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  Newsmakers   07 Dec 2018  Is the media as the 4th pillar of democracy losing its credibility?

Is the media as the 4th pillar of democracy losing its credibility?

THE ASIAN AGE
Published : Dec 7, 2018, 2:03 pm IST
Updated : Dec 7, 2018, 2:25 pm IST

Media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power.

The print media had been extremely vocal about the colonial rule and have raised their voice against despotism and feudalism time and again. (Representational Image)
 The print media had been extremely vocal about the colonial rule and have raised their voice against despotism and feudalism time and again. (Representational Image)

The pontification, neck grabbing sensationalism, dirt throwing, ranking the TRP Charts and last but not least their obsession with Taimur Ali Khan. The very first mistake of the Media is their attention towards nonsensical issues and nonchalantly avoiding issues of concern.  In a robust democracy the importance of media is utmost, moulding our thoughts and helping us in opinion building. Taking a look back in time, the feudal oppression has led to the media, become the 4th pillar of the state.

The print media had been extremely vocal about the colonial rule and have raised their voice against despotism and feudalism time and again. But when the government and the media unite to win elections and form governments then news do not happen, they are made.Then who should the people of this country trust; on these news channels on which, in the name of news, political rivalries and communalism is being promoted and sensationalism is being sold or the government who is busy making false promises.

Who will, in what ways and with what intensity telecast the news first is the concern. Where the end goal should have been news and the medium should have been money, unfortunately has now changed too money becoming the goal and news a mere medium. 

Opinions and facts are two different things, mixing both of them leads to a negative impact and if one sided journalism is promoted then god forbid, the nation is surely going the wrong direction.

Breaking News-XYZ has brutally killed ABC, PERIOD; our channel’s investigation has led us to this conclusion. Okay, so since when did the judiciary and the law enforcement officers go on an exile? Channels conclude that the accused is the real convict even before the court’s Judgment and on top of that we believe them which leaves me flabbergasted. The Phrase “sensation above sense” is the go to method for the Media.

The primary role of media is to play watchdog but are they really watchdogs or Tamed Dogs.  Media must act as means of empowerment and development. Honorable Vice President of India Mr. Venkaiah Naidu rightfully stated that “Journalism is a noble profession and all of you as flag-bearers of this vocation must ensure that people are correctly informed and not become captive receivers of biased and partisan information”

STATISTICS

Growth in TV penetration has been tremendous. In 2004 the number of viewers was 83 Million and it has rapidly increased to 183 million till 2017. The amount of newspaper readership has also increased .According to the IRS Report, 39% of Indians (12+ years) read newspapers, and 20% of all newspaper readers in 50 lakh plus population towns read newspapers online.  

Accordingly, the number of employees working in the Indian television industry has increased from about 145 thousand in 2013 to around 280 thousand in 2017. In terms of viewership, the number of TV viewing households has increased to about 197 million in the year 2018.  Statistics show that Facebook usage has increased to 76.87% from 2017 to 2018.The reach of social media is immense.

The print media has a fixed deadline to operate, that is, 24 hours and for the TV media, it is an hourly cycle but the extent of social media is limitless. Internet and social media has a massive influence on the youth of the nation and there is no check on that. But are we reading or watching honestly evaluated material?

The World Economic Forum, which released the report, has labeled the Indian media as the second most untrusted institution in the world.

Agreeing to disagree is the basic construct of Democracy. A country filled with people having a short term memory and the Media utilizing it to the fullest by filling the empty bucket with loads of crap.

Umpteen number of defamation cases have also been filed against journalist for their blatant misrepresentation of incidents or facts thereby tarnishing the concerned person’s image and deluding the nation. Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has been vocal on this issue and stated “I have told many times about Freedom of Speech and Expression. We are not going to gag the media. The question of gagging the media does not arise. But the press should be more responsible”

The corporate honchos first purchased the media than donated it to the government and the government now nourishes and nurtures then according to their own whims and fancies.

Morality and conscience are two different things. Morality derives from our conscience. Everyone has a conscience but not everyone has morality as a composite character and our Indian media do not have either of them.

DOING THE RIGHT THINGS.

The Indian media was busy praising Mr. Narendra Modi who took on India’s questions on a public platform in London, now if one shall see the interview; one can realize how lopsided it was. It was displayed as an exemplar of direct democracy because the interaction was unscripted and unprecedented. Now the debate taking place was, Has the Prime Minister by agreeing to participate in such a session, finally shut the mouths of the mourn Modi lobby, isn’t this embarrassing. A debate was run on News India 18? which was named as RAM VS HAJ. . The media is creating fictional characters as a villain, one is the Muslim Villain, other is Anti Hindu, and the next is Anti National. Now sadly the person is the same but he is viewed as these different characters from time to time according to the convenience of the media. It is called as stooping the lowest when the news channel became forensic experts and analyzed the death of Sridevi. Every channel killed Sridevi in their own way.

