1. Socio- Cultural Situation in India

With a population of over one billion India is all people!  India, an inheritor of a great legacy of civilization, faces multifaceted challenges.  Despite notable progress made in recent decades, 300 million people, representing the largest single concentration of poverty on earth, are affected by illiteracy, disease and deprivation. The prevalence of social and economic injustices prevents the full flowering of human personality and fulfilment of the vastly rich human resource potential.

Globalization is bringing about rapid changes in urban India. Many new jobs are created and, at the same time, millions are also being laid off from their traditional jobs. Computer-based jobs are created everywhere and so anyone without this skill is finding it difficult to get into the job market. Consequently, several doors, which were closed until now in the fields of entertainment and information sectors, are being opened to the global players.

The democratic polity faces grave challenges from powers, which are criminalizing both religion and public life. The minority religious communities continue to face several challenges from the Hindu fundamentalists. At times the law of the land seems to be helpless before the communal and criminal forces!

2. Current Media Situation

Change is today on fast forward mode, impacting on people at a giddying speed at the work place, at home, in the world of entertainment - there is no area of our lives that has not been profoundly influenced. India has been experiencing a media explosion.

Cinema: India produces feature films in over 20 main languages of India. However, the Indian cinema has been getting a knock. Although it has been finally declared an industry, a lot of underworld forces are allegedly financing the production of popular movies, which project a popular set of values.  Most of the hundreds of films made in India belong to the popular ‘MASALA’ category. The proliferation of TV channels has increased the home consumption of cinema through cinema based programmes.

Radio: Radio has made a comeback in urban India and is becoming stronger in rural India, thanks partly to FM. The Government of India has allowed over 100 private FM radio channels in 40 cities across the country. Village women turn broadcasters: Community radio is taking roots in many rural areas such as Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh as women’s self help groups use the medium for local development. Many of these women are hardly educated and have had no media production exposure at all. They, however, are now capable of producing varied radio programmes and hope that the radio will help them better deal with the issues facing them and in spreading awareness. “Community radio is an important tool for those who are traditionally un-represented by mainstream media, providing them access to the means of communication. It is a tool that can be used to strengthen cultural rights, especially the rights of marginalized communities”.


Television: The government-owned television started in 1970, covers over 85% of India’s geographical area through more than 20 channels with its hundreds of transmitters and tens of production centres. However, the private channels that have entered the arena have systematically challenged the monopoly of government owned media. Many more private channels are being introduced into the country in the regional languages at a greater frequency.

Round one of the IRS 2002 states that the media reach of in the urban areas is 52.4% with 80 cable and satellite channels, seven Doordarshan channels, AM (Primary and Vividh Bharati) and FM radio, Cinema and  Internet, This is followed by any C&S channel in the ballpark of 104 m or 50.5% and any DD channel, in the region of 100 m or 48.8%. In the rural areas,  DD channels top the list with 158 m or 31.7%. This is followed by any daily at 107 m or 21.5% and any radio station with 75 m or 15.1%. Top five TV channels: The figures were as follows: DD1 – 233 m, DD2 Metro – 103 m, STAR Plus – 54 m, Sony – 41 m and ZEE TV – 66 m. 

Print MediaIndia prints and publishes over 5,000 dailies and over 40,000 periodicals. Many of them in small towns are aimed at the neo-literates in their own languages and dialects. The top 10 dailies:According to IRS 2002 there are Dainik Bhaskar with a readership of 13.6 m, Dainik Jagran 13.5 m, Malayala Manorama 9.2 m, Daily Thanthi 8.8 m Eenadu 8 m, Amar Ujala 7.4 m, Lokmat 7 m, Matrubhumi 6.9 m, Hindustan Times 6.1 m. and Times of India 6.1 m. Top ten magazines: The top 10 magazines are Saras Salil with a readership of 6.3 m, India Today – Hindi 4.3 m, India Today – English 3.9 m, Malayala Manorama 3.7 m, Grihshobha – Hindi 3.6 m, Vanitha – Malayalam 3 m, Reader’s Digest 2.9 m, Filmfare 2.8 m, Sarita 2.5 m. and Pratiyogita Darpan 2.5 m.

