Local Media and democracy

There is an interesting article by George Monbiot regarding the demise of local newspapers in the UK and the impact on democracy in that country. Monbiot is an author who polarises views (like our own Arundhati Roy), but I find this particular article quite interesting for the emphasis Monbiot places on the need for independent local newspapers for a vibrant democracy. Monbiot laments on the selling out of local newspapers to vested interests and thinks it may not be a bad idea for biased newspapers to die.

The story appears to have parallels in India. Increasingly, many regional media (both print and electronic) are being bought out or started by politicians or powerful business interests. At least this is the case in South India- I am not adequately aware of the situation in other parts of the country. I am also only talking about state level media and not local media (at district or taluk levels). Given the size of our states, even state level media do not pay enough attention to local issues and there is generally a huge problem with obtaining and communicating information at local levels. This has a significant impact on how our democracy works. Given the diversity in our states, issues relevant for one constituency or district may not be the same as the next. However, because state and national media do not focus on specific local issues, I believe these local issues are lost in the debate. This inevitably leads to the lack of a robust local debate and has an impact on how democracy functions. The need for an independent local media, I believe, is an important cog in deepening accountability and democratic activities at local levels and if they do not exist or are biased, democracy will be poorer. It will be interesting to know and understand more about local media in India and whether they suffer from the ills that the UK local media suffer.

Written by
Harish Narsappa
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