Books

Why media ignores issues of the masses

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Book: Media in Our Globalizing World
Editors: Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, Pronjoy Guha Thakurta, Mohammad Zeyaul Haque, Raju Mansukhani
Publisher: Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi
Pages: 352
Price: Rs. 899 (Available from Pharos Media)

Abu Waqas


Credibility is the main resource of a newspaper, magazine, radio station or TV channel. Nobody will ever touch a newspaper or magazine, switch on a radio or TV set if she or he suspects that what she or he is going to read, hear or see is a pack of lies. This situation is bad for media business, and this situation is right before us. This book from the Delhi-based Institute of Objective Studies deals with such issues.

The credibility of the traditional mass media - newspapers, magazines, radio and TV - is falling steadily. Critics openly lambast the media for having failed the people so much so that many concerned citizens wonder whether the media really fulfills expectations that came from its being the Fourth Estate.

Pronjoy Guha Thakurta, who is the contributing editor of this volume, creates a composite picture of conventional media across the world, the ownership patterns of which show that big media houses across the world have tied themselves to the apron strings of international capital, which has bought heavily into media organisations worldwide.

As a result, big media organisations are less bothered by issues like thousands of farmers’ suicide; a huge number of undertrials rotting in Indian jails without trial (some of whom are detained in jails for 10-20 years without trial because they have no money to pay legal expenses); a huge number of underweight children, anaemic women and more than a third of world’s poor people living in India. Even the huge scale of poverty in the country is not the media’s concern.

For the corporate media of India such disadvantaged people do not exist. They do not figure in newspapers’ pages and on prime-time TV. They do not exist, do not matter. They have been sidelined, silenced and excluded from the media discourse. That means they have been excluded from power, and are disempowered and disinherited. Media has played a sinister role in it.

Media companies’ shareholders want good dividends on their investment and advertisers want to get heavy sales of their products which they advertise in media. Advertisement revenue being the main source of income for the media, advertisers and shareholders carry real clout and no content that goes against their interests is allowed to appear in it. Readers are far less important in the order of things. Big time advertisers of consumer goods - both durable and non-durable - don’t give their advertisement in print media or TV space that shows or discusses poverty or the poor. Hence, we see only well-fed, well-clad, well-shod, happy looking people on TV serials and programmes and in newspapers. The poor do not exist, they have been wished away.

As Justice Katju used to observe, the media is less interested in the underprivileged masses and more in flashy things like cricket and fashion. Big business, allied with international finance and corporate interests, controls the conventional media. The one who pays the piper calls the tune. This piper will not play our tune simply because we are not paying him. It will, naturally, silence us and give voice to dominant economic and political interests.

The writers and editors of this volume, particularly Mr Thakurta, do talk about alternative media that gives voice to the silenced. They talk in detail about such media. Divided in several sections, it reports on seminars and conferences organised by the IOS (especially on media) during its Silver Jubilee celebrations. There is substantial writing (mainly by Thakurta) on the state of media across continents that is not part of seminar proceedings. Altogether, it makes for informative reading.     

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2015 on page no. 21

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