Media continues to be 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 papers and magazines in the country is over 190 millions while over 384 million Indians watch television and TV news and other programmes. But, unfortunately, while media is growing, it is not growing up. There have been disturbing trends quality-wise. Apart from truth being the first casualty, the disturbing trend includes subjectivity, inaccuracy, misquotation, marketing men as editorial heads, sting operations with methods and morals mixed up, TV studios as court rooms, SMS sting as serious human rights efforts and prejudice of editors.
Now a days, media has become a sort of entertainment industry in the wake of globalisation and the entertainment is now treated as synonymous with sex and crimes. Indian newspapers and magazines, too, are full of semi-nude models, nude pictures and articles on kissing, bed room manners and office romances. Media is making us a nation of sexoholics. National English dailies are throwing sweet poison at the readers every day. Parents are worried over the sinister effects of these dailies on their children. Incidents of rape are published with details. It is no exaggeration to say that today increase in crimes is also 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 precious values are subverted and our cultural ethos destroyed.
It is distressing that media has degenerated into a counter-productive force and abandoned the path of idealism. The main factor responsible for this is that the lever of control has been transferred from editors, who used to command respect, to sales persons for whom only TRP, circulation and money are the main objects. Today media’s culture is one of power. It no longer aspires to change the world. Freedom of press is implicit in the Fundamental Rights of freedom of speech and expression. However, 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 causally as the council does not possess any punitive powers. There are a number of instances when the council issued guidelines which were treated with contempt by the media. Distinction between broadsheet journalism and tabloid journalism, which is sedulously maintained in the West, stands obliterated in India. Media has the unique privilege of unaccountability. There is inaccuracy and misinterpretation on a very large scale in media reporting, but there is no punishment for an errant report.. Media, which has sermons for all sections of the society from the Legislature to the Judiciary, does little soul-searching of its own. It is high time that Parliament gave punitive powers to the Press Council of India to deal with the irresponsible sections of media representing hit-and-run journalism. Important issues like the 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 rare.
Insensitive and profit-driven like any other commercial activity, it is now not only influenced, but even led by grossly malevolent market practices. It is slowly hijacking the country’s time-honoured and precious national culture. Media must introspect and rediscover its past i. e. the glorious role which had played in pre-Independence India.
M. Hashim Kidwai, ex-MP