The Media Circus – Shifting Priorities
With the advent of 24 hrs television came the 24 hrs news channels. The hunger for more and more news, even if it is incredible or irrelevant, can be seen on all news channels. Toeing party lines and allegiance to specific agenda whether left, right or centre has become common for TV channels and Media these days. Even the viewer has understood this bias of TV channels, and they instead prefer to view that channel whose ideology relates to them closely in real life. Viewers have been made to forget issues like the Nira Radia tapes controversy (telephonic conversations taped by the Indian Income Tax Dept. in 2008-09) simply by not pursuing these matters to their logical conclusion.
The media knows that people’s memory is short and therefore it only pursues those matters which it wants to highlight. Related matters in the same controversy like the alleged lobbying done for corporates and misuse of their position by senior journos like Barkha Dutt or Vir Singhvi in the 2G spectrum case , which dares to tarnish media’s own image, is simply not given enough coverage by it over a period of time and is cleverly left to die down on its own.
Media Is Out In The Open And Yet Blocked In Its Own Wall
Everybody knows how the media and press are bought into submission by the ruling class or the rich these days. Lavish parties are thrown for them, and costly gifts are bestowed upon the news people to garner their support. Shri Markandey Katju was not entirely wrong when he labelled the press as presstitutes.
Content has given way to crass commercialism. Our newspapers are not far behind in this. News has ceased to be impartial. The dark days of Emergency come to the mind immediately. The press that time had played a crucial role in bringing out the excesses of Emergency before the people of this Country. In fact, the free press can be credited to a great extent for the ultimate rollback of Emergency.
Another dark period for the press came during the regime of Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav in UP when he openly asked his cadre to attack and burn (‘Halla Bol’) the copies of 2 popular Hindi Newspapers in 1994. Though the said newspaper groups were strong, yet they had to finally yield before the UP Chief Minister to resume the free circulation of their newspaper copies. Newspapers, especially the small ones, have to rely heavily on Govt. advertisements to stay afloat. The Govt. of the day, at the centre or in the states, uses this power as leverage and indirectly forces the respective newspapers into publishing favourable news for themselves or their party.
The Reader Is The King – Perhaps A Forgotten Fact
The reader is held with utmost disdain at times, when the first 2 or even three covering pages may be nothing but coloured advertisements. Earlier such crass commercialism was displayed only during important festivals, but now it happens every other week.
Sometimes it is the Flipkart or Amazon sale; other times it may be the grand opening of a mega jewellery or electronic store in the city. At times the total advertisement pages equal the news pages. Half-baked articles with little or no background on the covered subject are carelessly served to the readers. Flashy pictures and juicy gossips fill our newspapers.
As readers, even our taste has gone down as we have accepted this ridiculous trend. Youngsters these days seldom read the newspapers and have failed to realise the relevance of the written word. They fail to understand that no amount of internet or mobile news can replace a well researched and typical article in a newspaper.
Modern Media Vs Vintage Quality
The quality of the content of news has taken a nosedive these days. The coverage of Baba Ram Rahim and his associate Ms Honeypreet’s issue is a testimony to this trend. The duo hogged the visual media for days together. Similarly, when the so-called sports specialists forecast an unpredictable sport like cricket, it sounds bizarre. Lots of data and analysis is thrown in by the channels to justify their specialist’s prediction. But has a game of cricket ever been subservient to predictions, especially in formats like T20 and one-day cricket?
That too when a minion like Bangladesh is capable of defeating a giant like Australia on any given day. Media is said to be the fourth pillar of democracy. With the other three pillars, executive, legislative and judiciary are already on crutches, the fourth pillar needs to stand strong in these times of despair.