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Newsmakers to News – The Fourth Pillar Demeaning

 

Media should be the mirror of the society. Is the media to-day presenting the true reflection? For all the times Media tilt towards the big people. But in early days the tilt was for good cause. In present days the tilt is purely for deriving benefit. Media has not able to maintain its status as a noble institution; but on the contrary is has turned into pure business.

The recent brawl between Barkha and Arnab speaks a lot about rebellion at the time of need. This form of media has not lost its relevancy. Instead of portraying the true image, they keep on bickering over silly issues which was too outlandish and melodramatic. This speaks of their bigshotism. Arnab created a storm on social media, after NDTV’s Barkha Dutt lashed out at the Times Now editor-in-chief in a Facebook post. She criticised the News Hour anchor of “cowardly hypocrisy” and said that she was “ashamed” to be in the same profession as him. Earlier Arnab, in his show, attacked a few media people as “pseudo-secular and pro-Pakistan.” Now they are deciding who is a national and who is an anti national. The media should stop playing the courts. The fourth pillar is losing the charm. Religion means a proper sense of duty, which helps an individual to regain his lost glory and decipher the lost path. Dharma means a stable platform, which retains our essential values of life, our character, aspirations and ambitions. Since it upholds or keeps us firmly established in a settled position, it is called dharma. Since it calls us to a return, it is called re-ligion. Things have not changed, in fact, when it comes to mainstream media distorting information and telling lies. They have gotten much worse in recent years, in fact, so it is highly encouraging that more people are starting to see through these lies, even without the help of whistleblowers. The list of lies goes on and on. It’s time to turn off your T.V. and do your own research if you are curious about what is happening on our planet. It’s time to wake up.

The old saying that truth is stranger than fiction couldn’t be more appropriate, for we have been deceived on such a grand scale that most would have a difficult time in comprehending the full extent. The behind the scenes machinations of big money and politics are so well hidden from most of the population, that if people actually knew how things were really run, we would quite literally have a second revolution. The truth is not as you know it. Our faith in the media myth has been our Achilles heel.

Many have realized long ago that our politicians will lie to us at the drop of a hat, but most have no clue that our news media lies and deceives us just as much, if not more so. We have been deceived by our media to such an extent, mostly because people are too trusting of our news system. They very naively believe that broadcasters and journalists would never lie to us. This trust has worked against us with devastating consequences which are unknown to most. This quote from John Swinton, former managing editor, The New York Times (and New York Sun) speaks volume…  There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.” –John Swinton

For the first half-century after its independence, media control by the state in India was a major constraint on press freedom. With the liberalization of the economy starting in the 1990s, however, private control of media has burgeoned, leading to increasing independence and greater scrutiny of government. At the same time, self-proclaimed media barons have emerged who have control over the media outlets because they own them. This has been the cause of great concern for those who have been watching the media over the years. The behind-the-scenes influence of corporate and vested interests was made particularly apparent by the leaking of tapes recording conversations between Niira Radia, a powerful lobbyist with clients such as the Tata group and Reliance Industries, and a variety of business men, politicians, and journalists. They revealed what had long been an open secret: the collusion and uncomfortable closeness among corporate units, politicians and journalists, a world in which the line between politics and business, public relations and news, is increasingly blurred.The scandal of the Nira Radia in which a businesswoman was found to be using reporters, among others, to lobby for policy goals – revealed a new threat. It is a “the unholy nexus between big businessmen, powerful politicians, manipulative lobbyists and influential journalists.”

The growing corporatization of the Indian media is manifest in the manner in which large industrial conglomerates are acquiring direct and indirect interest in media groups. There is also a growing convergence between creators/producers of media content and those who distribute/disseminate the content. Political parties and persons with political affiliation own/control increasing sections of the media in India. The promoters and controllers of media groups have traditionally held interests in many other business interests and continue to do so, often using their media outlets to further these. There are a few instances of promoters who have used the profits from their media operations to diversify into other (unrelated) businesses. The real challenges that lie ahead for the media in India are to ensure that growing concentration of ownership in an oligopolistic market does not lead to loss of heterogeneity and plurality. In the absence of cross-media restrictions and with government policies contributing to further corporatization, especially with respect to the television medium, diversity of news flows could be adversely affected contributing to the continuing privatization and commodification of information instead of making it more of a “public good”.

Journalists should balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomforts. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness. Our goal as journalists isn’t just to inform the public, but in fact to connect with them through stories, shared experiences, and the important developments in our world. In order to enable that, we must act with humanity and with the values and emotions that inspire human connection. That is the bedrock of ethics for me. When I see such things, I’m guilty of this. Accuracy is not an inherently human value. Corrections are not an ethical principle. For me they flow from honesty, humility and vulnerability.

Khushwant Singh was someone I naturally drifted towards as a literature scholar, as he was one of the very few modern, secular writers with an international profile.  In a sense, this nurturing of the individualized, independent public voice is quite on par with what we as journalist doing. Singh’s talent has lain not in deep or revolutionary thinking, but in the writing of his weekly columns and in a keen sense of what is timely, interesting, and important to talk about. I was tilted towards writings/journalism because we were having the biggest Newspaper agency in western odisha , unfortunately it was shutdown. It was in 80s and I am inspired by these eminent journos like Frank Moraes, Kasturi Ranga Iyenger , Pothan Joseph , Prem Bhatia  and Pritish Nandy who had incredibility with readers. There were constructive criticism and criticism of the ruling party not only came from opposition but from the free press edited by a accountable man S. Mulgaonkar. It was in the 80s , when Dileep Padgaonkar , the then editor of TOI said , “ Next to the PM of India , he had the most responsible job in the Country. “ V.G.Verghese was quite incredible, impassive and phlegmatic. So, those were the days and I grew up reading them. The scenario changed when TV and social media posed a serious challenge because of its expansive reach.

Electronic media has emerged strong. Its audio visual effect has great impact. But its overdoses of information and focus on some particular class of people have a very demising effect. It sidelines the real issues and problems. The internet may break it barrier. It is immersing truly as peoples media. But it is an unruly brat. Today television channels and newspapers are making fast money by cashing on the news in wrong sense and wrong way. In the race to become more popular and to make money they have broken all the limits media must follow while serving to build a healthy and progressive society. They have no respect for the sentiments and ethics of the people and land whom they serve to, with their immense power to influence the masses they just make judgment like a true dictator rather than a good advice of a true friend as they previously used to do. I think media plays a very powerful role in bringing awareness in the society. And it has increased a lot off-the-late. The main reason is that common people rely on media to know all happenings. And the reach of media to common people has increased a lot nowadays. All successful newspapers are ceaselessly querulous and bellicose. They never defend anyone or anything if they can help it; if the job is forced on them, they tackle it by denouncing someone or something else.

Malcom X said once, “Media is the most powerful entity on the earth? It has the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, because Media control the mind of masses.” He had pictured media as a powerful medium in the mindset of common people. No doubt, media has huge competence but as they say, “big power comes with big responsibilities”. So here a question arises, whether today’s media is really responsible towards its duty or is it a victim of showering unwarranted prejudices towards some culled news only, to gain TRP which ultimately helps it to allure more advertisers.Finally,the fourth pillar losing its dignity.

(Author is a Lawyer and a Writer)

 

 

 

 

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