One Big Idea by Maheshwar Peri: Is ethical media viable any longer?

18 Mar,2013

By Maheshwar Peri, Chairman, Pathfinder Publishing


In light of the recent happenings, I wonder whether ethical journalism is any longer viable. Can we make great journalism a paid-for product?


Look at all the news media brands launched in the last 20+ years. Those that do not have the advantage of a 100-year history, that thrive on conditions suited for them. Those that got into the business of news media to carve out a space for themselves on unique propositions based on geographies, targeting etc. that were supposed to be largely their own.


Drill down further and see how many of them have been successful and profitable — NDTV, TV 18 group, Times Now, Eenadu TV, ABP News etc… How many have been profitable? DNA, Mint, Business Standard – are they profitable? And can they ever be profitable? In fact, on the television side of the business, the two biggest news channels have consistently lost money. What has changed from where we were say 50 years AGO?


Once upon a time, Journalism was a noble profession. People with a deep passion for the society and a commitment to telling the truth sought to work in the field of journalism. It was the profession of the ‘jholawala’. However, the manpower costs of news media organizations are at their peak now. Market forces have invaded. For all those who have freedom to write the truth, very few are willing to compromise their salaries. Most job movements even in journalism are for ‘better career’ prospects, and ‘possibly’ compromised work places. Much of the media corruption starts because ‘your’ salary comes from ad revenues.


When some editors draw salaries in eight figures, how can it ever be viable?


So, in the light of high costs, is ethical journalism any longer viable? In my view, the solution is with us. Do we have it in us, as those who believe in ‘ethical journalism’, to work for less pay?


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