Why are the real issues ignored, The bleeding banks of India, GST which caused huge losses to medium sized traders, people dying standing in queues to withdraw cash due to demonetization, 1.5 million youths losing their jobs from Jan- April (2017) and currently 31 million Indians being unemployed, the unsolved Kashmir issue, China’s dominance , shabby state of Government  run schools, never ending farmer issues, inadequate washrooms for toilets in banks , petrol prices soaring to 90 Rs per ltr, Indian rupee being Asia’s worst performing currency. Now it would be wrong to generalize because there are institutions that still fight for the truth and report the real issues.

Media is now running the PR of Government. The authoritarian government has time and again curbed voices of dissent. In a democracy constructive criticism should be welcomed with open arms and the media should be free from government control. Many Web sites removed story on Amit Shah-linked bank getting huge sums of demonetized notes. Why this fear? Fear has become a profitable buy and when fear becomes profitable the People of the country shall beware because it is a loss to them. How can someone prove nationalism by shouting Bharat Mata ki Jai? Fake and muscular nationalism has led to so many deaths and protests. TV anchors are busy influencing people according to the whims and fancies of the politicians.

Mr. Obama stated that you are not supposed to be sycophants; you are supposed to be skeptics. Opposition, dissent and Criticism should be the three opportunities for the ruling Party to prove their mettle and better their performances. If one shall take a look, since the last 5 years the amount of TV viewership has shot but all of a sudden questioning has reduced to nil, TV anchors have become intellectual terrorists and are busy shouting and fighting on television instead of addressing the real issues and questioning the government.

If the media does not criticize the government then who will? Ask questions. That’s your job.

Unless we keep the media away from money, greed and politics we as a nation cannot climb the ladder of growth. Shamefully India stands 138th out of the 180 nations in the World Press Freedom Index.

ISSUES

Paid news along with excessive advertorials is ruining the existing scenario all the more. Channels prefer earning more Ad Revenue than displaying the truth. In 2013, the information and broadcasting ministry passed an order that only 12 minutes of ads shall be allowed in an hour, but after the so called deliberation with the media, this order was kept in closed boxes. Still there is no stringent law on fake news and excessive advertisements in media.

Propagating agenda through manufactured or fake news is an old maneuver; however social media is equally to be blamed for this. And there is no check on that. Fake news being circulated on Whatsapp has led to; many mob lynching’s in the recent past. Social media sites are also busy running trials and doing the so called expose story of many innocents. Forget Social Media, fake news is also circulated in government reports. In a Chhattisgarh ministry report, photos of roads of Austria were displayed. The news about Nano technology being used in the newly introduced currency was another flop show by the media.

In the matter of ‘church attack incidents’ of early 2015, it later emerged that many of them didn’t have any religious angle at all. Some were plain cases of robbery. Also at that time 4 Delhi churches, 200 temples, thirty gurudwaras and 15 mosques were also vandalized. Also the Christian nun rape case of West Bengal, the media instantly held Right Wing Hindu responsible whereas the actual perpetrators were illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Investigations lead to a / finding that it was a money dispute.

CONCLUSION

The very plinth of any debate is that no living being in this World knows the entire truth.

Philosophers and theoretical physicts have always promoted a basic principle i.e. listening. The key is pro active listening and not merely listening. Every person has his prism through which he sees, evalutes, and reacts but the basic principle of listening is a possibility of an alternate point of view. Possession of humility can lead to acceptance of this fact. The reason for this Philosophical excerpt  is because both the media and the viewers are so involved and stuck up in  maneuvering their own car of ideas and opinions that they are least bothered about the car of ideas and thoughts driving besides them. Encountering serious issues with a composed mind is the key to success.

Today’s media is inspired by the American media where TV debates turn into boxing ring matches. The very ability to listen can help us garner some respect for each other along with mentioning of real facts and figures and not mere face punching and heart throbbing verbosity. The people of this nation should feel productive and have nuanced views after reading a piece of news or watching a T.V debate.

Print media does have regulatory authority but it does not have real time powers to penalize someone. TV media is regulated by news broadcaster editors association keeps a check on the content of news channel and is a body of the editors of various news channels and supports a self regulatory body. A regulatory body can go haywire or a success. It’s a risky but necessary call. And independent autonomous press commission should be made which shall be led by any SC Judge. So that the media is regulated and monitored.

According to a report of BARC. A survey was made regarding.

 Who is responsible for the low depths to which news T.V in India has sunk?

1) Journalists-25%

 2) Business Owners- 33%

 3) Viewers- 42%.

 As viewers we should be possess digital literacy, and at least an iota of skepticism within us. Media trials need to be stopped, people should wait for the investigations to complete and not arrive to conclusions. If we shall evaluate the news and read or watch from trusted sources and then form notions then we as responsible citizens will be doing our job the right way.

-By Parth Govilkar, School of law, Mumbai University

Tags: social media, print media