11 July 2005

The media buy

Young people in urban India now have access to media that cater specifically to their tastes and preferences. They are no longer limited to the few newspapers, magazines and Doordarshan like their parents, but watch over 50 satellite television channels, skim through youth magazines and tabloids, surf the Internet, chat on ‘messengers’, and communicate with their friends through text as well as picture messages on their mobilephones.

Change is easier for them. They have less to unlearn when it comes to the old ways of doing things. They are quicker than their parents in handling new gadgets: anything from the TV remote to the DVD player to computers and mobilephones. They try out the latest in fashion and in cuisine. They know where the new shopping malls are and which movies are playing in the multiplexes.

They admire capitalism – which brings all this to them.

Naturally, the Indian youth are a target for the global media. Not only because they are at the cutting edge of fashion, technology and ideas; but also because many of them have substantial discretionary spending power. Today, the media are stretching themselves to tailor different kinds of products, programming and content to satisfy this audience: a new generation of sophisticated consumers… raring to go and spend.

The influence is Western, there’s no doubt about it – bringing with it a global culture. The Indian youth are assuming habits, styles of behaviour and dress which are replicas of their counterparts in Western countries. In fact, this process is also natural. “Youth are seen as the part of society that is most likely to engage in a process of cultural borrowing that is disruptive of the reproduction of traditional cultural practices,” explain Cara Heaven and Matthew Tubridy in a report by the International Youth Parliament on the impact of globalisation on young people, sponsored by Oxfam International.

Although global media have contributed to broadening the worldview and deepening the understanding of young people in India – creating awareness about poverty, literacy, environmental concerns, women’s rights, HIV, etc. – some fear that the Western media are promoting materialism to young people and serving to homogenise culture rather than celebrate the diversity which India is known for.

Will India follow this path set by global media? Will India choose her own course? Only time will tell.

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