Our opposition to the FDI in print media is understandable. For the RSS has always opposed unbridled globalisation. We feel that it would not only lead to severe economic crises but also jeopardise our freedom and sovereignty. We opposed FDI right from the beginning in many sectors. We opposed its entry into banking and insurance sectors as well as the electronic media.
We regard media as a medium for public education. Media is not merely an industry or enterprise in our view. It is a vibrant institution for societal awakening and education. It has played a pivotal role in shaping public opinion on several occasions before and after independence. Hence we are opposed to any direct or indirect intervention by the foreign agencies in the media sector.
It doesn’t require great intellectual acumen to understand the implications of allowing foreign media to have unhindered access to the masses here. Media has the enormous power of influencing public mind. It influences the cultural practices, thought processes and behavioral patterns of the people through sheer propaganda. It is this power of media that should wake us up to the dangers of allowing foreign controlled media uncontrolled entry into Indian social space.
Having said this, I am compelled to add that it also baffles us to see the hypocrisy of those who are opposing the decision of the Government to allow part entry for FDI into the print media. First of all, these were the people who were championing the cause of globalisation from the beginning. Volumes of articles were churned out; tonnes of paper were consumed with awful passion by the same people holding up the flag of globalisation as the only panacea for mankind.
When we tried to caution the nation, we were ridiculed, branded as backward looking, retrograde. We were even accused of taking the country back to the bullock cart age. We were contemptuously run down day in and day out with the soubriquet ‘Swadeshiwallas’.
Today, the same champions of globalisation and free market shiver and shriek the moment they hear of FDI into print media. They want FDI to flow into and flood every neighboring house, but when it comes to their own doorsteps they want it to be stopped by all means. It is sheer hypocrisy. Why are these great champions of globalisation so much afraid of it in their own fields?
They dole out lofty arguments. ‘The sovereignty is threatened’, they would want us to believe. How silly! Do the opponents think that they are the protectors of our sovereignty? They are the worst enemies of it. The kind of stuff that they unleash through their editorial pages shames the entire nation always.
Even for the sake of argument, if we agree to take their line on face value, is our sovereignty not threatened if FDI flows into electronic media? Today Indian electronic media is open for 100% FDI. Not one voice, save that of the same ‘Swadeshiwallas’, was ever raised when that decision was taken by the previous government.
Because there were no monopoly houses in Indian electronic media at that time.
All that existed were some private channels. They were also at a very nascent stage. So they saw an opportunity in that proposal to raise good investments from overseas. While that decision paved way for the entry of Star into Indian space, it also allowed Indian channels to raise overseas investments and compete with Star effectively.
The real issue behind this opposition to FDI is something else.
Today the Indian print media is captive in the hands of some monopoly media houses. They have tight grip over the market, which they don’t want to loosen. They don’t want powerful players from across the seas to come and compete with them. They don’t want other Indian media houses, which are starved of funds, to have access to foreign investments.
This is nothing but neo-protectionism. This is another kind of Bombay-Club. They are afraid that once the FDI comes into the print media their monopoly will be finished and they have to run for their money.
All their arguments against FDI are hollow.
It is surprising to see these people talking of threat to Indian culture. Since when have they become guardians of Indian culture? Isn’t it these very people who have been the greatest supporters of western culture in this country? What do they publish in their daily supplements? Nude and semi nude models! They organize rock concerts all over India. They promote beauty contests and they glorify sexual freedom! And now they are talking about threat to Indian culture if the FDI is allowed! Devils reciting Vedas!
To put it logically, it is these media owners who have converted their papers into commodities. They have degraded their journalists, devalued their editors and reduced them to mere page managers. General managers and sales representatives of these papers have become more powerful than the editors and news correspondents. Having converted the paper in to a commodity and started promoting it at traffic lights and roadside malls, what right have they got to oppose the FDI entry? Why should any business be given special protection?
We understand their frustration. In fact we are enjoying the drama. Could we ever have seen more fascinating drama than the great Harkishen Singh Surjeet pleading for protection of Indian culture and sovereignty? Could we have watched him paying so much lip sympathy to the Prime Minister for the way the Time magazine had portrayed him and buttressing his point that foreign media is so dangerous?
We are happy, that at least once in a lifetime these people have been forced to talk our language. But we also know that they are shedding crocodile tears only. Their real fear is of losing control. It is a well-known fact that the Indian Leftists have entrenched themselves in the media institutions. Today their existence is threatened as the FDI will open up floodgates to many players and obviously their influence and grip will erode. They are afraid that the NRIs, who in their opinion are all ‘Sanghis’, will pour in a lot of investment.
That is why they have joined chorus with the monopoly media barons - ‘the class enemies’.
The author is the Joint Spokesman of the RSS. These are his personal views.