Media’s problems

Print edition : July 24, 2015
The book turns the searchlight on a wide spectrum of issues concerning the media.

THE media have performed nobly but questions do arise about its role and its values. Santosh Bharatiya, Chief Editor, Chauthi Duniya, complains, not altogether without cause, that “mainstream media has turned from pro-people to pro-market and pro-business. Instead of standing up for the poor and downtrodden, it is acting as agent for neoliberalism”. The Institute of Objective Studies, a think tank and research organisation, convened a series of conferences to mark 25 years of its work. This volume collects contributions made under the overriding theme “Knowledge, Development and Peace”.

In the prologue, the institute’s chairman, Dr Mohammed Manzoor Alam, sharply criticises The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission (1975) for its smug assumptions of Western superiority. “In the pages of this volume, the reader will see how the developed world, or the Western world, has superimposed its superiority on all social, cultural, economic and political domains. This ‘Whitewash’ has not begun yesterday. We see its roots almost 500 or 600 years ago, the Renaissance may be seen as a watershed period, a time when this superiority becomes institutionalised. Whether it is the arts, law, humanities or life sciences, in very field the Western achievement is seen as the ‘only’ achievement. The rest of the world seems to have gone ‘out of focus’. We do not hear or read anything about the achievements in China, the Indian subcontinent, West Asia, Africa or South America. It is Europe and England; England and Europe which become the heart of civilising forces for the rest of the world. You will be getting glimpses of ‘how’ and ‘why’ the domination, hegemony made for the creation of an unjust, unequal world order.”

One of the conferences was devoted to “The Power of the Media in a Globalising World”. It is hazardous and unfair to summarise in a review of this excellently produced volume its work and the results that it accomplished. The conference covered a wide spectrum of topics such as the media and democracy, the media and minorities, and two other topics of particular relevance today—commercialisation of the media and the media as a tool of power.

Media ethics

The Vice-President of India, Mohammed Hamid Ansari, turned the searchlight on the pressing issue of media ethics in an inaugural address at the Biennial Session of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) at Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, in June 2013. He said: “These developments relate to: (i) cross-media ownership; (ii) the phenomenon of ‘paid news’; (iii) media ethics and the need for effective and viable self-regulatory mechanisms; (iv) the declining role of editors and their editorial freedom; (v) the need to improve working conditions of media personnel, their safety and security.”

He noted three weighty and relevant documents —a 2009 report by the Administrative Staff College of India at the instance of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on “Cross Media Ownership in India”; a February 2013 Consultation Paper by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on the media ownership question; and a report on “Paid News” made on May 6, 2013, by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Information Technology.

He expressed his concern that, together, their findings present a disturbing picture. “A detailed analysis of the nature of the problem, and its dimensions, is in the public domain and specifically with the government and Parliament. The need for comprehensive corrective action is imperative and must be undertaken without delay. A failure to do so would lend credence to widely expressed apprehension about ‘special interests’.”

The media, especially television, suffer from another serious and self-inflicted malady. It is a grave mistake to think that exposure of wrongs in Kashmir or in the conduct of foreign and defence policies is “unpatriotic”. On the contrary, it is suppression of the truth that is unpatriotic and dishonest.

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