Thursday, July 24, 2014

Media are still covertly controlled, say SUSI scholars

By Nisha Garud

Lectures and discussions on media structures and journalistic practices in the online International Mass Media class of the Study of US Study of US Institute (SUSI) 2014 summer program continued with insights into journalistic practices in Russia, India, Philippines, and Kuwait.

Russian scholar Inna Shumkina
Inna Shumkina, Professor at Samara State University in Samara, Russia, spoke at length about the post-Soviet Union media system. She noted that journalists in her homeland are categorized into three main generations; the ones before 1990s are disciplined professionals and consider journalism as an important task. Those in the 1990s were mere practitioners with no formal training or education. She elaborated that during this period, journalism was an open field. The third generation of journalists is in the ages of 15 or 16 years and has little interest in investigative journalism. They support some political party and are not aware of the journalistic rules and regulations.

Talking about the television, Inna said that television was the most popular medium in Russia and most of the television content was about entertainment. “There are about 300 television channels in Russia. The content is about television serials and films. It has changed a lot. In the 90s, Russians watched a lot of Latin American shows but now it is completely Russian,” she said.

Shashwati Goswami from Indian Institute of Mass Communication in Delhi, India reflected on the state of community radio in her country.  “It takes 11 approvals from ministerial departments to start a community radio station. People, who need such a radio station are from remote parts of the country and do not have the money to travel to the capital city and to apply for license. The situation is worse in the country’s north-eastern part, which is secluded from the mainland, because there is only one community radio station. This station is owned by an educational institution and plays no role in the development of the rural people.”  Shashwati discussed media ownership in India. She said India has a liberal democratic regulated media system. She said that the media ownership dictates the media content in India.

The struggle for Filipinos to overthrow an autocratic ruler and restore democracy was the main feature of Agnes Nepomuceno’s lecture. The scholar from Philippines gave a glimpse into the history of her country when it was a Spanish colony. Talking about media in the Philippines, Agnes said the country was the 2nd deadliest place for journalists. “The media coverage has a high concentration of political and corruption news. If the government dislikes some coverage, it can sue the journalist for libel,” she said. She added that the internet is catching up but people still rely on radio for breaking news in the Philippines, which is at a risk of natural calamities.

Yousef Al-Kazim from Kuwait presented a video that he and his colleagues shot and edited to give the audience a glimpse into Kuwait’s culture. He noted that Kuwait is the most liberal country in the Gulf but the press is still controlled by the government and does not enjoy the freedom like in some Western countries. “It is an unsaid rule that Congress and the state leader are not to be ridiculed. There is pre-censorship on movies and theater. Television and radio hold the second biggest share of the advertising market.”

Scholars were curious to know about gender equality in Kuwaiti media. Yousef elaborated that the ratio of women journalists to the men is almost negligible. However, the television news channels are initially recruiting one female anchor per channel.

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