“The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s a power. Because they control the minds of the masses” -Malcolm X.
“With great power comes great responsibility”- Uncle Ben.
The two statements above have a lot to say. And they have a lot in common with what I am going to write about today. So enough of warming up let us begin. I have chosen these two quotes carefully for a few reasons. One of them being the matter of fact that they complement each other well, and the second thing is that one of them is a real quote from a real character, and the other one is a real quote from a fictitious character. So today we have a blend of fiction and reality. And could it get any better to define the term MEDIA. To tell about myself I am not much of a ‘TV man’. And I am not too emotional either when it comes to sensational things. But unluckily the world around me is not all that cool. I see my dad keeping track of everything that happens around the globe with the help of News channels. Right from politics to current affairs, from which shares to invest on to when to liquefy gold he depends on TV. “Did you watch “**9”, they had this prime time show where they said, IT industry is going to take a hit son, are you safe? Do you think I should sell Infy shares?” “I am doing fine dad, you needn’t worry, Everything out here is normal. And Infy is doing well. Their last trimester results were encouraging”, I said. “And stop buying that 20-liter mineral water bottle. There was a sting operation which showed its just bore well water, it could have germs”, my all health-conscious mom had the next saying to do. I had to comfort her with a lie that I would stop drinking that water and I would boil it before I drink.
Now, you must have got an idea on what I am planning to tell and write. I don’t want to bore you saying they do it for TRP, they are judgmental, they make news out of nothing, and they make the actual news as nothing. I don’t want to discuss all that. Because that is what we want. It is like those women who swear at an actress in a TV serial for her role and continue watching the same show. We have made them do what they are doing. A news reader becomes an expert in no time. He tweets saying the situation and the system has to change. He mocks the government, he mocks the society. He becomes a hero. Everyone wants to be a hero, everyone wants success, and it’s quite natural. Media houses invest money. Advertisers pay them only if they have TRP. They need news. And they need sensational news. And we need the sensational news as well. Or they have made us want sensational news. That’s the way it works. How much ever you may deny the matter of fact is that you go to a restaurant only if you like what you ate the first time. There are people who watch what they show, and that’s why they show what they show. And now this search of breaking news, this unlimited access to resources around the world has made this a globe an infinite mine of resources and news. It’s all about how it is used and used morally.
Check out India, minority appeasement has been the agenda of political parties ever since independence. And the advent of private TV channels started in the 90’s. The only news that I knew when I was a kid was that which used to come in Doordarshan. But then things slowly started to change. I remember ZEE, STAR. SUN and ETV coming in the early 90’s and by 2000 they were all an integral part of our lives. The era of news broadcasting and 24*7 NEWS channels with 30 minutes to 1-hour news shows slowly started filling up the gaps in the Indian television history. With news came advertisers, with news grew the stardom of anchors and news readers, they started becoming heroes with their flamboyant speaking and arguments (some were real, some were setup). And with it came money. When money starts flowing and there is no one to govern it, you end up having a Mafia! The situation which is in our hands today. The situation which we feel is out of control. There are these channels which act as faces of political parties, some foreign-funded TV channels have often even tried to project this nation as a home of hunger, famine and lowlife. They have invaded into the private lives of people and destroyed a few families. Made news about saints and sages found scams through sting operations. Who can forget the famous Tehelka.com! Tarun Tejpal was a media magnet and a center of magnetic attraction all of a sudden. What followed was a series of news channels and sting operations and defaming of popular faces. Tejpal’s media life abruptly ended with him being accused of raping women. But the flame that he started never got extinguished. Today we have come to a point where we can’t question the media, raise voice against it. Any government can’t survive trying to silence media, freedom of expression you see, denial of basic rights. Freedom of expression is often misunderstood and misused as freedom of oppression. Oppressing public opinion, creating fake news and fake analogies. Today there is another new trend. They are the new faces of justice. They have judges who decide on who is guilty and who needs to be punished and what is to be his punishment. I didn’t know a degree in journalism and a bit of egocentric nature can make you this big person.
This is the problem. And every problem has a solution. We just need to find it. There have been proposals to implement an independent Media ombudsman, and there have been a large number of proposals. What is missing is the wit to get the implementation done. Politicians know that media can make and destroy their public profiles in no time. And the people are not interested to get the politicians do it. But the only viable solution exists in making the media and the personnel understand that they are not invincible. They are not above the law. Giving judgments based on prima facie reports and publishing paid news and making stuff out of nothing has to be monitored, and if proven guilty they are to be punished. And that punishment needs to be substantial and fearful. But Ravindra Dhariwal, Chief executive of Bennett Coleman & Co, owner of The Times of India said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal said that “To say everyone is tainted is wrong”. They won’t support a media, Ombudsman. Tracking paid news also becoming difficult because most of the time it’s hard to cash which is circulated, no involvements of DD’s cheques and bank accounts involved. Otherwise, it could be in the form of all paid trips, advertisements. Tracking 95% of these cases becomes difficult. The only way to curb it to have a public opinion, appoint a neutral ombudsman, free from Government supervision, and providing him with powers to straighten things when media forgets its responsibilities.
Yes, media is the fourth pillar of democracy. But today when the three other pillars are under monitoring and control, the three others have made mistakes and the mistakes have been pointed. The politicians have been screwed, the Government officials have been suspended, and there have been references of impeachment of justices, but there haven’t been serious actions and break-through verdicts in the field of Journalism. It’s prime time now to get it fixed and to get media a strong moral vigilante to supervise its actions.
If possible, and if you get time just watch Jack Gyllenhaal starred Nightcrawler. This movie throws light on how low the video journalism has gone, and how do you get those sting operations covered. It’s a good movie to watch for those who still believe that media follows ethics. The last point, the entire media isn’t corrupt, it isn’t tainted, its a few who have made it that way. Not before long the Minister of state for external affairs, Gen. V.K. Singh coined the word “Presstitutes”, he was so pressurized by the dauntingly cooked up stories and self-defaming remarks of the media. He had pushed for a media regulatory body to function as an effective watchdog. Can we get it functional?