Political Economy of Communications in India: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Publication Year: 2010
This book is a critical study of the political economy of communications in India. It explores the ways in which contexts, policies, and processes at national and international levels shape media structures and studies how a political economy-inspired approach can be used to understand both media dominance and resistance.
The author explores aspects of colonial political economy and how it has shaped the structure of media in India and in many other countries. It also discusses liberalization, privatization, and media politics in contemporary India. Divided into three sections—structures, means, and resistance—the chapters focus on both the electronic and the print media.
The book would interest students and researchers of Indian media history, international communication, media and politics, sociology, and political economy.
- Front Matter
- Back Matter
- Subject Index
- Section 1: A History of Structures
- Chapter 1: An Introduction to the Political Economy of Communications
- Chapter 2: The Political Economy of Communications in Colonial India: Mass Communication and the Empire
- Chapter 3: The Political Economy of Communications in Post-colonial India: 1948–1985
- Chapter 4: The Political Economy of Communications in the New India: 1986 to Present
- Section 2: Processes and Means
- Chapter 5: The Indian Copyright Conundrum
- Chapter 6: The Political Economy of Audio-visual Trade
- Chapter 7: The Informationalisation of Life Processes: Biotechnology, IT and Life as Code
- Chapter 8: Christian Fundamentalism and the Media: The Case of Christian Broadcasting in India
- Chapter 9: Poverty and the Media
- Section 3: Resistance
- Chapter 10: Resistance: Community Radio and the Right to Information Movement in India
- Chapter 11: Beyond the Dominant Paradigm of Communication Rights: Operationalising Communication Rights in India
Copyright © Pradip Ninan Thomas, 2010
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilised in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
First published in 2010 by
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Thomas, Pradip Ninan.
Political economy of communications in India: the good, the bad and the ugly / Pradip Ninan Thomas.
1. Mass media—Economic aspects—India. 2. Mass media—Political aspects—India. 3. Mass media policy—India. 4. Communication policy—India.
ISBN: 978–81-321-0449-0 (HB)
The Sage Team: Rekha Natarajan, Aniruddha De, Anju Saxena and Trinankur Banerjee
For Preetha, Nitin and Prianka Another World is Possible[Page vi]
List of Abbreviations[Page ix]
AIADMK All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam AICC All India Congress Council AIR All India Radio AITUC All India Trade Union Congress AP Andhra Pradesh APAI Animation Producers Association of India APC Association for Progressive Communication APEC Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation AV Audio-visual BJP Bharatiya Janata Party BMG Bertelsmann Music Group BPO Business Process Outsourcing BSA Business Software Alliance BSP Bahujan Samaj Party CAMERA Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America CBN Christian Broadcasting Network CEAC Copyright Enforcement Advisory Council CEO Chief Executive Officer CITU Centre for India Trade Unions CJ Citizen Journalism CMCR Centre for Mass Communication Research CMs Christian Ministries CPIM Communist Part of India (Marxist) CR Community Radio CRIS Communication Rights in the Information Society CS Civil Society CSI Church of South India DD Doordarshan DMCA Digital Millennium Copyright Act [Page x] DMK Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam DNA Deoxyribonucleic Acid DRM Digital Rights Management DSNGS Digital Satellite News Gathering Scheme DTH Direct-to-home DVD Digital Video Disc ELCOT Electronics Corporation of Tamil Nadu EMI Electric and Musical Industries Ltd EST Expressed Sequence Tag EU European Union E&M Entertainment and Media FCC Federal Communications Commission FCRA Foreign Contributions Regulations Act FDIs Foreign Direct Investments FEBA Far Eastern Broadcasting Association FICCI Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry FOSS Free and Open Source Software FYPs Five Year Plans GATS General Agreement on Trade in Services GATT General Agreement on Tarrifs and Trade GBN Global Broadcasting News GDP Gross Domestic Product GFA Gospel for Asia GNP Gross National Product GPL General Public License GSP Generalised System of Preferences IAMCR International Association of Media and Communication Research IAS Indian Administrative Service I&B Information and Broadcasting ICANN Internet Consortium for Assigned Names and Numbers ICDS Integrated Child Development Services ICS Indian Civil Service ICT Information and Communication Technology IFE International Family Entertainment Inc. IIPA International Intellectual Property Alliance [Page xi] IKS Indigenous Knowledge System IMF International Monetary Fund IMG Indian Media Group IMI Indian Music Industry INC Indian National Congress INCP International Network on Cultural Policy INGO International Non-governmental Organisation IP Intellectual Property IPC Intellectual Property Committee IPR Intellectual Property Rights IPRS Indian Performing Rights Society Limited IPTA Indian Political Theatre Association IPTV Internet Protocol Television IT Information Technology ITA International Trade Administration KAP Knowledge, Attitude, Perception KIADB Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board MBPL Music Broadcast Pvt. Ltd MFN Most Favoured Nation MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology MKSS Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan ML Marxist-Leninist MNC Multinational Company MOI Ministry of Information MOU Memorandum of Understanding MPA Motion Picture Association MPAA Motion Picture