Indian Media

Today media is very powerful in India - the largest parliamentary democracy of the world. Over the years, it has grown much stronger and mightier. It has a far more expansive reach today than ever before as according to available figures the readership of newspapers and magazines in the country is over 190 million while over 384 million Indians watch television for news and other programmes.

Unfortunately, while media is growing, it is not growing up. There has been very disturbing trends in terms of quality. Apart from truth being the first casualty, the disturbing trend includes subjectivity, inaccuracy, misquotation, marketing news and people for money, sting operations with dubious methods and mixed up morals, turning TV studios to court rooms, prejudice of editors etc.

Now a days, media has become a sort of entertainment industry in the wake of globalization and the entertainment is now treated as synonymous with sex and crime. Unfortunately, on this account, Indian newspapers and magazines are full of semi-nude models, nude pictures and articles on kissing, bedroom manners and office romances. It is really distressing that media is making us a nation of sexacoholics. It is really unfortunate that national English dailies are throwing soft poison at the readers every single day.

Parents are very much worried over the sinister efforts of these dailies on their children. Incidents of rape are published with levid details. It is no exaggeration to say that today increase in crime is to be attributed to the lascivious material being published by the print and electronic media. It matters little to the media if, in the process, our highly precious values are subverted and our cultural ethos are destroyed. It is really distressing that media has degenerated into a highly counter-productive force and has abandoned the path of idealism and morality.

The main factors responsible for this phenomenon is that the lever of control has been transferred from editors, who used to command respect, to the media Mughals for whom only circulation and profit are the main objects. Means are of no consequences. It is the ends that matter.

Today media’s culture is one of power and money. It no longer aspires to change the world. It is becoming insensitive and profit-driven like any other commercial activity. It is now not only influenced but even led by grossly malevolent market ethics. It is slowly dragging the country away from its time-honoured and highly precious national culture.

Freedom of press as implicit in the fundamental rights means freedom of speech and expression but this freedom is not for the benefit of the press but for the public good.

The Press Council of India had been set up as a watchdog but media takes it very casually as the council does not possess any punitive power. There are a number of instances when the council issued guidelines which were treated with contempt by the media.

Distinction between broad-street journalism and tabloid journalism which is consciously maintained in the west stands blurred in India.

Media has the unique privilege of unaccountability. There is inaccuracy and misinterpretation on a very large scale in media reporting today but there is no punishment for such behaviour.

Media which sermonises all sections of  society from the legislature to the judiciary does little soul-searching itself.

It is high time that Parliament gives punitive powers to the Press Council of India to deal with irresponsible sections of media representing hit-and-run type of journalism.

Most unfortunate is that important issues like ongoing agrarian crisis leading to suicide by farmers, dowry deaths, displacement of tribals across the country, are being sidelined and Muslims are maligned over teen talaq which is very uncommon. Media has been consistently parroting IB and police fake claims about Muslim youths. Media must introspect and rediscover its past i.e., the glorious role which it had played in pre-Independence India.

M. Hashim Kidwai (ex M.P.)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 October 2012 on page no. 2

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