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Discussion on Monograph : "Who Sets the Agenda? Does Prime Time Pace Policy? The Indian Experience"

March 07, 2013
Round Table
1100 hrs

Venue: Room no 005, IDSA

The Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, has constantly pushed the envelope on looking at matters of security and policy through a multi-dimensional prism. It is within this context that we are studying the role and rise of new actors like the media and its increasing relevance and profile in the realm of policy making. At a time when the country is witnessing challenges - political, social and moral, the role of the media is rising in perception as never before. But how much does 'prime time' in the era of 24 hour news coverage actually impact policy?

The IDSA monograph titled "Who Sets The Agenda? Does Prime Time Really Pace Policy? - The Indian Experience" by Ms Shruti Pandalai, attempts to address these questions looking at recent foreign policy debates which have been widely discussed. We are organising a round table discussion on the same.

Panel of Experts

Ambassador Nalin Surie
Ambassador Leela Ponappa
Dr. Sanjaya Baru
Mr. Nitin Gokhale
Ms. Mahrukh Inayet
Mr.Josy Joseph

Concept Note

Through the monograph “Who Sets the Agenda? Does Prime Time Really Pace Policy?” the author has tried to demonstrate the dynamics of the growing interface between diplomacy and the news media within the Indian case study. The focus has been broadcast media, specifically television and the change it has ushered in bureaucratic and political responses to crises. Television news coverage in India seems to have a higher impact in the realm of domestic policy vis-a-vis foreign policy. Its exponential growth in a competitive ratings driven market has given it an image of a pressure group which has not yet attained political maturity to be taken seriously by policymakers. However the ‘real-time response’ and accountability component introduced to the arena of diplomacy has been the vital pressure point in many foreign policy considerations.

This monograph has explored three basic questions: Does the Indian media influence and shape agendas in policy formulation? If it does, what is the role and the extent of this influence? Is the influence independent or contingent upon conditions?

The media’s agency has been versatile in the case studies examined. From a pressure group that almost seems to set the terms for talks with Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, to acting as a back channel negotiator via a bilateral media track II peace initiative; to being the participant who created a sustained campaign on the highlighting the advantages of the Indo-US Nuclear deal and ensured that the government took a stand on the ‘Race Attacks’ targeting Indians in Australia; or being the critical observer who embarrassed the govt. for its alleged soft response to the incursions by China on the disputed border. The spectrum has been wide; at least in perception. Yet despite its multifaceted agency, this monograph argues that media’s influence on foreign policy formulation is negligible and restricted to short term changes and not long term policy.

So how do we take these deliberations and policy recommendations forward? The roundtable will aim to address :

  1. The media's increasing profile as an actor in foreign policy formulation: is it constructive or otherwise?
  2. What are the challenges on reporting on foreign policy in India?
  3. Television vs. Print coverage of foreign affairs.
  4. A critical assessment of government’s response to 24x7 media.
  5. The Way forward.
  6. New areas of research.