Kiran Karnik , Managing Director, Discovery Channel talks to Amit Shanker on ways to popularise environment issues
Do you think there is adequate coverage of environment news and programmes? Why is environment still not an issue for mainstream journalism?
More local programming is required on environment issues. The need of the hour is to take issues to the people. The reason why most environmentalists do not receive the desired attention is because they preach only to the converted -- people who already know. This is where a channel like Discovery can play a crucial role. Our aim should be to reach the common man and take out environment from the niche that it is trapped in now.
What role do you think non governmental organisations (ngos), the government and the media should play in promoting environmental awareness?
The role of ngo s is no doubt critical and they should endeavour to work closely with the media.They should be the people to educate the local population about the ramifications of larger global phenomenon on their lives.
The government still has a lot of control over the media. Prasar Bharati is such an example and environment is certainly not a priority area there. Another thing that the government is dragging its feet on is environment education. There are still no good text books or trained teachers. The only positive act of the government has been the enforcement of environment laws.
On what sections of society should the media focus its efforts on so as to have the maximum impact?
The efforts should be multidirectional with greater emphasis on decision makers. The activities or programmes should be customised for each group of people. Efforts should be made to sensitise people who hold influence over the masses. Newspapers should concentrate on educating the lay persons in creating an interest in environment. I feel that the age group of 14-20, consisting of students, young professionals is the most receptive. They are open to new ideas yet are very idealistic and when they become decision makers, their decisions will surely be more environment friendly. The politicians also need to be targeted as they are more sensitive to people's moods and if they are convinced about a subject they are capable of influencing a large number of people. The only means of creating greater awareness among people is by involving them, convincing them about the importance of issues and finally educating them so that they can take care of their immediate environs. The process is painfully slow and pitfalls are sure to be encountered all along.
Are packaging and marketing of programmes important and what are the shortcomings in present standards?
The main aim is to sensitise the unmotivated, to reach out to the common man and grab his attention first. By and large I have noticed that only five to ten per cent of the viewers like to watch a programme or read a news report on environment. The rest are glued to films or film-based programmes. First, one has to define one's audience and then find out ways to grab their attention. With hundreds of channels available on television, viewers spend a lot of time surfing channels and stopping only at an interesting visual or sound. Programmes should be made in such a way that they immediately catch the surfers' attention and then sustain his/her interest all through. The ingredients right from the name of the programme to the beauty and intellect of the presenter have to be customised according to the targeted audience. The production should be world class technically. Programmes in India are technically poor and, therefore, unable to attract audiences.
What does environment mean to you?
To me the environment has two parts: (a) the environment around us and (b) the social environment. There are problems when we ignore anyone of them as there can be no trade off between the two. In their urge to please the public, politicians tend to deliberately ignore the natural environment. Environment to me is the way tribal communities look at it constantly interacting with it and respecting it. Living in harmony with one's environment is of utmost importance. However, if there are problems created by humans there are solutions too, which if implemented earnestly, can improve things. After all we depend on it for our survival and one should not tamper with environment.
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