Doordarshan should be freed to make it relevant

September, 2009, marked 50 years of Doordarshan’s existence as a public broadcavasantister. While the media scene has completely changed from the days Doordarshan first started transmission from a makeshift studio in 1959, the significance and concept of public service broadcasting is even more relevant now.

Public service broadcasting in its ideal form is driven by a sincere vision of providing accessible, diverse, independent and high-quality content to citizens. Doordarshan, now Prasar Bharati Corp., may not fit this model because of its strong links with the government.

Yet, it has played a crucial role in providing information, education and entertainment to most Indians.

This often results in the common misconception that Doordarshan represents public service broadcasting in India. Constrained by the organizational set-up of Prasar Bharati, the concept or vision of public service broadcasting in our country has taken a different meaning altogether. Anything low on production quality and/or on development issues is now construed as public service.

The current dilemma of public service broadcasting is linked to our assessment of two core principles—one, its value and importance in our country, and two, autonomy and independence of such a system.

There are many reasons for justifying genuine public service broadcasting, including the argument that it is a powerful instrument of social, cultural and political development rather than just an alternative consumer service. There are numerous studies to showcase system-wide and positive behavioural changes triggered by good programming. Some examples of such memorable programmes on Doordarshan include Hum Log, Udaan, Rajani, Jasoos Vijay, Kalyani Health Magazine, Haath se Haath Milao and Kyunki Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai.

graphI would also like to argue that just like any other limited resource, airwaves also need to be harnessed for the larger good of the citizens. Therefore, this public resource and space needs to be acknowledged and used accordingly. This responsibility is not only restricted to the government, but also applies to all those private companies that “borrow” this public resource to make profits. Public service broadcasting is not limited to one organization or broadcaster, and is also the responsibility of all broadcasters.

But today, we are focusing only on the state broadcaster—Doordarshan—and that brings me to the second core principle of autonomy. The formation of Prasar Bharati was an attempt to grant more autonomy and freedom to Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR). However, these hypothetical attempts only added to the structural woes of these large organizations. Even today, managerial and editorial autonomy is a distant dream for Prasar Bharati that continues to be tied to the ministry of information and broadcasting and the fancies of the ruling political party.

The issue of autonomy is usually correlated to funding. Despite receiving financial support from the government, there are independent organizations, such as the judiciary and the Election Commission, that are directly accountable to Parliament. In fact, funding a public service broadcasting system should be constitutionally guaranteed and de-linked from the vagaries of political change and decision-making.

This detachment from the government will also introduce much-needed professionalism and transparency in Doordarshan. The significant achievements and innovations made till date by Doordarshan are often overshadowed by inefficient organizational structure and systems. In fact, the greatest strengths of Prasar Bharati—its talented human resources, extensive hardware and facilities, rich archival programmes and countrywide network—are also its liability in the current organizational set-up because its increasing costs and maintenance burden are eating into its precarious budgets.

One indicator of this shortcoming is the declining popularity of Doordarshan. The graph is showing small dips in recent viewership data, reflecting what most of us already concede—that Doordarshan is losing ground to private channels. Of course, Doordarshan still maintains an ample lead in viewership among all broadcasters primarily due to its advantage of being a terrestrial broadcaster and its extensive network built over the years.

The best gift Doordarshan can get on its 50th birthday is much needed independence to emerge as a thriving public service broadcaster relevant to our democracy.

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Experiments and innovations in MBA programmes in India

The businessab3 environment globally and in India is fast changing and transformations are taking place speedily. With new technology on the forefront, the future is becoming the past at faster rates. Even institutions of higher learning imparting professional education have to be competitive to sustain themselves with the increased dynamism of business environment. Coupled with this, the mushrooming of B-schools and resultant increase in MBA seats have forced B-schools to differentiate. This need is enabling a lot of experimentation and innovation in MBA programmes in India.

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In addition to the regular specialisation in marketing, finance, human resources, IT, international business/ trade etc, a large number of new programmes have been introduced in recent years with specific business sector or skill sets in mind.

While each of the programmes such as health care, hospital management, banking and finance management, supply chain and logistics management, infrastructure management, agri-business management and retail management are being run in 10 or more institutions, there are certain specialised management programmes which are offered by lesser number of institutions.

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Source: Various management colleges, the numbers are approximate and may vary

These programmes are of varying duration and some are not even approved/ accredited by AICTE.

The efforts at differentiation to provide higher educational standards that are competitive, and more effective in meeting goals of students, will surely lead to a variation from the set patterns of structure and contents. This involves the process of innovation, and will ensure that Indian institutions gain the cutting edge to attain the leadership position in management education. Thus, innovation that leads to competitive differentiation is something to be nurtured. By itself this will involve changes to the contents of the programmes, and over time, even what is desirable as the structure of the programme. With limited demand of such courses for sector-specific professionals, only the real innovators would be able to survive in the long term and “me-too” types of courses would have no takers.