Association of America MRTP Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices MSO Multi-system Operator NAFTA North American Free Trade Agreement NASA National Aeronautical and Space Association NASSCOM National Association of Software and Services Companies NCEUS National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector NGO Non-governmental Organisation NRCFOSS National Resource Centre for Free/Open Source Software [Page xii] NREGA National Rural Employment Guarantee Act NREGS National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme NRI Non-resident Indian NTIA National Telecommunications and Information Administration OFCOM Office of Communications OSSRC Open Source Software Resource Centre PACS Programme Poorest Area Civil Society Programme PBS Public Broadcasting Service PDS Public Distribution System PIO Public Information Officers PPL Phonographic Performance Limited RCA Radio Corporation of America R&D Research and Development RFC Ramoji Film City RIAA Recording Industry Association of America RMI Rights Management Information RSS Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh RTI Right to Information SAGIT Sectoral Advisory Group on International Trade SAGs Social Action Groups SAPs Structural Adjustment Programmes SCRIPT Society for Copyright Regulations of Indian Producers for Films and Television SISWA South India Soul Winner's Association SITE Satellite Instructional Television Experiment SLBC Sri Lankan Broadcasting Corporation SNPs Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms SP Samajwadi Party SPACE Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment TBN Trinity Broadcasting Network TCIL Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. TCS Tata Consultancy Services TDP Telugu Desam Party TISCO Tata Iron and Steel Co. Ltd [Page xiii] TPM Technology Protection Measure TRAI Telecom Regulatory Authority of India TRIPS Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights T and V system Training and Visit System TWR Trans World Radio UDHR Universal Declaration of Human Rights UNDP United Nations Development Program UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation UNICE Union of Industrial and Employer's Confederation of Europe UPA United Progressive Alliance UPOV International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants USA United States of America USAID United States Aid USIBC US-India Business Council USPTO United States Patent and Trademark Office USTR United States Trade Representative VCD Video Compact Disc VCR Video Cassette Recorder VEW Village Extension Worker VHP Vishwa Hindu Parishad VSNL Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited WACC World Association for Christian Communication WCFCG World Council for Corporate Governance WCT WIPO's Copyright Treaty WIPO World Intellectual Property Organisation WPPT WIPO's Performances and Phonograms Treaty WSIS World Summit on the Information Society WTO World Trade Organisation ZEEL Zee Entertainment Enterprises Ltd
As we enter the second decade of the twenty-first century, India has emerged as one of the world's fastest growing economies, a fact also reflected in the exponential growth in its media and communication sector.
With 70 round-the-clock television news channels—unrivalled in any other country—India boasts of the planet's most linguistically diverse and differentiated media landscape. Sale of newspapers is booming: every day nearly 100 million copies are sold in the country. FM radio is mushrooming as are community and online media outlets. The revolution in telecommunications, especially mobile telephony, has touched almost every aspect of people's lives—economic, political, social and cultural. India is now acknowledged as an information technology giant and a major hub within the global outsourcing industry.
The scholarship on Indian media and communication has scarcely kept pace with the extraordinary changes that have transformed the media and communication sphere in the world's largest democracy. Part of the reason for this has been that, with a few exceptions, most universities have not yet grasped the importance of media and communication in our political, economic and cultural interactions, as well as our globalising experiences.
Though there has been a proliferation of media institutes in recent years, these are primarily oriented to the vocational aspects of the mass media. More often than not, these are private institutions established sometimes by media houses themselves to groom trained workforce for the bourgeoning industry. For a fast growing creative and cultural industry in India, such institutes have an important contribution to make. However, more grounded and rigorous academic work in media and communication has yet to emerge in a systematic manner, though such entities as the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance at the Jamia Millia Islamia are embarking on intellectually ambitious research.
Pradip Ninan Thomas's latest book fits neatly in the latter category. Pradip has lived and worked for many years outside India—first in the UK and now in Australia—and the academic and activist in him has kept a close watch on the rapidly evolving situation in the country of his birth. In this timely and extremely topical book, Pradip breaks new ground in [Page xv]the study of media and communication in India, bringing in new strands of politics onto the communication research agenda. He expertly guides the reader through the exceptional growth and development of India's communication hard and software. The contemporary trends in the media and communication scene are contextualised in a historical framework. Important questions about media and empowerment; information rights and responsibilities; copyright and commodification of cultural industries; bioethics and religious fundamentalism, are tackled with alacrity, great insight and aplomb.