Print media is still holding on and is widening readership, despite the inroads made by the satellite and cable TV. However, the media, both print and electronic, seems to be in the grip of market forces. Some of them seem to be obsessed with glamour and even blackmail to survive! Even if one forgets the glorious role played by the print media in the national freedom movement, it cannot be condoned for glamorizing the mafia dons and bestowing on them political respectability. Criminals are being glamorized by the media and are treated as new heroes of the society.  The professional leadership committed to societal values seems to be weakening in the press. The charge against a section of the Indian press is that it is no more a builder of public opinion or upholder of moral values. The complaint is that it has become more of a passive recorder than an instrument of social transformation.

InternetInternet subscriber rate is expanding at a terrific rate in India. At present there are over 4 million internet subscribers and about ten thousand cyber cafes. New users are being added in many regional languages thanks to the availability of new software in these languages. Private Cable operators are now providing LAN – connections, which means millions of homes with cable connections, could bypass the telephone network completely and have access to Internet all the time.

‘Mobile’  fever is gripping the whole country and millions of Indians, young and old are getting ‘connected’ and abundantly exchange spoken and text-messages.

Traditional media: As already stated, India is in its villages. It is in the rural India that the traditional media such as drama, dance and folklore find their full expression in its diversity, beauty and gaiety. Even the modern media are attracted by the rich cultural diversity of the traditional media and have begun to exploit them for commercial purposes.

3. Media Legislation

Convergence Bill 2001: The Union cabinet of India has approved the Communications Convergence Bill, 2001. The bill aims at creating an omnibus regulatory body for the information technology, communications, and broadcasting. It will also facilitate their progress in the era of convergence.  Hacking or tampering with websites and Internet has become punishable under law.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) allowed: The Government of India from the middle of 2002 has allowed FDI in print media, which was withheld for a long time, up to 26%.

FM Community Broadcasting Permitted:  In India, broadcasting has been controlled by the central government and the regulations framed in the 1885 Indian Telegraph Act had remained unchallenged until 1975. At the base, franchising non-political/religions institutions (NGOs, universities, co-operative institutions and cultural and other public service non-profit institutions) to utilise Akash-Bharati’s infrastructure to operate autonomous low-power, low-budget community radio and TV stations to serve both rural and urban populations and niche audiences for instructional, developmental and cultural purposes on the SITE model. These were to be licensed by an independent Licensing Board for periods of up to three to five years at a time and run with broad-based community representation and audit. They would (at least initially) not broadcast news but merely relay Akash Bharati news bulletins but would be able to run their own local current affairs programmes.

Freedom of Information Bill:  Freedom of Information Bill has been passed by the Parliament on Dec. 03, 2002. Under the bill, it is obligatory upon every public authority to provide information to the citizens and maintain all records consistent with its operational requirements duly catalogued, indexed and published at such intervals as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government or the competent authority.2 

Cable TV Bill: The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2002, secured Parliament’s approval on Dec.10, 2002 with the Rajya Sabha. The amendment was aimed at protecting the consumer interests as it allowed subscribers to choose channels and pay only for those opted for. Also, it would enable the telecasters to assess the actual number of subscribers for each channel.

4. Media Challenges

Media is either seduced or pressurized: Constitutionally, media is fully free and the public have reposed their sacred trust in the media. All the same political forces and communal organizations either try to seduce media or apply pressure tactics to make them serve personal stakes.


Media and Reporting : Mass media and television in particular have altered the ways in which people look at the world and the ways in which politics, wars, and history are projected and reconstructed.

Change in lifestyles: With the extensive proliferation of advertising, the consumerist lifestyle is growing far and wide in India. Consequently, there is a noticeable change in people’s lifestyles, habits, behaviour and even values.

