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'Shrill' debates in media overshadowing facts: Jaitley

Information and Broadcasting Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said that the print media needed to accept the challenges put forth by the digital and information age. 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 on Tuesday.

The internet revolution and fast changing technology presented a big challenge to the print media across the world to maintain its presence and sustained growth. However, India remained an exception wherein print media registered growth owing to an increasing demand and subscriber base for regional newspapers. Jaitley who also holds the finance portfolio stated this while releasing the 59th Annual Report on Print Media- ‘Press in India 2014-15’ prepared and compiled by Registrar of Newspapers for India. He said while there has been an explosion of TV channels, viewers often watch ‘shrill debates’ and their craving for facts is not satisfied. Jaitley 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,” added the minister. He also said that it was time for the magazine journalism to reinvent itself since the options for the readers were expanding due to alternatives such as digital and social media.

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.

The print media registered a growth of 5.80% 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 31st March, 2015, the largest number of newspapers and periodicals registered in any Indian language was in Hindi with a figure of 42,493 publications followed by English with 13,661 registered publications. Out of 1,05,443 registered publications, 14,984 were dailies and bi-tri weeklies and remaining 90,459 were of other periodicities. 

State-wise analysis shows that UP with 16,130 publications was at top position at the end of 2014-15. Maharashtra with 14,394 publications and Delhi with 12,177 publications were at second and third position respectively.
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