For Kashmir’s ‘conflict ridden media’ digitisation only way

Photo Credit :Harmukh News

SRINAGAR: Struggling to survive in the conflict ridden Kashmir Valley due to financial crises, the legacy media is rapidly stepping in to the world of digitisation.

Not only the organisations, but interestingly the budding new breed of journalists’, who are in the middle of their career, are changing to digital media entrepreneurship. These journalists often become victim of media recession and lose jobs.

As the media organisations see new age media (digital) as the only option to cut the cost of their news operations and earn some sums by alternate means. The journalists see it (digital entrepreneurship) as the only avenue for creating employment for themselves and few others.

In-fact the strife hit newspapers’ are gradually diverting a major chunk of their resources for digitisation to reduce the print costs.

‘Kashmir Observer’, an English daily after facing acute financial crises has decided to go digital. Sajad Hyder, Editor of the newspaper told that the revenue from the market, especially due to present unrest is virtually zero, so they are diverting their major resources for digitisation to reduce print cost and generate badly needed revenue from the online virtual market.

The newspapers find it hard to pay the salaries of their staff as they are facing only turbulent situation in Valley; like the one in 2008 followed by 2010 and now in 2016.  It is obvious when it’s no business in the market, there is nothing lying to be publicise with business owners or with the government.

Little later than never, the newspaper owners have realised that remaining in circulation through just the print edition is a challenge local newspapers’ may not be able to meet for long in Kashmir like situations.

However many believes that even if the newspapers are stepping into the digital world due to unavoidable situations or crises, that is good. After all, the media around the world, even in the country is going through a transition due to the arrival of revolutionary technology. The technology has already shaped the future of new media for new generation. The legacy media is already shrinking and it seems a good idea for valley based media to accept the shift, not only for the bad reason.

Interestingly, there are pros and cons of digitisation of media in Kashmir. The organisations are doing it as an only left alternative to survive; the journalists do it to create employment for them. But it is good news as well, as they are in transition of virtual future media.

Journalists are turning up new age media entrepreneurs. This has led to gaining momentum for reshaping valleys’media industry, which is known for dismal professionalism inside newsrooms, monopoly and poverty hit. At least this may save some dedicated journalists who otherwise the industry is losing to government jobs.

While making foot prints into the digital world, the Jammu and Kashmir’s leading English daily, Greater Kashmir, published by GK Communications Pvt. Ltd. posted on its just created YouTube Channel that, ‘GK Communications Pvt. Ltd. is pleased to announce GKTV, the Audio Visual Digital Platform that will cater to our fast growing new digital audience.”

Another daily, ‘Rising Kashmir’ also started its multimedia segment, followed by Kashmir Monitor, but they are yet to decide the complete digitisation of their news operations. However, like many other they have cut down heavily on their print runs.

Amid the transition of newspapers in valley, the young journalists are looking for innovative developments in journalism amid technology boom to secure their future. The best proof to that claim is Tariq Bhat, a local journalist with a degree in mass communications.

Bhat had worked with many news organisations, like Munsif TV, 5darya News, 9TV. Bhat says losing jobs and searching another actually crated energy in him to think of his own start up.

In 2014, Bhat ventured into the territory of internet world and started the state’s first online radio app – City FM JK. With meagre resources, Bhat founded the online multi-lingual City FM JK with a small team of 6 members; transmit folk programs, Entertainment, Music, News and Information.

The radio app which is available on the Google Play store got very popular among the internet users in the valley. With a Catch-line Panun Radio, Panun Style (Our Radio, Our style), the mobile radio made Bhat to see him accolades and won him the spot light in national and international media. So far it has been downloaded over 79,000 times.

“Journalists in Kashmir suffer economically. The industry is drying up. The new generation has to turn-up for entrepreneurship than searching a job. I opted 5 lakh rupees loan amount from J&K bank and 15 lakh from private financer to start this project,” Bhat said.

He says initially people, his colleagues were laughing at his idea of online radio. “Now i have over one lakh daily listeners including international and diaspora. I am an employer now,” he adds.

Worthy to mention, after successful journey of two years with the City FM JK radio, recently in December this month, Bhat launches Asia News Network (ANN), first ever mobile TV of Jammu & Kashmir. Bhat’s this endeavour make headlines again from national TV debates to international media’s inspirational stories. He became talk of town. Who did not, BBC, Zee New, NDTV; Times Now portrays Bhat as an inspirational Kashmir youth.

Asia TV is currently being manned by a small team of 8 members and has already made a name. Asia News Network is the one of its kind which has got the variety of multi-lingual programs and songs, including News, Current Affairs and Entertainment Programs.

“There is no support from the government to the innovative start-ups. Even there advertisement policy isn’t helpful in anyways to the new age media start-ups. If that would have been done in this turbulent land, the industry would have witnessed many more start-ups”, Bhat points out.

The list does not end here. Irfan Ahmad, a Mass communication post graduate, who has reported for national and local media organisations for seven years, is in making of his ‘digital media and news podcast ’start-up, titled Kashmir Patriot and KP TV.

Pradeep Kumar, a Delhi based Program Director, who is programming head of ‘Kashmir Patriot’ says that the idea develops when Irfan was looking for a job after his channel shutdown operation. “Though he had this idea earlier, but he was quite hesitant for turning to entrepreneurship, that too in uncertain valley. Fortunately he got international fellowship on the same subject in Europe and on return he informed me of giving it (idea) a try,” Kumar said.

The start-up is seeking finance from Jammu & Kashmir entrepreneurship development institute (JKEDI), besides personnel investment. This will be first of its kind digital news platform in the state according to the Kumar. “We will be introducing new tools of mobile journalism. The start-up would be formally launched anytime soon.  The test run is already on. Besides news, views, it would be featuring debates, chats and live feeds,” he said.

Umar Nisar, another journalism practitioner with sound information technology skills developed his own FM station namely Pannun FM International in 2015. He believes the crisis in Kashmir mars the talent, “No support besides meagre revenue resources kills media industry to grow”, Umar said. Now in 2016, he is working on to upgrade his FM radio to Digital Media & Broadcasting Network.

Last, but not the least. Three mid career budding journalists, Sameer Showkin, Mir Farhat, Zahid Maqbool, who like others have worked in the same industry for years now and have no different fate. They recently founded a news-portal, ‘News Despatch’. According to them the portal is family-run and individual-driven news organisation. Sameer’s first sentence in his bio uploaded on his portal says it all that what he may have gone through in this state of affair. Sameer wrote, “Thanks to all those who said ‘no’ to me, it is because of them I did it myself”.

Braving all odd and crises, these start-ups and trend setters are worth to applaud. The making of new media industry in Kashmir valley amid all bad reasoning is something to celebrate.

 Irfan Quraishi is a Kashmir-based broadcast & multimedia journalist. He has previously worked for Day & Night News and Kashmir Times. He tweets @ irfanquraishi85.