I have always admired Pradip's work. He is one of the best scholars of his generation: committed, conscientious and cosmopolitan. These virtues have ensured that he is a member of the distinguished international advisory board of the India Media Centre—the world's first academic centre dedicated to the study of media in India and its globalising tendencies—which we have recently set up at the University of Westminster in London, in recognition of the important role of Indian media in the world today.
Pradip's book is a major contribution to the study of media and communication in India and indeed to the broader scholarship in the field of political economy of communication. I very much commend its publication and hope that the book will generate greater interest in analyses of the changing contours of media and communication institutions, structures, production processes and audiences in what is likely to become one of the most intellectually exciting and empirically rich fields in this area of research.
The seeds for this book were sown many moons ago. I remember that the very first article that I wrote, soon after completing an initial draft of my doctoral thesis that I had got rather weary of writing, was on the Gramscian theory of hegemony and state monopoly broadcasting in India. That was way back in 1987. Two decades later, the various trajectories of a critical political economy of the media continue to intrigue me.
To a large extent, my interest in the subject was spurred on by introductory lectures on the political economy of communications given by Peter Golding and Graham Murdock at the Centre for Mass Communication Research (CMCR), University of Leicester, between 1982–1983. I was a student in the MA course before becoming a doctoral candidate at the Centre. Their critical approach to the media and society and the readings that I encountered and required ploughing through, including classic texts such as Marx and Engels’ German Ideology, certainly helped me imagine India in a new light during and after my fieldwork. My interest in this area was furthered during a longish stint of working at the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), London, where, as Director of Research, I was responsible for organising a number of international workshops on a range of issues—media ownership and control, intellectual property, media resistance, poverty and the media, involved in co-editing the journal Media Development and in global media advocacy such as the Communication Rights in the Information Society (CRIS) Campaign. By this time, I had become a member of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) and frequently attended the political economy section—a watering hole for a great many critical political economists of the media.
I have met and learned from a number of critical political economists, some of whom I count as sage counsels and close friends of mine—Cees Hamelink, Dan Schiller, Yuezhi Zhao. There are a number of other old and new acquaintances whose contributions I value—Manjunath Pendakur, Andrew Calabrese, Robert McChesney, Daya Thussu, Keyan Tomaselli, Roberto Verzola, Hopeton Dunn, Colin Sparks, Lawrence Liang among many others. I also value the insights of a number of [Page xvii]scholars from India, including Sevanti Ninan, Vibodh Parthasarthi, Ammu Joseph among others.
My intellectual horizons were immeasurably expanded in the company of my close friends—the Leicester mafia, consisting of Zaharom Nain (Rom), Francis Nyamnjoh, Chien-San Fang, Roderick Salazar, Ubonrat Siriyuvisak, Kim Seung Soo, Muhammed Musa and others, some of whom I continue to collaborate with to this day. Rom, in particular, introduced me to some of the key debates in political economy that we discussed over copious quantities of cheap wine and ale, in a variety of student digs located in the vicinity of the CMCR. While some of these debates, with the benefit of hindsight, were not terribly consequential, my world would have been poorer for not having encountered the thoughts and ideas of a highly variegated cast of characters from the annals of critical political economy. Incidentally, Rom and I co-edited the volume Who Owns the Media: Global Trends and Local Resistances (2004).
The University of Queensland has provided an excellent base for this particular study. I have made use of the library resources, tried out ideas in class and valued conversations with a number of my colleagues—Zala Volcic, Michael Bromley, Levi Obijiofor, Martin Hadlow, Elske van de Fliert, Rhonda Breit, Nic Carah, Eric Louw and others.