Further, with the new ways of functioning of various sectors, one can think of many more specialised management programmes in future, especially to fulfil the political and bureaucratic needs such as:

  • Constituency management
  • Political campaign management
  • Disaster management
  • Railway management
  • Social media management

However, the real demand-supply gap has to be assessed in the near and long-term future before starting such programmes, as such programmes are catered to certain industries/ sectors and without their support it is difficult to sustain the long-term viability of such programmes.

(The author is Executive Director, MDRA)

Consultation meet on ‘Ethics in Social Research and Evaluation – Practice and Challenges in India

Centre for Media Studies-Institutional Review Board (CMS-IRB)
Aug 1, 2014 at IIC, New Delhi

The relevance of practicing ethical norms is increasing day by day in the field of social research, particularly in India, with more than 1.2 billion population; 70% of them living in 638,000 villages. To add to it, India is a religiously, culturally diverse multi-lingual society; more than 18 major languages combined with some 1652 languages and dialects are being spoken in India. At the same time, the literacy rate is low. As per Census 2011, literacy rate is around 74%; even lesser among female- 65% than male-82%. With such a socio-culturally diverse population, designing a uniformly acceptable ethically robust research with human subjects is a challenge in India.

The most common way of defining “ethics” is ‘norms for conduct that distinguishes between acceptable and unacceptable behavior’. In fast growing professional world of research, relevance and importance of practicing ethical norms is very critical as it ensures objectivity, promotes truth and knowledge and ensures lesser occurrence of error. In research, human subject, as defined by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), is a living individual about whom a research investigator (whether a professional or a student) obtains data through 1) intervention or interaction with the individual; or 2) identifiable private information. Thus, human beings irrespective of gender, age group, ethnic group and socio-economic status, individually or in group, is considered as a ‘subject’ for research and identified as human subjects for social science research.

While on one hand, research involving human participants must not violate any universally applicable ethical standards, on the other hand, a researcher needs to consider local cultural values when it comes to the application of the ethical principles to individual autonomy and informed consent. However, research involving human subjects categorized in special categories such as minors, juvenile, pregnant women, differently-abled, prisoners, etc become ethically more sensitive. Important ethical issues include voluntary participation and informed consent, anonymity and confidentiality, and accountability in terms of the accuracy of research design, analysis and reporting.

The main reason for considering ethical norms in social research is because it prohibits immoral approach towards information/data collection. Further, restricts misrepresentation of information/data and restricts researchers from being biased. Also, to an extent, emotional conflicts of surveyed population are addressed properly. On researchers’ part, accountability of researchers towards the community gets ensured and last but not the least, institutions/organizations more likely to fund research projects can trust the quality and integrity of research.

The basic demand of ethical norms is to respect human dignity and privacy; take special precautions with vulnerable population; and make efforts to ensure utilization of evaluation findings i.e. follow-up with donors/implementing agencies.

Institutional Review Board

An institutional review board (IRB) is primarily a committee that is formally designated to approve, monitor, and review biomedical and behavioral research involving humans. The purpose of an IRB review is to assure, both in advance and by periodic review, that appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in a research study. IRBs attempt to ensure protection of subjects by reviewing research protocols and related materials.

Initially, IRBs were committees at academic institutions and medical facilities to review research studies involving human participants, primarily to minimize or avoid ethical problems. Today, some IRB reviews are also conducted by for-profit and not-for-profit organizations known as ‘independent’ or ‘commercial’ IRBs. However, the expected responsibilities of such IRBs are identical to those based at academic or medical institutions.

CMS-IRB, a registered body since 2008, is one such review board, having representation of professionals working with CMS, other like-minded organizations and independent consultants.

In India, Institutional Review Board on ethics for non-clinical research is few, almost non-existent. Mostly universities in India have duly-constituted ethics committee but their review is limited to research by their faculty and students and not to research done outside the University purview. In 1999, Ethical Guidelines for Social Science Research in Health was framed by the National Committee for Ethics in Social Science Research in Health (NCESSRH). Non-clinical health research do follow some basics of ethical clearances but in most of the cases it is more of a voluntary choice and less as a pre-requisite for initiating a research study. Studies on juvenile, social groups, differently-abled, prisoners or on issues such as domestic violence, human trafficking among other sensitive issues are rarely reviewed to ensure ethical appropriateness of the research design and protocols.

In this context, CMS-IRB is organizing a half-day Consultation with professionals in development sector, which include those representing international/national donor agencies, social research organizations/institutions, independent consultants. Participation from government funded institutions and bodies will be invited to have a 360 degree sharing of views and opinion.

