Media Shifts & Future of Regional Languages

By Prabhakar Timble
05 April 2012 04:33 IST

Media as communications vehicle disseminating information, influencing public opinion and lubricating public participation in democratic and social agenda was earlier confined to newspapers, books and magazines. In broadcast media, the totally government controlled radio performed the role of keeping the masses informed. This was a passive instrument of media. The aggressive approach started with the power of the audio-visual mechanism comprising of television, film, and CDs. With the entry of   Internet media, the TV today looks as a small part of digital mass media technology. Internet enabled services such as such as email, websites, blogging, Facebook, twitter, videos has overshadowed the traditional forms of media. These new emerging forms have the global reach within the split of a second and at rock bottom costs.

Spectacular changes

We now have a fusion of newspapers, radio, and TV on the net. No business big or small, no social enterprise or political party can afford to stay away from this new media. The impact of the internet is clearly discernible in consumer decisions, investor preferences, public opinion and voter behaviour.

The revolution in communication technology and the digital age has also extended and broadened the concept of “crowd” as a medium of influencing public opinion. Earlier, ‘crowd’ meant a gathering at specified locations or congregation in the Church and worshippers at the mosque. To this, added the godly crowd of Believers.  The self-proclaimed proponents of culture and ethics got attached to the ‘swamis’ and the ‘Babas’. Such crowds and the fashionable urban formations in terms of Joggers clubs and Laughter groups also wield their influence on culture and politics.  Now, we can create our own crowd on social networking sites and through community groups, each interacting from their own bedrooms or drawing rooms commenting on public and social policy. The SMS, ringtones and the jingles forwarded through mobiles is proving to be more effective than the outdoor media in terms of hoardings and other signage in influencing not only consumer tastes and preferences but also attitude to culture, religion and politics.

Though all channels of mass media will continue to have their place and share in society, greater expansion and proliferation would be seen in the internet media. This would be mainly because of its wide reach and minimal cost. The natural law teaches us that any new technology which improves access and lowers costs finds greater acceptability and usage. Further, contrary to the closely held belief that digital technology and internet is “only” English language friendly and would gradually reduce and eliminate the use of the multiple Indian languages, I foresee immense opportunities for regional languages to also thrive and prosper provided we are prepared to understand and accept hard ground realities and hidden opportunities.

Realities and opportunities

In the sphere of print media, for India as a whole, the vernacular print media has overtaken the English press. As an example, the Malayalam Manorama publishes ten editions in Kerala, five outside Kerala and two in Bahrain and Dubai. This is largely due to the hunger for localised news, the high literacy rate in the State and the corporate advertising support to harness regional markets. Kerala could provide lessons for the regional language print media in other States. It is also perceived and rightly so that the readers of the vernacular press are more alert, sensitive and responsive to social and political issues vis-à-vis the English readers. Even taking the situation in Goa we find larger presence of newspapers in the vernacular.

It is realistic to assume that English would be perceived as the language of opportunities by a large majority. It is a paradox that despite the vernacular being the State language, the language of public administration and of the Courts is English. However, this would be a puzzle and contradiction that we have to live up to. The private corporate sector would also growingly adopt, if I may prefer to use the term “Englishnization” of its operations. It is futile to attempt to stop what is inevitable. The milk has to be spilt. It is fruitless to cry.

Despite globalisation and growing usage of English, the potential for greater use of regional languages would be on the spoken medium (radio) and the audio-visual media (TV). Advertising and PR companies are coming forward and will continue to do so with greater force to support features and events in regional languages. Such features add value to the business and sales plans of the corporates. English may be compulsorily needed to achieve the dreams of education and employment, but it cannot quench the thirst for good literature, poetry and music and answer the call of the heart and the beats of the soul. These including theatre and films are the perennial intimate fields for the local and regional languages. The language of business and commercial opportunities cannot water such lands. They will remain parched if not duly serviced by the tongue of the region.

The future that I see for regional languages in the media is one of fusion, confusion and inclusion. Whether it is print media or electronic, whether it is sound of music or dance, whether it is the internet highway or the community groups, I cannot expect purity. All the forms of media would go multi-lingual. It would be pollution and pollination of English and regional languages. The internet media products and the TV have already gone multi-lingual. The same trend will enter the portals of newspapers, magazines and books. Web opens immense possibilities for regional languages along with providing access to the readers, writers and lovers spread over the globe. Every technological innovation manufactures more opportunities. No innovation has so far reduced prospects. The only issue is that the old order and childhood thinking has to change to exploit the new opportunities. For this we need to stay effective at the cost of perfection. Adaptability comes only if we are not afraid of flaws. We should in fact celebrate imperfections.



Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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