Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What ails Indian media today?

I haven't blogged in a long time, owing to a sudden increase in work and poor health in the recent past. But I couldn't have chosen a more appropriate time to make a comeback with a topic that I have wanted to write about in a long, long time.

Let's be honest, spreading news now seems to have become a game, a gimmick of sorts to see whose news would linger longer in the minds of the public, like the taste of a good meal. 'News' isn't want drives today's media, TRP ratings do; the truth isn't what is being pursued, sensationalism is; matters of national concern aren't given enough space & time, matters of personal interest are. I'm not a journalist and so don't know what are the dos and don'ts taught to journalists today (if something like that is taught at all), but what I just mentioned come from pure common sense.

Last year, in 2005, (or early 2006, I can't quite recollect), I thought NDTV reached a new low when Swathi Maheshwari visited the home of an Indian truck driver who was kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq and thrust a microphone in front of his wailing mother asking her 'how she feels?'. How the hell was she expected to feel when the sole bread winner of her family was taken captive with a good chance of him being paraded in front of a camera and have his head lopped off? Personal opinion, and I'm sure there are many who agree with me on this, but that was one of the most despicable things to do by anyone, let alone a journalist. The appreciable part was that it was the news channel that was relaying information about the captives to the family rather than the Ministry of External Affairs. This, however, didn't give them the right to take a camera into their houses in their hour of grief. And their explanation of "sharing the family's grief with the rest of the country" was as lousy an excuse as any.

Our security forces (armed forces and police) and the nation's security gets the least coverage by the media, although national security should be of interest to everyone national. Terrorism in Kashmir is given it's fair share in the news, and I'm not complaining about that. But how much of news time or print space is given to such stories? The only time these make the headlines are when the number of killed exceeds 10 or so, else it takes at most a little over a minute on the 9 o'clock news or a narrow coulmn in the papers. Why is it that only when the number of those killed exceeds a certain 'magic figure' does the media decide to give more importance to the story? Is the loss of life of one jawan or officer of our security forces not as important as the loss of several of his or her comrades? And even when these incidents are reported, they are not followed up until the next major incident.

More recently, Sanjay Dutt's verdict in the 1993 Bombay blasts came out and for the entire week, the only thing that was running was Sanju bhaiyya's friends, well wishers and sister thanking God, and saying things like 'he's a nice guy', 'no one should have to go through what he has undergone', etc. Was the entire country that desperate to know what his family and friends thought at him not being branded a terrorist by the courts at the cost of what was happening to soldiers like Major Pitambare of the 3 Paras, who gave up his life while eliminating the HuMs topmost leader in the valley? This story was given a few dying seconds at the end of the 9 o'clock news and the papers next day had a narrow column mentioning it. A few seconds on TV and a piece in the paper on 1 day. Is that how much we value the freedom and democracy that our men in uniform unselfishly lay their lives for? Is this the message the media wishes to portray?

The other thing I've noticed is the media has turned from presenting the facts to presenting their opinion. In a nation like ours, where majority live by the news they hear, without bothering to form an opinion of their own based on facts, the media, knowingly or unknowingly, have started started encroaching into a territory that ought not to be transgressed. Everyone has the right to form their own opinion based on the facts presented, but the media seems to have taken it a step further and taken upon itself the role of 'opinion former', so now our democratic minds have that much less to do. This is one (dis)service we could gladly do without.

The media (electronic) in this case went out of their way in a never seen before show of solidarity for the retrial of Manu Sharma, accused in the Jessica Lall murder case. I'm still wondering where that solidarity went when it came to fighting alongside the families of the security personnel who lost their lives during the attack on Parliament, who are opposing the clemency plea of Mohammad Afzal, the person convicted of providing logistical support and accepting money, thereby endangering the security of the country and waging war against the state. I'm guessing it's partly due to our mentality towards our security forces. We think that they are there to die for the country and so when they do, no big deal. however, models like Jessica Lall are people we relate better to since she came from an upper middle class family, like most of us. So at the end of the day, the media has give this story a quiet burial. And surprisingly, there was no 'opinion' presented by the media on this.

The media has for long has claimed that they are targeted most of the times and are made to look like the bad guys. With all that they do, did they expect any better? By no means am I painting all journalists with the same brush, but it's not too hard to see what kind of journalists and what brand of journalism is under fire here. Our country operates with 3 arms- the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature; I just hope the media doesn't become an extension of one of these arms, or a fourth arm itself.

more as they come.


Anonymous said...

firstly, i agree with u completely
secondly, i would beg to differ on one point. media can present opinions in what they call Features and editorials. But not so in reports. that is the way it is. industry rules and laws.
electronic media...indian media has a long way to go, it is hardly a decade old. wait and watch. we are doing the same. and adding our bit to change it.
responsible media doesnt exist as of now because the media students are not taught to be compassionate and constructive. very few do that. and te ones who do are a humbling minority.
add ur bit. ur not a citizen alone anymore.every citizen has the right to be a citizen journalist. remember what MG said? he wasnt kidding when he said it. be the change u wish to see. sorry if i was pontificating. cheers

Karthik Shetty said...

i meant opinion in reports itself, obviously, coz that's where the facts come into play. thanx all the same
Provided by site.