By: Mohammed Junaid and Gautami Reddy (Students, CCMG)
“Public policy is no more a playing field confined only to the policy community or trade bodies and associations; indeed, it has received attention within academia as a matter of discussion, deliberation and dissection. As public institutions it is our role to nurture not only the tail end, i.e. policy implementation and application but also to be informed about the instruments, actors and approaches in making public policy”, said Prof. Biswajit Das, the Director of the Centre for Culture, Media and Governance (CCMG) on 21 January 2016 in his keynote address in a national conference on ‘Media and Public Policy’ at IIM, Kashipur. Prof. Das emphasised the need for intervention by Social Science and scholars of Communication studies and pressed the need for including it in the curriculum of these disciplines. He also discussed the paradox in government thinking on making policies on cable television distribution as highlighted in TRAI documents.
Mohammed Junaid and Gautami Reddy, both of whom are currently pursuing their Masters course at CCMG, also presented their research concerning the policies related to cinema and television industry respectively.
Junaid’s presentation ‘In the Name of Morality: A Study of the Inception of Indian Film Policy’ tried to understand the politics of colonial policies on early Indian cinema. The moral anxieties of the British administration shaped the policies concerning the content and infrastructure of cinema in India. The formation of effectual censorship measures can be traced to this period when British interest groups made an effort to curb the American films screened in Indian cinema-houses fearing a threat to their cultural sovereignty.
Gautami’s presentation ‘Policy Discourse and Broadcasting Technology in India: Revisiting the Joshi Committee Report’ also engaged with the questions of cultural sovereignty that were raised in the 1980s when the television started entering middle class households of urban India. She took the Joshi Committee report of 1984 as a point of reference to problematize the discussions surrounding the television programming by placing it within the larger discourse of communication revolution, development and national identity. Her presentation highlighted the growth and expansion of Television in the post liberalisation India and stressed the need and importance of reinventing public service with a view to uphold the public interest of television in an era of market liberalization.
The presentations were followed by a detailed commentary given by the chair of the session, Prof. Biswajit Das, who elaborated on the meaning and associations of certain commonly used terminology like public service, development, censorship, identity etc. More importantly, he expressed the need to critically engage with the earlier policy formulations in order to better shape a policy fitting the present context.
Overall, some key concerns were flagged during the conference. Some were regarding communication technologies, their inherent biases and the simultaneous attempts to manoeuvre these on the part of the state and the market. However, the speakers largely focused on analysing the disseminated message and raised issue on matters of representation and what sort of effect it has on the public.