Shift in value systems: Amazing popularity of TV programmes like KAUN BANEGA CROREPATI (Who will become a millionaire?) is an indication of the shift in value system, as glamour and wealth gain greater importance.

Increase in violence: The way media portray violence as an ordinary way of expressing emotions and glamorizing of criminals as new heroes of the society, seems to be making our younger generation less sensitive to pain around them.

Children are playing less and browsing more:  Many children are playing less, if they have not stopped it altogether. As per a survey, about 42 % of the kids who were questioned watched TV for more than four hours daily, while a shocking 10 % never went to play. The rest played once in a while! Kids don’t play with toys anymore! Kids don’t want pretty- looking dolls anymore. Toys that contain levers, push buttons, dial and hinges usually fascinate toddlers. But now aggression can be seen in their choice of toys too. After watching TV, many children want to surf the Internet. Any interference from parents is resented. Without social interaction, kids find it difficult to develop leadership qualities!

Traditional art-forms are losing popularity: Although the traditional art-forms haven’t lost their relevance, their popularity seems to be eroding considerably. Paradoxically, the modern media have become new platforms for their presence and proliferation due to the electronic media making use of the folk art forms rather profusely in their programmes.

5. Church's Response

5.1. Social communications has come to centre-stage:

Emphasizing the importance of communications the Vatican Document, “Dawn of A New Era” says, “At the dawn of a new era, a vast expansion of human communications is profoundly influencing culture everywhere...  It was for God’s faithful people to make creative use of the new discoveries and technologies for the benefit of humanity and fulfillment of God’s plan for the world.” (Aetatis Novae, n.1)

Realization of the need for proper training: More and more Church leaders have begun to realise that communications cannot be ignored anymore without doing harm to the community. Ignoring the importance of communications may cause alienation of people from the Church and even God himself! Greater numbers of Church personnel who are providing pastoral care have come to realise the tremendous influence of media on the people. Some of them have even begun to feel the handicap caused by insufficient training in communications. It is heartening to note that many individuals and formation houses have already begun to take up such training in communications.

Integrating communications in formation: The personnel in formation have begun to feel that more and more importance needs to be given to communication studies and that these should be integrated with their formation so that they can incorporate social communications in their pastoral ministry.

Need for networking: In the past, often individual priests and religious worked in communications due to their own personal initiative, many times with no support from Church authorities. The situation is changing for the better, if not changed already. More and more pastoral personnel are being set aside and sent for communications studies and are being trained in skills needed for pastoral ministry at various levels.

New media culture: Church cannot afford to ignore the media because they have become a part and parcel of the life of people. The Church needs to be present in media, bringing a faith vision into it. With this, on the one hand the light of faith will enhance cultures and on the other hand, faith itself will get a new embodiment. This enrichment by being incarnated and expressed through the new language of media, the mystery of incarnation gets furthered all the more.

New understanding: There is a distinct change in the perception today. Hence, communications is considered today as:

Holistic: Today there is a more holistic understanding of communications ministry in the Church. Communication is not just a matter of mastering or using media skills and techniques, but is considered to be an integral part of the very mission of the Church.

Means and not end: Communication is no more considered as an end in itself but a powerful means at the service of the Church and society.

New language: More than the techniques it is considered as a new language and hence it’s potentialities are to be put to the best use.

Teamwork: Today communicators cannot work in isolation; by its very nature communications demands team work; no competition but co-operation.

Process: Today communications is considered more as process, which facilitates a relationship through conversation and interaction.

Link: The communication as a ministry is understood as a service and link for all other apostolates in the Church.

Necessity: In the new media age, social communications is considered not as an option for the chosen few but a necessity for all sections of the Church at all levels.

5.2. Where is the Church in the media scene today?

Today, the Church in India is no more confined only to the traditional pulpits complaining about the negative aspects of media? Is it not a part of the new forums created by media and communications technologies?

