmers, etc, be asking for artificial sustenance? Will a party/alliance about to face an election lend its hand without attaching strings? Can a media that depends on government help for support really be independent? Or does it not matter?