Agenda: The discussion will focus on two core aspects:

  • One, how best can we sensitize, facilitate and help each other towards improving and ensuring practicing of ethical standards in social research, particularly in context of India
  • Two, debate the importance of IRB in social research projects in our country.

Venue: India International Centre (IIC), Kamaladevi Complex, Seminar Hall III

Time: 2.30-5.00 pm Date: Friday, August 01, 2014

Programme Schedule

2.30–3.00 pm Registration & Tea
3.00 -3.15 pm Welcome Note and brief Introduction about CMS-IRB by Ms. P.N. Vasanti, Deputy Chairperson, CMS-IRB
3.15 – 4.15 pm Panel Discussion:

Best Practices to Address Ethical Issues in Social Research and Role of IRB

Panelists :

Dr Jyotsna Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Evaluation, 3ie
*Dr M.E. Khan, Senior Associate, Population Council, India
Dr Sushanta K Banerjee, CMS-IRB member and Senior Advisor-R&E, Ipas India
Dr Subrato K Mondal, CMS-IRB member and Chief Technical Advisor-M&E, IHBP/FHI 360
*Prof S. K. Sarin, Chairperson, IERB, JNU

4.15 – 5.00 pm Open Discussion-How we can help each other towards improving and ensuring practicing of ethical standards in social research
(*To be confirmed)

The Resilience of Print Media in Asia – Plenary Session at IAMCR Hyderabad 2014

cmsindia
PRESS NOTE July 19, 2014

The Resilience of Print Media in Asia – Plenary Session at IAMCR Hyderabad 2014

In spite of aggressive emergence of new or social media and television across the globe, print media in Asia is growing extensively and will do so on account of various factors.

These are some of the highlights from speakers at the plenary held by International Association of Media and Communications Research (IACMR) in collaboration with CMS in HICC Hyderabad on July 19, 2014. The Panel speakers who included referred to various models in vogue in Asian countries and the way various political organizations and celebrities are making good use of the social and print media in recent times.
India’s pioneer in media research, Dr N Bhaskara Rao, founder Chairman of New Delhi based Centre for Media Studies(CMS) elaborated on the resilience of print media in India specially the regional media. He explained since proliferation of news channels in Andhra Pradesh in the last decade, nearly two million additional circulation has been generated and the number of Telugu dailies too have increased. The extent of migration away from print is minimal but gain is much more, particularly of first time readers. This was possible because of appetizer effect of news bulletins, their more of the same content priorities and preemptive nature of reporting. He quoted CMS research since 1990 in support.

Dr Bhaskara Rao, indicated eight peculiar conditions unique to India which facilitate Persistence of news papers, not with standing growth of television and new media. He however felt that deliberate efforts have to be made to realise the potential for print in India. While competitive compulsions and corporationalisation helps print media positively, cross media ownership and monopolisation beyond would not, Dr Rao argued.

Mr Saddarth Vardarajan, former Editor of the Hindu and an eminent journalist also spoke in this panel. He opined that print media is more about business models than about journalism. The very cheap price of newspapers in India (less than the production cost) is the very genesis of the fall of this form of journalism. He spoke of the allied business of media groups and dependence on advertising for survival.
Mr Vardarajan He also felt that advertising has not moved away from print because the television and internet business models are yet to be more accountable. He opined that responsible editorial gate keeping is still the main reason for the credibility of news content of newspapers. As new technologies emerge and new challenges influence this printed form of media, the main challenge will still be on the investment on news gathering and editorial gate keeping to maintain relevance.

The panel had a Chinese Scholar Dr. Debao Xiang from Shanghai University who shared how there are three distinct players in the media ecosystem – government, commercial and public media. He explained how media organizations reinvented themselves with the available technologies like they started web applications like messages and rss feed that are now quite popular- even larger than pint version subscription.
The Bangladesh scholar Shudipta Sharma from Chittagong University shared that the newspapers are increasing in numbers and circulations inspite of new media presence because of increasing literacy rates and also cross media ownership. However, new media is slowly catching up and newspapers will have to find more ways to maintain their relevance. Most newspapers have already have adopted online for digital distribution of their news.
This session was attended by more than 200 scholars, students and media professionals from various countries attending IAMCR. It concluded with active interaction with the audience and the panelists.

IAMCR is a preeminent worldwide professional organisation in the field of media and communication research. The University of Hyderabad (UoH) and the English and Foreign Language University (EFLU), are jointly hosting the IAMCR 2014 at Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh from July 15 to 19, 2014. About 900 delegates from 80 countries attended this conference. http://iamcr2014.org

For more information, please contact: Ms Anita Medasani, Regional Manager CMS, Hyderabad web– http://www.cmsindia.org | Email – anita@cmsindia.org | cell 8897507936

DrRao_at_IAMCR