Vikash Sharma

Be it a banker, marketer, media person or a bureaucrat, a nation’s development is everybody’s job and it is not the only responsibility of the government, said Barun Das, MD and CEO TV9 Network at OTV’s annual conclave ‘Foresight 2024’ held at Bhubaneswar on Saturday.

Das, during discussion on the theme ‘News Plus: The Future of News’ with Litisha Mangat Panda, Head of Business Digital Odisha Television Network, said the media can be a force for good or a force for destruction. Deliberate orchestration of misinformation or rumours on social media often causes societal problems. It is important that credible mainstream media network like TV9 and OTV do their jobs well, said Das.

“The importance of responsible narrative becomes more significant from national and international perspectives. For decades now, we have allowed others to tell our story and because we are nice, it is often construed as weak. We allowed the stories to be scripted from their perspective with their agenda in mind. It is time we took control of the India narrative. There is no better place than us to tell our stories. We do not need to be rude but we do need to be rightfully assertive. We do not need to create friction but we need to tell the world all that is right. It has to be our story, told by us as faithfully and as passionately as possible,” he said.

“As new India is rising under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and how high it will rise is entirely in our hands. Hence, we have to work to strengthen our foundation to capitalise on our demographic divide. We have to mobilise 1.4 billion people as one unified force and it is not the job of the government alone,” said Das.

Over the past decade, 14 crore people have been brought out of poverty while India is ascending to become the third largest economy in the World. But financial inclusion and job creation are work in progress. Regional media is playing a vital role and a lot more needs to be done, he stated.

“When every Indian is aware and convinced of the new India story, when every Indian is willing and equipped to put shoulder to the wheel, that is when the nation will truly develop, said Das adding that media can play a role in developing the nation, shape the minds of Indians and drive the narrative.

According to Das, media has an additional responsibility to be true to its existence but the predicament that looms over is that ‘we are also supposed to be business outfit. That is the conflict that I face and we need to trade it carefully’. 

Regional Is The Market: Barun Das

“The growth of Indian media is double digits as far as the regional markets are concerned. Politics is the bread and butter content for a news network. Unless you are relevant in the national arena, you do not get that identity. Hence, we launched Hindi, Bangla and reviewed Marathi and now we have become Pan India,” said Das.

AI, Deepfake, Misinformation Concern and Digital Challenge

“Digital is our future. One of the biggest challenges the television industry is facing is that most of us are free to air and they do not have subscription fees. The biggest strength of India is the large consuming middle class but we do not transact with them commercially or directly,” he said.

As far as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is concerned, Das said that everybody has to live with it and put it to use for good cause. “One thing that works everywhere is that there should be strict rules and regulations, and impose them. Western Media has gone ahead and the New York Times have kept an editor for fact check. Responsible media has to check facts and drive out wrong narratives and wrong sources, said Das.

Good Content Matters

“There would be takers if the content is good whether it is fiction, documentary or non-fiction. One of the ways India can help this growing brand of India across the world is by leveraging soft power. If India can come up with content which is globally recognised, it will certainly help. We are working on it as of now,” Das added.