A need for news agencies in the vernacular

This article is jointly written by Om Gupta and Kiran Bala

Om GuptaAll three Indian news agencies provide news in English, though all have Hindi units. But there is no separate Hindi news agency.English copy is translated into Hindi but not in other regional languages.

Not all languages have computer networks to transmit stories.Regional newspaperstranslate from English. Therefore,if the source of news is Hindi, weshould not have to depend onagency copy in English.The problem becomes morecomplicated when information is gathered in a regional language. Itis written up in English and alsotranslated into Hindi and sent tonewspapers. However, sub-editorsat the newspapers often ignorethe Hindi versions, and insteaddirectly translate from the Englishcopy as they have to justify theirjobs with the paper. Thus, what the reader gets in end is a fourth-hand version of the news

Why no vernacular news agencies

The main reason there are nonews agencies in Hindi or othervernacular languages is that theEnglish mediawants to controlthe flow of information so as tokeep the maximum chunk of theadvertising pie, as the source ofinformation will be able to use thechunk in its own favour. Secondly,the large battery of translators fromEnglish to other languages sittingin every vernacular newspaperand TV network, called the ‘desk’or sub-editors, will lose jobs if theoriginal copy is well written in aregional language.The issue goes back to the timewhen there were two vernacularnews agencies in the 1950s and 60s.It was the time when sourcesgave information in English. The vernacular agencies couldn’t compete with UNI and PTI. Since the sub-editors refused to pick up vernacular agency copy, the media owners didn’t pay subscriptions to the Hindi news agencies.

The irony is that even now,as adjuncts of English agencies,the vernacular arms are heavily dependent on their parent bodies Though  Univarta has a larger number of subscribers than it parent organisation UNI, PTI Bhasha doesn’t enjoy even that reputation.

There is an urgent need for a Hindi and regional language news agencies if the flow of free, fair and frank communication is to be established in the burgeoning vernacular media.By not using Hindi and regional languages in news media as original sources of information, we are depriving our  future generation of the richness of our languages that showcase our cultural heritage to the world.

About the writers

Prof Om Gupta is Director of Hindi Center with 40 years of teaching and journalism experience. 

Kiran Bala is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at JIMS. She has anchoredprogrammes on All India Radio.

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