Thursday, January 24, 2008

Credible Indian Media?

Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes an excellent piece here. His column is on media credibility, which is severely lacking these days. And he is the right person to comment on this having proven his credibility by resigning from the knowledge commission because he could not do something he did not believe in.

The Indian media is fast losing it's credibility & this is becoming increasingly apparent. It has proven that, it is not above slant. Things have taken such a turn now that some media houses now openly propagate the political ideology they subscribe to. Most op-ed these days carry a heavy undercurrent of rhetoric. All the palavering one witnesses these days, only strengthens this view. From his column -

For the blunt truth is that there is a quiet crisis of credibility facing the
Indian media. And the media is living in a fool’s paradise if it mistakes
resisting the Left with putting its own house in order.

The column, discusses the lack of accountability in the media -

But the really important place competition has failed is in accountability of
the media itself.
Here's a possible reason why we never see any media house
holding it's adversary accountable -
This could be for many reasons: an
exalted sense of guild solidarity or an acute consciousness that they are all
living in glass houses. Competition does not lead media to hold each other

So ,it seems, the mainstream media in our country has formed some sort of sorority & refrains from chiding it's brothers when in the wrong. Or they never see any wrong among their brethren.

And this will explain the lobbying for certain companies -

A couple of newspapers have been reporting on an open secret of the media, the
existence of private treaties. Under these, media houses invest in companies,
which then receive favourable media treatment in turn, including column inches
favourable to these companies. Bennett and Coleman pioneered this, but many
other major institutions have followed. These deals are worth hundreds of
crores. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Indian media has crossed into
deeply murky ethical territory without even minimal public debate,
self-reflection and media outrage. How deep conflicts of interest run in the
Indian media, who is involved, what forms of advocacy or self-censorship these
impose, ought to be a matter of grave concern. But what is astonishing is how
little space there is in the media to acknowledge that there are serious issues

I'm personally hardly surprised, since most of the major media houses are run like businesses. And when it's business, revenues becomes important. Advertisements are their major revenues, ergo the favouritism. Such partisan treatment is not limited to corporations alone, but also to political parties that contribute heavily.

We need a socially responsible, publicly & nationally accountable media that plays a big role in nation building. One that brings out the real issues, ones that affect the nation, refrains from obfuscating what's inconvenient to itself & one that is highly credible.

Let's hope, we are not left with the only two choices -

The challenge for the media is this. It is caught between a CPM that wants
the state to have more powers than it should, and a market structure that thinks
literally everything should be for sale. If these are the only choices available
to us, God help the fourth estate and Indian democracy.

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