Getting the point across

Published in Books & Authors (Daily Dawn) on April 30, 2006 – Original Link
Media and Mediation (Communication Processes Volume 1) Edited by Bernard Bel, Jan Brouwer, Biswajit Das, Vibodh Parthasarathi and Guy Poitevin
Sage Publications, B-42, Panchsheel Enclave, Post Box 4109, New Delhi-110017, India.
Tel: 91-11-2649 1290-7
ISBN 0-7619-3428-6 474pp.
Indian Rs750

Reviewed by Ayesha Hoda

THE term mass media is commonly used to refer to news which is just a section of media. The term mass media was adopted in the 20’s, when there was a massive circulation of newspapers as well as magazines and when numerous radio networks were operated. Mass communication, today, provides the know-how of communicating information to the masses in various ways as well as through different media. The number of people entering this field in India is growing drastically and so are the institutes offering media studies.

Communication Processes is only the first volume in a trilogy. The editors and contributors include Bernard Bel, a research engineer of the French National Centre for Scientific Research, Jan Brouwer, honorary director, Cariks, Mysore, Biswajit Das, associate professor at Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi, Vibodh Parthsarathi, an independent researcher who maintains an unwavering interest in the media and its different aspects, and the late Guy Poitevin, a scholar at Cooperative Research in Social Sciences, Pune.

Other contributors are Uma Chakravarti, Maytrayee Chaudhri, Shanti Kumar, Deep Kanta Lahiri Choudhury, Jitendra Maid, Pandit Padalghare, G. Krishna Reddy, Joel Ruet, Dipankar Sinha and Pradip N. Thomas. Their brief profiles have been provided at the end of the book.

The book tries to answer two major questions: “how fruitful is communication as a concept in yielding insights about the India of today, and that of yesterday and tomorrow?” and “what constitutes a critical research agenda in communication amid the fissured reality of the Information Age?”

The book is an attempt to understand the impact of communication or mass media and the politics behind it, when any sort of biased mediation occurs or when the media is not given enough freedom. Mediation acquaints the reader with the limitations of mass media and offers some viable solutions to such problems.

It is said that communication students in India lack awareness regarding the political development of the country. With the addition of electronic media (television and the internet), the field has grown, gained more importance, and so information reaches nearly every individual in the country.

An important question that must be asked while reading this book is whether seeing is actually believing? Media can create images and hide others, as Sonia Jabbar says: “The wars at Kargil or in the Gulf war shown on TV can hardly compare to what was happening on ground reality. The Stinger missiles, green luminous streaks, comet-like, lighting up the night sky during the Gulf war looked so beautiful on the small screen. Our very own carefully edited Kargil war showed only our brave jawans against the muted sound of the Bofors guns. No piercing screams of victims, no ear-splitting booms of gun; whole dimensions of war were edited out and presented as the real thing.”

Examples of what has been happening, such as those related to Andhra Pradesh with regard to Indian media, are very helpful and make the book informative. It includes a great number of interesting topics such as, “The routes followed by the first telegraph system”, “Advertisements: shifting portrayals”, “The nationalist imagination of public broadcasting”, “Fashioning disembodied music: the sculpting of entertainment”, and so on. Thus, it encompasses the history as well as modern-day practices of the Indian media. It also shows how global ideas have affected it and how and why mediation occurs.

For the layman, the book would have been more comprehensible, especially in the initial chapters, if it were written in a simpler way; since or he or she (especially the youth) will have an idea of what “media” and “mediation” is. However, that is the extent of it. It takes time to register but there are several parts with which one can easily relate to.

It is indeed a great effort on the part of the writers and a delight for those related to media research, policies, etc. Whether it is advertising, radio broadcasting or personal and social communication, this book offers it all. There are notes or references at the end of different sections, which reflects the amount of research involved. Other two volumes that will be published in the future are Domination and Appropriation and Culture and Confrontation.


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