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'N.Ram' delivers the James Cameron Memorial Lecture

Influential Indian journalist Narasimhan 'N.Ram' Ram delivers this year's lecture entitled 'Sharing the Best and the Worst: The Indian news media in a global context'
by Ben Sawtell

Narasimhan Ram, known to his readers simply as 'N.Ram', delivered the James Cameron Memorial Lecture at City University London last night, and gave journalists in India a call to arms saying they needed to ensure that "transparency, accountability and social responsibility are more than just slogans."

His speech entitled 'Sharing the Best and the Worst: The Indian news media in a global context' began with a glowing tribute to James Cameron who he described as "writing like and angel when in flow, with deceptive richness and shiningly honest value judgements."

Turning his attention to his home country N.Ram described his frustration with the mix of "joys and sorrows" that are hallmarks of Indian media. On the one hand he described "a real vibrancy" within the industry in stark contrast with the depressive atmosphere here in the West. However the poor quality of journalism and reliance on young, inexperienced talent who aren't properly nurtured greatly subdued his sense of optimism.

Next on his hit list was the over confidence of the media industry in India. He warned that the "uplifting" narrative of Indian media, especially print, must not be "romanticised" and that "the social reach of the Indian press is not impressive."

At the heart of Ram's lecture was the tension between freedom of the press and the corrupt, controlling government. He urged the press to champion the poor and underrepresented and recognise that the government's record for corruption actually presents India's independent media with "limitless opportunities" and enables them to "win strong public support for what they do".

He closed by suggesting that the media industry in India could benefit from the forensic-level of scrutiny that the British media have been under during Lord Leveson's investigation "The Indian situation cried out for such an independent, comprehensive, hard look into the culture, practices and ethics on the news media."

The James Cameron Memorial Lecture has been delivered by a distinguished group of speakers including Ben Bradlee, Michael Grade, Alan Rusbridger, Tony Benn, Greg Dyke and Sir Max Hastings.

Professor Hugh Stephenson organised the lectures and chaired the judging panel from the inaugural lecture in 1987 to 2010. From 2011 this was taken over jointly by Professor Howard Tumber and Professor George Brock.

Read the full text of N.Ram's speech here and hear a recording of the event from City's student radio station ''City OnAir"

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