Dry Bones comic strip by Yaakov Kirschen
To start off, India is a democracy. Therefore, the Indian media has the right to free speech. The question is, does the Indian media go overboard with that freedom?
Maybe it does sometimes. But then, that is to say, when someone has a right or freedom which gives power to an individual or a group of people, there will always be some that misuse that so-called power. Nevertheless, they must know where to draw the line.
The Indian media, at least as far as the newspapers or news channels on TV are concerned are in a state where they are constantly changing and to put it in a very generic manner, modernizing. There is a sense of westernization that we can see in the Indian media in this era. This is quite in fashion with the denizens of the country as well, so again, we can ask a question – Does what is broadcast with respect to what the general public demands? Recently, we've been seeing news crewmen lining up to capture MS Dhoni's new bride on screen. A month or so before that, it was Sania Mirza. But is that what the citizens really want to know at a time of petrol price hikes and strikes and tragedies and the largely blown up Warren Anderson case? The more intelligent people, which actually constitute for a large number of the middle class population (because with the advent of the internet, information travels faster than we can imagine), are really not interested. I'm sure I would be speaking for many when I say that they want an analysis of why the petrol prices were hiked. They would want information on what the aviation ministry is really doing after the Mangalore accident. They would want to know what exactly is wrong with the Bhopal Gas Tragedy case that it took a quarter of a century to come to even slighted terms with the people. It's all to with increasing TRP ratings; it's all about money in the end. True, a celebrity's new hairstyle would be gladly viewed by a bunch of youngsters and that would pay these newscasters pretty well, but is it newsworthy enough to showcase beforehand when talking about more (a lot more) important things going on in the country? The misuse of freedom had been taken to new and unforeseen heights by the media during the 26/11 attacks. Media crew flocking around the Taj and Oberoi hotels and Nariman Point and showing what; incorrect statistics, bodies of the dead (if you're squeamish, you couldn't have watched it) and worst of all, the commando squads entering and literally planning tactical operations. Were those media crew men and woman dolts? Why was it required t actually tell them to pause live broadcasting until the military maneuvers were completed? That time was by far the stupidest I've ever seen the media act. They were simply interested in juicing out everything they could out of the scene, however dangerous or outright dumb it was for the men and women actually doing a job properly there, without laying too much importance on the facts either.
The media undoubtedly plays a very important role in educating the society but rarely does it indeed truly educate the larger population than it entertains or even beats around the bush of important topics. I don't want to know if there is a dish named after Hillary Clinton in some swanky Delhi restaurant. I want to know what Obama thinks about Indo-US relations, if there is any such recent news (otherwise don't waste our time).
When it comes to newspapers too, there are very few that actually showcase real and important-to-state news articles. Newspapers and television media alike have now become either the mouthpieces of dominating and power-hungry politicians. Once quoted, “If Hitler’s Germany had today’s American media, we would all be speaking German.” This might be held true for the Indian media in today's generation as well. Money is now what gives them the drive to deliver so-called information as early as possible and inconsiderate of facts. They even get biased to a large extent when they get a fat wad of cash off political parties. In the previous assembly elections, media channels and newspapers made Rs. 50 lakh to 1 crore for positive coverage of their political representatives.
In some other cases, it is governed by which celebrity is dating whom and sleeping with whom, where they are and what they are suffering from and of course, a bunch of children falling into manholes (after the first three). Is this all newsworthy enough to be more important than political issues or human rights issues (even those are blown out of proportion, in most cases, though) or military or international issues. There should be an hour everyday for “News which shouldn't bother everyone”. Then we would know when not to switch the television on.
Like I stated above, it's all about money. People, even the newscasters and their crew (except maybe a few who are genuinely interested in the affairs of the state; we don't get to hear about them much) are interested in fatter pockets and bigger armchairs.
So again, asking the question, does the Indian media misuse its freedom? To an extent, I would say that freedom is a very broad area to debate upon and it is difficult to decide in only a general manner where to draw the line, except in very specific situations. However, it would be true to say that the Indian media certainly has gone astray of delivering responsible news. Most of what we get is trivial and can and should be at least shortened down, so that the more important discussions that the citizens need to hear can be let out into the public.
Can this be put right in the future? Certainly it can. With the advent of twitter and other such open media, it is easy for anyone to say anything about, well, anything! So the news people, of all others, need to be careful where and how they gather data. It should be precise, yet detailed but without any nonsense! And if I could say one thing to the media, it would be this, “Please let the celebs live in their houses peacefully because I don't want to know what they're up to. So don't make me wait for real news when I'm watching your channel and you're incessantly showing and screening Dhoni's new wife. Cut that crap!”
The media did play a crucial role in the Jessica Lal and Priyadarshini Mattoo cases, amongst some others. Though the it does create more problems than it solves, exemplified by the Aarushi Talwar case in which it wrongly reported Dr Rajesh Talwar, Aarushi's father to be the murderer and also implicated that her mother, Nupur Talwar was involved as well, it certainly has helped with Ruchika's case (though possibly over-hyped) as well, and still is.Otherwise, freedom given to the media is important because their need to exercise it when in need as in certain cases mentioned above that have been or are being resolved. The prosecutors in these cases would have been continually clubbed down by their powerful adversaries if the media did not have that kind of liberty. They just need to know when and how to use said independence.
I'll end by quoting Stan Lee from one of his Spiderman comics (the original quote dates back to Socrates, though!), “With great power comes great responsibility.” Maybe the media should learn something from the great writer/artist. Now the news-people would find that ironic!
PS. This post is my entry for the Blogadda contest on the topic "Is Indian Media - Misusing Its Freedom?"
In association with Pringoo -