The ever changing media scene in India has been my bread and butter for many years and has opened me to a range of research interests, some of which I have enjoyed exploring. I have always maintained that it is necessary to strike a balance when reporting globalising India and have tried consistently to deal with its other, less wholesome sides, that international cheer leaders of India Inc. along with most Indian journalists and media academics have chosen to ignore. Arvind Adiga's novel White Tiger, the film Slum Dog Millionaire, the Indian journalist Sainath's consistent exposes of poverty and the scandal at Satyam Computers reveal that not everything is well at India Inc. and that it will take more than technology to redeem the image of ‘India Shining’. India has, for sure, made significant advances in science and technology and in communications. The great variety of regional and national channels and media is quite astounding especially when compared to the strictly limited media environment in Brisbane, Australia, where I currently reside. However, in spite of these achievements, India does face significant issues related to poverty and human development, with poor governance and state and private media monopolies that have developed at the expense of its many marginalised communities. I hope that this book throws light on issues and concerns that are often forgotten in the context of the general euphoria with India's satellite days and cable nights.[Page xviii]
A critical political economy-based approach can be used to throw light on the impact of ‘structures’, power and ideologies in other areas of communication research—communication and social change, religion and the media and alternative media. Critical political economy has given me a tool-box, consisting of resources, ideas, texts and conversations that I have frequently used to illumine the key deficits and blind spots in the media in India. I have deliberately chosen not to deal with the major controversies that have dogged the political economy tradition, in particular the debates with those in cultural studies over the base/superstructure, although, having said that, I cannot resist adding the following. While culture certainly plays an important role in the structuring of identity and choices that consumers make and needs to be studied for its complexity, its role in mediation and the making of social relatedness and meanings, the dog's breakfast that some expressions of contemporary cultural studies has morphed into and the widespread lack of critique linked to this tradition is not in anybody's interests, except global capital. I am quite content to concur with Murdock and Golding's (2005: 62) views that since production happens prior to consumption, that is an obvious place to start one's analysis from. ‘…we can think of the economic dynamic, as playing a central role in defining the key features of the general environment within which communicative activity takes places, but not as a complete explanation of the nature of that activity’ (emphasis mine; Murdock and Golding 2005).
What does this book cover? This book primarily deals with the politics of media structures, policy and processes related to the political economy of communications in India, in the context of convergence. The canvas for this exploration is intentionally both local and global. What I have tried to explore are numerous vantage points, pegs that can be used as an entry point for exploring a political economy perspective. It presents a critical perspective and includes a section on resistance to this dominant political economy of communications. What is not covered in the book? It does not deal with the intricacies of mediation per se or with audiences. While I do concur that what people do with media is an important aspect of understanding the media, that calls for another approach that includes the business of ‘meaning making’ and I would certainly hope that there will be studies in the future that throw light on the complex interactions between media and audiences in India. The book is also not a study of specific genres and associated structures such as satellite news channels (See Nalin Mehta's (2008) India on Television for an analysis of satellite news channels), specific media empires in India (for which there is a crying need for studies) or of the media seen strictly as a business. There is an [Page xix]excellent book by Vanita Kohli-Khandekar (2006, ed.), The Indian Media Business, that provides adequate coverage of this area.
I have, over the years, contributed a number of articles on the political economy of communications to journals such as Gazette: The International Journal for Communication Studies, Telematics and Informatics, Economic and Political Weekly, Media Development and to edited books. While I do allude to some of these texts, the chapters in this volume are based on research that I have carried out over the last decade. I strongly believe that students of the media located in India and elsewhere need to be exposed to perspectives that go against the grain and that are based on a critique of the dominant systems and practices of communication.
I am grateful for the support given by the Sage team involved in the production of this book, especially Rekha Natarajan and Aniruddha De. My special thanks to friends and family in India for their no holds barred hospitality—my dear Ammama, Daddy and Mummy, Prem and Beena, Sneha and Shruthi, who in equal measure, have for years, tolerated the ways of an itinerant; my wife Preetha, whose very pragmatic and grounded outlook on life has helped me understand the possibilities and limits of theory, and children Nitin and Prianka who have let me get on with writing, when I am sure they would rather have preferred that I drive them to the Sunshine Coast or play cricket at the Bellbowrie nets., February 2009 BrisbaneReferences[Page xx]2006. The Indian Media Business. New Delhi/Thousand Oaks, London: Response Books/Sage..2005. ‘Culture, Communication and Political Economy’, in J.Curran and M.Gurevitch (eds), Mass Media and Society, 60–83. London: Hodder Arnold.and .2008. India on Television: How Satellite News Channels Have Changed the Way We Think and Act. New Delhi: HarperCollins Publishers India/India Today Group. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/174304308027028482004. Who Owns the Media: Global Trends and Local Resistances. Penang: Southbound; London: ZED. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17471111211272057and .
About the Author[Page 268]
Pradip Ninan Thomas is Joint-director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change at the University of Queensland. He was previously director of research at the School of Journalism and Communication, UQ and prior to that was Director of Research at the then London-based communication rights organisation, World Association for Christian Communication. He has written extensively on issues related to the political economy of communication. He has co-edited the volume Who Owns the Media: Global Trends & Local Resistances (2004) and Intellectual Property Rights and Communications in Asia (2006). Recent publications include Strong Religion/Zealous Media: Christian Fundamentalism & Communication in India (2008) and the co-edited volume Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Intellectual Property in the Twenty First Century (2007).