Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 32-33 (April 1999) p. 3.


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Introduction

In February 1997, the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society, Bangalore, and Anveshi Research Centre for Women's Studies, Hyderabad, organized a two-day workshop at the University of Hyderabad on rethinking media and gender issues in our globalizing present.

The workshop came out of a widespread dissatisfaction on the part of its organisers with existing Indian writings on the media in general and electronic media (mainly television) in particular. Not only did these writings seem highly inadequate in addressing the complex changes that have been taking place in our context, but there seemed to be a mismatch between the theoretical models they implicitly invoked and our specific conditions of reader-ship/viewership and production. Even more frustrating was the fact that most feminist interventions, whether or not they drew upon existing theorizations of the media, tended to follow predictable and, as many of us felt, ultimately unproductive lines of enquiry and activism.

The 1990s have witnessed numerous changes with respect to the mass media, in particular the print and electronic media on which our workshop focussed. The economic policies of the Indian government, with their emphasis on "liberalization" and privatization, have enabled the rapid growth of cable television (beaming to us both international and domestic channels) as well as made the state-owned Doordarshan more dependent on advertising revenues than before. In the field of print media too, the entry of international conglomerates and the possible impact on Indian journalism is a topic of heated debate. Indeed, the rate of change has been so rapid—as Madhava Prasad has pointed out, most Indians had not even seen a TV set fifteen years ago—that media activists and social analysts have not yet developed a vocabulary adequate to the complexities of the cultural transformations which are taking place.

There is an urgent need to evolve new terms and concepts to understand the implications of current media developments. Existing media studies tend to be narrow in conceptualization and focus, generating merely descriptive reports or denunciatory statements about the new media. What we require are approaches towards the study of contempo-

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