News media focusing on sensationalism, says Uday Shankar

Shankar, who is also Chairman of industry body FICCI's Media and Entertainment Committee, said at the FICCI Frames here that news media with its sensational reporting has also negatively affect the diversity of the country. ‘Too often, news media has focused on what is sensational rather than what is important. Too often, the point of news seems to be to reduce the extraordinary diversity of the country to the most banal, a contest between extremes that can only be resolved through a shouting match on live television.

‘With singular dominant narratives, the trend seems to be of creating heroes on a particular day only to be labelled as thugs and crooks the next,’ Shankar said here.

He said in the early years of independence, PM Jawaharlal Nehru used to write criticisms of his own government under pseudonyms published in leading newspapers. ‘So concerned was he about a press that was not free and was not fiercely independent. It is ironic that today, it is perhaps easier to get articles published for a fee in newspapers than to place an honest criticism of the government,’ he added.

‘Instead, it is now a broken relationship, and one that has dire consequences for both the industry as well as the government,’ he said.Failure to establish credibility and importance has meant the industry perennially stays on a back foot, defending itself against every new wave of regulation aimed only at further curtailing its wings, Shankar said.

In return, the government has not been able to leverage either the impact that mass media can have in India or harness the power of media as an economic engine that can create job and wealth, he added.

‘It is therefore appropriate that the weeks before the elections is the right time to call for a new contract between the government and the media,’ he said. The central principle of this contract should be the recognition that this industry is a unique and powerful economic enterprise. It is capable of creating employment and wealth much faster than most other sectors and with the ability to be a force multiplier, like it is in most countries.

‘It is particularly relevant in India because it can be an employment generator without sizable public investments and without being hampered by the deficiencies of public infrastructure,’ Shankar said.
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