Opinions

Elections 2019: Watch out for Media Power!

Irrespective of which party and leaders emerge winner on May 23, all in the fray need to give a new importance to the role of media power. Thanks to the communication boom, the height achieved by the importance of media at all levels now cannot be ignored. Media is no longer confined to newspapers and/or news telecast as well as broadcast. Rather, great importance is given by people in general to what they learn via their computers and mobiles through the Internet and other sources. It is amazing but mobiles have had a revolutionary impact on the approach of people regarding “news” in general. Of course, mobiles also added new avenues helping politicians and parties to propagandise their agenda and claims. This is, however, one side of the role played by media today.

With numerous avenues, including print media, channels, Internet services and other outlets, competition in the field has increased enormously. Also, the situation would have been different if only a few outlets of communication were accessible to politicians and people. It would have been easier for the former to exercise their “power” over a few. And the latter with limited options would have had no choice but to give some importance to the few sources of communication available to them. Now, more than 900 channels are available in India. Practically, each individual appears engaged in making use of mobile services available to him/her.

This is no more the period when politicians and/or various parties’ importance can be judged primarily by the coverage they receive in the media world. Of course, it cannot be denied that politicians still give great importance to being accorded substantial coverage by various outlets of mainstream media. The degree of coverage adds to their credibility in their perception. Greater coverage in comparison to their rivals also satisfied their political ego. Not surprisingly, now, electoral campaigning also includes “paid news,” other forms of advertisements, manipulated television interviews and other means to project political claims through the media. Use of media has thus become a political necessity for politicians and their parties.

Ahead of the electoral verdict, politicians seem to judge their “success” by the nature of their media coverage. This includes their receiving front-page coverage with photographs, frequency of their “news” being telecast as well as broadcast and so forth. In the process, what appears to be taken at face-value is the “electoral legitimacy” acquired by politicians and various parties through media coverage. There is no denying the fact that numerous outlets of media do their job in giving space to what is communicated by politicians in the electoral race. Some outlets may go overboard to satisfy a few and/or select politicians and parties they are associated with. This point also includes positive and/or negative coverage manipulated and manufactured to boost a few political egos and punch their rivals.

Please note, nature of media coverage of any kind does not guarantee electoral results of the same kind. How can it in today’s era? After all, however satisfied the politicians and their parties are by media coverage received by them, this does not suggest that voters feel the same about them. Think again, politicians may judge their political credibility by the coverage they receive in the media world. They may define the same as the media power at their command. But, as indicated earlier, in this era of communication boom, people have access to numerous outlets of media. Ordinary people may give minimal or even no importance to media coverage received by various politicians and their parties. Rather, they may choose other means of communication, including entertainment, professional and others, than choose to be guided by what is accorded importance by politicians as well as parties in the fray.

Clearly, the preceding point is a crucial pointer to the communication boom having enhanced the nature and degree of importance people accord to various outlets of media. The communication boom has certainly added to the manner in which they can use media power accessible to them. Irrespective of the degree and nature of coverage accorded to politicians’ claims and electoral promises, the same ceases to have no or limited value if the targeted recipients, that is the people, accord it no or minimal importance to such coverage. Numerous means of communication allow people to compare and analyse political propaganda as they choose to. As for instance, the attempt made in the early stages of the electioneering by some right-winged politicians to try and gain political mileage by making noise over Ayodhya-issue failed to move people as desired by them. Rather, people dismissed their efforts as nothing but electoral rhetoric. Media coverage accorded to Ayodhya-hype raised by right-winged politicians had virtually no impact on people in general.

This only proves the point that media power can no longer be evaluated by the quantum of coverage accorded to various politicians and parties. Rather, greater importance needs to be given to media power accessible to people and their approach towards the same. With respect to the forthcoming electoral results, it is people’s media power that is to be watched for! 

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