Are we really ‘free’ at work in Indian media?

14 Aug,2012


By Tuhina Anand and Meghna Sharma


As India gets ready to celebrate her 66th Independence Day, one wonders how much freedom one really has to express oneself – specifically those who are in the creative business. While one has to be responsible when communicating with the masses – be it journalists, or planners for content that is shown on the various channels or the creative agencies that work on various communication strategies for different brands – but there are deterrents to this key element of freedom that the fraternity craves for to express freely.


Keeping these factors in mind, MxMIndia spoke to cross-section of people from the industry to get an understanding on their Freedom Fundas.


Bobby Pawar

Bobby Pawar, Chief Creative Officer and Managing Partner at JWT India is clear that there is no unfettered creativity that exists and that is probably best for a creative agency. He explained: “Our job is to come up with brilliant communication solutions for our clients, hence there is a purpose to achieve. So what we follow is creativity within a box where it is harnessed to achieve maximum result. We partner with various people to come up with this solution and hence we have to listen to various opinions. I do not profess complete freedom for the creative industry.”


However, Mr Pawar would like to have more control over the shape that an idea finally takes and how it gets executed. Also he definitely would like to have more control over the research that is handed to them and definitely over the way an allocated budget on a brand is being invested.


Research seems to be the bane of the creative frat. Rahul Sengupta, NCD at TBWA India too would want freedom from research. He feels that if one wants to do anything that’s trendsetting, often research acts as an impediment to take it forward. As for clients’ demands, Mr Sengupta said: “The client is the one sponsoring the idea, so definitely one would not want freedom from them! I have met clients who are hazards to creativity as well as those who are best guardians of an idea.”


He added pragmatically: “Of course, there are frustrations and there is lack of freedom but if I would rather have freedom from research than clients as latter can be worked amicably to enhance the client-agency relationship.”


We also spoke to people at mid level like Auro Chattopadhyay, who quit Ogilvy recently, who also wanted freedom from research. He said: “Often research might not help in the brand story, but insistence to stick to it hinders creativity.”


A creative hand at JWT pointed that conflict happen when there is no match with one’s creativity and that of one’s higher up. Fortunately, this has never happened with him. He feels that the creative industry gives him much freedom to use his ideas as opposed to many other professions.


However, another stated that hierarchy means towing the line of ideas that the higher in authority believe in. Freedom of creativity in such cases often refers to agreeing to somebody else’s vision.


The case, however, is different in the new medium such as digital where there is largely freedom to execute an idea. Carlton D’Silva, CCO, Hungama Digital, said: “Right now, digital is like the last three slide of a presentation- very much an afterthought. Hence, spend on the medium is miniscule. There is a fair amount of freedom to explore creativity. However, one would like freedom from data as often clients demand for it but in digital especially, when suggesting some new technology and a unique idea to take shape, there is no data available.”


Prosenjit Datta
Courtesy BusinessWorld

We also spoke to people from the print and broadcast industry to give us an understanding of freedom they enjoy at work. Cyrus Oshidar, Creative Director at Bawa Broadcasting is credited with creating some unique content at MTV and even pushing the boundaries. His view: “If one only wants creative freedom then one should be an artist. If you are producing or making a show for which a client is paying, then there will definitely be some constraints. Ratings do matter in our business and sometimes might even alter one’s choice rather than giving the freedom to do something which one really wants to. Also, one needs to be politically correct in this country. Even the government which is supposed to protect people’s freedom sometimes backtracks from its duties. One needs to be careful about how they approach an issue without offending or hurting feeling of any section of the society. Honestly speaking, we have too many restrictions which are created by us. There is no true democracy in this country.” Mr Oshidar clearly pointed that freedom in creative business is a myth.


Sucheta Dalal

Prosenjit Datta, Editor, Businessworld, giving his take on the print industry, said: “Every magazine or a newspaper has a certain set of audience and purpose. For instance, a business magazine like ours won’t focus so much on political stories as political or general magazine would do. So, what stories they choose and how they analyse will be different from genre to genre. Hence, it would be unfair to say that there isn’t creative freedom or if media is ‘restricted’. We don’t have any management policy which will hamper or obstruct our editorial approach. A lot depends on the editors too as they enjoy full freedom to how to go about an issue.”


Pointing out the restriction that comes with the economics of business, Sucheta Dalal, senior journalist, commentator and consulting editor, Moneylife said: “With so many newspapers, magazines and news channels making losses, it is hard to say or believe that they are not dictated by marketers. Today, we can even see head of various companies writing with their bylines which wasn’t the case earlier. I don’t know how things are right now as I’m not working with any newspaper at the moment, but when I was with Times and Express, the pressure from the advertisers was quite evident.”


Sunil Lulla

And how is it in television? Said Sunil Lulla, CEO and MD, Times Global Broadcasting: “Over the past decade or so, the television industry has evolved. There is greater sense of self-regulation and discipline as well as maturity on entertainment and news channels. Though there are guides and policies set by regulatory bodies like IBF, industry enjoys the freedom to operate freely. Besides, there is greater acceptance of TV now which enjoys sense of confidence and responsibility. So, there is culture of freedom in media.”




Sudhir Sharma

Said Sudhir Sharma, Producer, Sunshine Productions: “TV as a medium is for the masses and targets everyone from kids to adults to old folks. We make TV shows to entertain. We do follow certain guidelines and censorship which is surely a necessity. By and large we surely have the freedom to make the content we want to show. Creative freedom parameters may vary from producer to producer. Compared to films, TV censorship guidelines are surely stricter keeping in mind that television is accessible on the press of a remote button. In my opinion, we have enough creative freedom and we as makers are progressing and so are the maturity level of audiences.”


Freedom, limited freedom, no freedom… we received no clear answers to our question. However, the fact remains that despite the current slowdown, the fraternity is still managing to survive and thrive in the prevailing system.


Image: Rafiq



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