All the 12 Regional Bishops’ Councils of India have Regional Commissions/ Secretaries for Communications and most them have full-fledged Regional Communications Centre.

The two catholic organizations, viz. Signis-India and ICPA are active in the service of communications. Signis –India has over 150 members. And ICPA has over 130 members.

JEEVAN TV Channel Launched: New TV Channel called JEEVAN TV (Life TV) has been launched in Sep. 2002. The family channel is owned and run by a Limited Company whose president is ABp. Jacob Thoomkuzhy, Archbishop of Trissur. The Channel broadcasts mainly in Malayalam for 24 hrs. daily with about 50% of the broadcast being news. It is considered to be a landmark in the Christian’s efforts in the field of broadcasting in India.

NISCORT: The National Institute for Social Communications, Research and Training (NISCORT) is catering to the training in Media to both priests, religious and laity.

CBCI Media Commission plans:

1.To urge every diocese in India to prepare a pastoral plan for communications and to make communications an integral part of the diocesan pastoral plan.

2.To persuade every diocese to appoint, where there is none, a Diocesan Director for communications, and/or a Public Relations Officer and to constitute a Crisis Management Cell to foresee and manage crisis situations.

3.To urge the diocesan bishops, religious congregations and persons responsible for formation of clergy and religious, to immediately make education and training in communications an integral part of the formation of pastoral workers and priests.

4.To request the bishops and the faithful of India to give greater encouragement and due importance to the celebration of India Communications Day which is celebrated on Sunday previous to the feast of Christ the King.

5.To request the bishops and the faithful of India to allocate the Sunday collection of the India Communications Day for communications ministry as follows: diocesan communications commission: 40%, Regional Communications Commission: 30% and the CBCI Commission for Communications: 30%.

6.To start a Communications Foundation with the Communications Day contributions and other donations, to support communications ministry and prepare young talents for the mainstream media.

6. The Path Forward

1. We need to sensitize ourselves, our leaders and our community to the new media culture and to benefit from them. This effort should lead to fostering a culture of communications by making all channels of communications interactive and participatory in the Church.

2. We need to urge our community leaders and decision makers to integrate communications training in the priestly and religious formation and the need of incorporating the technologies in the various ministries and pastoral life.4 

3. We need to motivate the Church personnel to actively participate in the new opportunities created by media and the information technologies to share the good news and fight the bad news.

4. We need to promote universal media education, especially for children to empower them to be critical and discriminating consumers of media.

5. “We need to listen to the concerns and expectations of influential groups/ individuals who are not hostile to us but who have a stake in our activities and to consider those concerns in our decision making process.”

6. “We need to interact proactively and intelligently with the vast majority of the people of other faiths based on correct information that has been critically analyzed.”

7. We need to rejuvenate the diocesan commissions for social communications and the communications centres so that they become de-facto institutions that communicate and network with local media professionals.

8. We need to give greater attention and importance to regional language media, both print and electronic.

9. We need to improve the diocesan periodicals by avoiding propagandist material and improving journalistic professionalism in order to make them truly communicative.

10. We should develop “External Communications Position Statements on what we do and spell out in journalistic, not church, language, why we are doing what we do.5 

11. We need to identify and appoint talented and trained spokespersons/ PROs in every diocese where there are none.

12. We need to plan for the future and identify, train and induct creative young talents to pursue profession in the mainstream media.

 

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THEOLOGICON Project


THEOLOGICON  is a name derived from the Greek words Theos+Logos+Eikon, referring to God’s self-communication in Jesus Christ, the Word (Logos) and the Image (Eikon) of the Father. Christianity is a religion of communication.

Christian theology originated in the oral culture and has matured in the print (text) culture. Today’s predominant mode of multimedia communications integrate sounds, images and texts to construct and express meanings. It calls for an aggiornamento of the content and method of theology and pastoral communication.

Theologicon is a digital threshold of communication theology.

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