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India’s Journey in Media: Women will play a more empowering role

Day 1 of the Women Economic Forum held in New Delhi on Monday (8 May) saw Raj Nayak of Colors, Kartikeya Sharma of ITV Media Network and Anurag Batra of BW Businessworld discuss the role of news, social media and how communications as a whole is progressively changing the society

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An associate of ALL Ladies League, the Women Economic Forum is a global conference to foster empowering conversations and connections among women committed to adopt constructive change in all walks of life.

The 2017 Women Economic Forum kicked off with an engaging session on how women in media have a voice and opinion, the patriarchal biases faced by them and their role in becoming dominant in the society.

The discussion, moderated by Harbeen Arora, founder and Global Chairperson of ALL Ladies League, had ITV Media network Managing Director Kartikeya Sharma, Colors Chief Executive Officer Raj Nayak and BW Businessworld Chairman and Editor-in-Chief Anurag Batra as part of the panel.

Edited excerpts:

Harbeen Arora: Is media being patriarchal when it comes to women? Are they involved in the system as much as men are?

Kartikeya Sharma: At ITV Network, women are as much part of the mainstream media as men are. Media is a reflection of our society; although we live in a patriarchal society, I don’t think it is correct to say that media is also patriarchal. Women are empowering in every field and being given importance in any sector. However, digital media has taken centre stage and with so much happening in the digital world, there is lot of noise. Views are important but news is the most important platform.

Raj Nayak: Women play a significant role in life. Colors has addressed women issues. Women rights are human rights. With time, as we progress, we have seen Indians gradually change from being a progressive society at one end to being a regressive one at the other. It is a dichotomy of sorts. For instance, I read a news article which said that in an examination in Kerala, women were asked to take off their inner wear. Now, that is regressing.

Anurag Batra: Both these media houses — ITV and Colors — can make a difference. Raj Nayak’s voice can be heard in the media industry as he creates stereotypes and addresses these stereotypes. So, whatever happens in media is an extension of our society.

Arora: Media is a happening society and influences one and all. Why is there always a tilt towards certain negativity, and that is understood as essentially making news?

Sharma: Nothing sells like bad news. The online and digital medium is moving from a reactive to proactive medium. News is news; whatever negative or positive is being reported does affect the minds of viewers. We can’t blame the message all the time. We are by products of our circumstance and are living in an age to cover as and when it happens.

Nayak: We have stopped being objective and taking narrative. At times, people lose trust when media starts taking sides. You look at hashtags of news channel and you can realize what stand that channel is going to take. The power of broadcasters has shifted to anybody and everybody.

Batra: Donald Trump can connect with the audience, Hollywood stars can connect to a larger audience… and here comes the role of social media. At the same time, there is a fight for the soul of this country and media has a very important role to play. There is an existential dilemma in the media and sustainability is another important factor. 
Media understands the role what to do, and what not to do. We are trying to find fillip in the new normal. Somewhere, the media has to make that difference by engaging audience. Only then can a media house be original, unique and make money. When I say this, I truly believe that every journalist has a social conscience.

Arora: What would you advice women on how to tackle social media trolls and use it a power tool?

Nayak: We were the first to do something like ‘Balika Vadhu’, first to do ‘Shakti’, a serial on transgender. The beauty about social media is that you have the power in your hands. You have an advantage to speak in public space, you can tweet. Social media, if used effectively, is a potential tool.

Sharma: The importance of being in a media house is that one can bring about a change and voice an opinion. When we started Pro Wrestling League, we had equal representation from both men and women. In a country like India, women have managed to beat men in all fields. Wrestling denotes power. The women in wrestling, and everywhere else, have left a lasting impression on the country that they belong to and in our case, India is being reflected in a good light globally.