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‘Shrill’ debates in media overshadowing facts: Jaitley

HT Leadership Summit 2015

New Delhi :  The “dividing line” between news and opinion has weakened which leaves viewers and readers searching for facts and print media can “strike back” by presenting them without a “slant”, Information and Broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley said today.

The senior minister, who unveiled the annual ‘Press in India 2014-15′ report here, said while there has been an explosion of TV channels, viewers often watch “shrill debates” and their craving for facts is not satisfied.

Jaitley, who also holds the finance portfolio, said that with the vast expansion of media in various segments like print, electronic and internet, many versions of the same news are presented.

“It is the reader who then has to decide where the truth lies,” he said.

The old principle, Jaitley said, was that news is sacred and should be presented clearly “without any slant” adding that opinion could be presented in editorials.

“I feel the dividing line between news and opinion has weakened much,” Jaitley said.

In this scenario, print media can “strike back” by presenting facts with clarity, he added.

“I say strike back because the way there has been an explosion of TV channels. And often on TV channels there is shrill debate.

“After that debate, the viewer is left searching for the actual news. So print media has a big opportunity that lucid clear news without any opinion reaches the reader.”

Jaitley said that while world over print organisations are facing a challenge, their numbers continue to grow. Such a trend, he said, is good for democracy.

Referring to the latest data brought out by Registrar for Newspapers in India (RNI) in the report, he said newspapers have grown at over eight per cent and a large part of it is because of growth in regional newspapers.

Speaking about the findings in ‘Press in India’ report, Jaitley noted that the growth of periodicals is less, so the overall average comes to around 5.5-6 per cent.

Analysing the trends, Jaitley said it appears that magazine journalism, after the advent of TV and internet, is declining because alternatives are appearing.

Another reason for this trend, he said, could be that events move at a fast pace and readers may not always be interested in reading the analysis of an event after a week.

He said there is a need to reinvent magazine journalism. Some leading global magazines, he said, have now restricted themselves to online editions while the circulation of others has come down.

Earlier, presenting the Annual Report ‘Press in India- 2014-15′, DG RNI S M Khan said print media registered a growth of 5.80 per cent over the previous year as a total of 5,817 new publications were registered during 2014- 15 and 34 publications ceased their operation.

Out of the total 1,05,443 publications registered as on March 31, 2015, the largest number of newspapers are in Hindi with 42,493 publications followed by English with 13,661 registered publications.

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