May 1, 2007

A Reality Check for the Media

The news channel revolution that has taken this country by storm in this decade is showing no signs of abating. Today India has the most number of ‘national’ (read: Hindi) news channels in the world. Add to this the various regional and English news channels. The increase in the channels has made the news editors of these channels to come up with hair-raising stuff to keep the TRPs shooting north. So much so that even trivial matters are played 24x7 with myriad interpretations by the experts and viewers via phone-ins to keep the viewers enraptured. One has a hard time to find a decent channel among the multitude.

Fed up with the trash dished out by the Indian media - both print and electronic – CNN-IBN’s investigative journalist VK Shashi Kumar does some plain speaking and asks some hard questions to fellow journalists. Here, I publish some excerpts from his a little bit old hard-hitting blog post.


The point I am making is simply this. News is not trivia. News is not trivial. But News channels have made it their business to be both trivia-communicators and trivial-titillates. Also a large section of the media in this country has taken to crass commercialisation to justify its editorial policies. Most editorial questions are answered with 'will it sell'? Or 'Will it bring in the TRPs'?

By degrading content, by excessively dumbing down, by becoming hostage to easy market economics, by failing to realize the truism of content being king and the market being its courtier, the media in India has erased the credibility of the pursuit of journalism. More often than not it is seen as taking sides, it is seen as a tool of political expediency and easy money. The 1990s has been the decade in which the media has fallen from its hallowed glory. And in the 2000s instead of arresting its slide, the media has further slipped from the Imagination of India, into some other kind of disconnectedness. …


And so while we look within and protest loudly against the attack on the press and so on, can we also look at what we have done to the business of news itself? Fact is that media MUST be commercial because it exists, breathes and lives within the market economy. But since its commercial qualities are completely and wholly dependent on an extremely hypersensitive quality-CREDIBILITY-products in news genres, like newspapers, magazines and TV news channels, are not like any other product. There are rules of the game. And these rules have an ethical resonance…. a news product has to be responsible, factual and ethical. But news television is hardly any of these nowadays. ….


Media, especially, news television is focusing on the trivia. It is stressing more on information and not on being informative. It has no grand purpose in India. It simply meanders in mediocrity. It is voyeuristic and simply oriented to commerce. It is not oriented as an ethical, profit making enterprise that is in the business of being on the top of the information chain and cutting edge news delivery.

Every single day hundreds of journalists across the country from low-paid-barely-surviving media entities to the well paid-huge networks go out into the world in which they live in the pursuit of truth. Risking their lives and putting themselves in harm's way to inform the nation, hold political leaders, bureaucracy, police and the captains of industry accountable to the citizens of this country. Nothing can be more invigorating than being a participant in a functioning democracy. Yet, editors, the guardians of the Fourth Pillar, fail to live up to expectations of either the viewers or their professional compatriots. Therefore, it is the proprietors and editors of media organizations who are responsible for the manner in which journalists and media organizations are being targetted systematically. No wonder Hindu fundamentalist goons with saffron flags can walk in and smash a news channel's office in Bombay. Tomorrow it will be some other kind of thugs in some other city.


Media is increasingly losing its adversarial position. It is no longer the harbinger of progressive and democratic values. It is no longer a defender of the rights of the citizenry It is no longer a staunch advocate of the underdog and a champion of everyday heroes. Across media organizations it is time for the real editors to stand up and be counted. It is time for them to stare down a story and say NO. The market and the citizens who make that market function will be very unforgiving. That market is expanding and so is the appetite for engaging news, views and information. The challenge is not only about delivery, but also of effective, quality delivery. This is the reason why the news television space continues to be competitive despite a plethora of news channels because the market (of which a large constituency is that of more than 500 million young Indians) is waiting for a QUALITY, CREDIBLE, PASSIONATE, ENERGETIC channel that engages with a rising, impatient, discerning and young India. And, therefore, those who take their TRP ordained places for granted may just wake up to a new reality. [ibnblogs]

Read the full post for a better understanding. Paisa vasool guaranteed!

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