There is no dearth of genuinely honest souls who, having no experience of working in any media-house for even a day or night, bemoan as to why Muslims of India have no nationally recognised newspaper or television channel. They are from within the community or outside, like US-based Avi Dandiya. The latter even cited the example of Blacks in the United States who had in 1960s come up with several such big media organisations.
Without questioning their intention it can be said that the idea is mistimed and should be simply set aside at this point of time.
Recently, an audio-clip on this theme was doing the rounds. Initially, it was claimed that the voice is of Ravish Kumar of NDTV. When he denied it was stated that the man speaking on the importance of a separate media-house for the Muslims is Prof Apoorvanand of Delhi University, who writes on the issue of secularism. The latter, while talking to this author, hotly refuted that he had ever released any such audio-clip.
Anyway it seems to be the mischief of some people who have little understanding of the subject–or it may be a part of a sinister design to distract the attention of the community.
The idea of a separate news-channel or a newspaper sounds very appealing. But a deeper analysis would reveal that the whole exercise would amount to changing the attention from other important issues concerning the community.
Those floating such fantastic ideas must understand that the Left Front ruled West Bengal for 34 long years– and that too uninterruptedly. They were in power in Tripura for a quarter century. In Kerala the Communists have been in and out of power for several terms ever since they first got elected in 1957. At one point of time they had 60-odd MPs in Lok Sabha and were considered as the kingmaker. They had their men as the Union home minister and Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament.
But the Communists could not come up with nationally reputed newspaper or television channel of their own. They have to remain contented with Peoples Democracy, Janshakti etc. Does this mean that they have no voice of their own?
No. till 1990s they had considerable influence on the corporate-owned Indian media. Even today they have substantial presence in the Fourth Estate. If any television channel can remotely be related to any Communist leader, it is NDTV. Its Executive Co-Chairperson Radhika Roy, wife of another Co-Chairperson Dr Prannoy Roy, is the sister of Brinda Karat, the spouse of general secretary of the CPI (M), Prakash Karat.
The fact is that they are only related by family and have no business link among themselves. Thus to get one’s view highlighted one does not necessarily need to float any mega media-house.
The truth is that some Muslims had made efforts in this direction some years back but had failed in their goal. In the present situation it would not be prudent to undertake such mega project.
In contrast efforts should be directed in increasing their representation in the present set up and get their voices heard. Besides, move should be made to seek the support of the like-minded secular elements. In recent years Muslims have made some positive developments in this direction.
When the media industry is passing through a bad period, giving fantastic suggestions amounts to misleading the community. It should be told loud and clear that DNA, an established newspaper of the powerful Zee group got closed much before lockdown. Reputed newspapers such as Hindustan Times, The Telegraph, Deccan Herald etc. had to close down some of their editions much before the arrival of COVID-19. Many regional channels across India had been facing acute difficulty in paying salaries to their staff in the post-demonetisation period.
The lockdown has further deteriorated the scenario and has virtually driven the last nail in the coffin of the media business.
Instead, there still exists scope for news portal and Youtube channels as they are cheap. Some disempowered groups are coming up with them. Some of them have acquired credibility better than many third rated national television channels. Some Muslim youths too have made their mark.
Apart from this, one fails to understand as to what the Muslim media means. Till a few years back Mumbai-based Mid Day-cum-Inquilab belonged to Khalid Ansari and his son. They sold the establishment. Similarly, M J Akbar had substantial clout over the Asian Age before being eased out sometime around in 2008.
Nobody then ever used to say that they were Muslim-owned media-houses. There are several others especially in South India but they are not in English or Hindi.
It would not be fully appropriate to suggest that all the big newspapers and channels in India are owned by the BJP people. The truth is that in today’s world, especially in a country like India, one will have to be pro-establishment while running such huge media-houses.
So far stating that no Muslim industrialist or other personality is not interested in floating media houses, the less said is better. Such assertions are based on sketchy information. Actually there are some Muslims who are funding several top news portals of India though their names do not figure prominently. Strategically, it may be better for them.
(Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna. He is author of ‘The Jewish Obsession’. The views are personal.)