Analysis

Media & Communication Lapses — fear, benefits or ideological pawns

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There is hardly anything surprising about lapses in communication at various levels. When technology had not reached the present stage, probability of lapses prevailed because of wrong, exaggerated or minimal news about important issues being spread and/or even being ignored/sidelined. Now, with too many outlets of communication at numerous levels, these risks still prevail. Objectivity in these outlets is now being victim to subjectivity of not one but of various kinds. Who and/or what should be blamed?

This issue can be viewed from several angles. One is giving too much importance to certain issues. Yes, of late, media has been targeted from several quarters for going overboard in “news” regarding a Bollywood actor’s “suicide”. Besides, a few TV anchors have faced criticism for being a little/too aggressive while hosting shows. Some outlets have been targeted for paying too much attention to communal news against minorities. A lot more can be said regarding similar issues.

The fact that certain outlets of media are facing criticism is definitely suggestive of democratic and secular ethics being still very much alive and active here. Also, let us accept it, media in hardly any country may be viewed as totally objective, free and independent. India falls in the same bracket. In addition, there probably prevails fear factor as well as attraction of benefits (monetary, political, etc) for deliberately ignoring, sideling and/or propagating “news” regarding various issues.

Now, the big question is as to who and/or which sectors should be blamed for pressurizing media to take such steps? Why hasn’t media been left alone to play the independent and democratic role that it should? Let us remember, media is also known as the Fourth Estate, implying a critical role is expected to be played by media. In other words, media is expected to keep a close eye on particularly the government, which is viewed as imperative for survival of democracy. In this context, weakening role of media as Fourth Estate may also suggest weakening of democracy.

In the present age, however, it is imperative to link the role of media, democracy and the government from yet another angle. What is the key function of media and its outlets? Communicating “news” as well as opinion expressed on crucial issues from primary and/or other sources to recipients. Here, it is imperative to keep in mind the numerous outlets of communication that this country is home to. In addition, the role played by networks of social media, including Internet and mobile phones cannot be sidelined. It would be erroneous to assume that all these act only as pawns of sections trying to exercise pressure on them. Rather, the increase in activists as critics in certain outlets of media questioning other outlets for propagating subjective and/or negative news cannot be ignored.

The preceding point implies that communication lapses in certain quarters are certainly not being ignored by outlets of communication in others. Besides, virtually each individual – whether literate or not – now has means to form his/her own opinion about developments taking place around him. Clearly, there is no certainty that these individuals’ opinion would be based on what is being passed on to them by biased outlets of media. The individuals have access to numerous means of communication to judge which present an objective or subjective “news” to them. The decision to accept, ignore, sideline, reject and/or form whatever opinion regarding various issues dominating headlines or not is entirely theirs.

It is pertinent to give importance to the role played by individuals as means of communication. This refers to how they receive “news”, interpret the same and spread the same among themselves. However much importance various outlets of media give to news they maybe pressurised to, it is imperative to note that the same may not be perceived from the same angle by people at large, including activists and critics. This reality also implies that democracy does not easily fall victim to whatever be role of only various outlets of media. Here, it is pertinent to give greater importance to the democratic value prevalent among people in general. Once they fall victim to subjective news spread by various levels of communication, it would really signal weakening of democratic roots.

Against this backdrop, it is as yet too early to assume that Indian democracy is being threatened. The same may be said about all outlets of media assumed to be acting as pawns and/or under pressure. If this was the case, importance of communication in Indian society would have been totally lost. Democracy, secularism and other constitutional ethics would not have taken long to fall victim to what is desired by those seeking to use outlets of communication as per their choice. Let us accept it, communication lapses certainly prevail to a certain degree in this country and elsewhere too. But in this age of communication boom, the role of keeping watchful eye is not limited to media. Each Indian also has the right and authority to be a key communicator, as a critic, recipient and also propagator!