The fall and fall of Indian media

While the media demands special privileges because they claim that the press is the fourth pillar of Indian democracy and serves a national purpose, the sad reality, especially over the last two decades is, social conscience and pursuit of public good have been replaced by total commercialisation of media. 'As Rekha takes oath, the camera kept focussing on Jaya Bachchan’s priceless expressions' ... Thus went the first few lines of articles on the first pages of all national dailies the day after Rekha took her oath in Rajya Sabha, and that is exactly what TV channels had done the day before! Add to that the shameless gossip about Amitabh and Rekha.  What national purpose does this story serve? And that too as headlines in the front pages of respectable dailies? Or even as the key stories of TV channels? Yes, Rekha is a big star, and her swearing in makes news. But is this the way to cover the event? Aren't there enough Bollywood shows on TV and entertainment pages in newspapers where such news could have been easily showcased? For that matter, a few days before this incident, the biggest stories were to do with the ‘hurt’ of our so called respectable MPs due to some cartoons in NCERT textbooks. Or for that matter the front page outcry over SRK’s detention in the US airport or Salman Rushdie not being allowed to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival or whom Oprah Winfrey met during her India visit or Robert Vadra saying he wants to join politics or the entire Sunny Leone saga or the scores of lines on who killed Aarushi Talwar or the two kids taken away by welfare authorities in Norway or for that matter even the entire big deal made out of Rahul Gandhi’s UP campaign!

Are the above the real issues that concern India? Of course not! The real issues that confront Indians are farmer suicides, crisis in Indian agriculture, pathetic human development indicators, a virtual collapse of the public health and education system, and rampant corruption because of a paralysed judicial system.

The only issues highlighted by our media are very, very high profile corruption cases... that too without any follow-up. For example, it is almost a decade since the Ghaziabad PF scam came to light but who cares about following it up? Many witnesses have died mysteriously and keep dying regularly in each and every high profile case and how... Yet, there is hardly any follow up coverage in the media. Because – as I wrote in my earlier editorial – just like no lost child can wake this country up and change laws or school rules, similarly, no killed witnesses will wake this country up or change laws for their protection! And while our mothers keep dying at childbirth and our children keep dying before the age of 5 (in both these counts, our figures are shamefully comparable to those of sub-Saharan Africa while China’s are comparable to the most developed nations of the world), our media will keep our masses busy, feeding them the ‘Silsilas’ in our Rajya Sabha.

These are not the only examples of the shameful fall of media standards in India. The herd mentality of Indian media is another shameful aspect to ponder upon. One of the best examples is the Narendra Modi issue. Modi is the favorite target of all media since the past 10 or so years and has been made a demon. But the media is mysteriously silent about other riots and never highlights Modi’s achievements equally, achievements that can invariably make him the best Chief Minister in every possible ranking. The Indian media also almost never highlights the real story around the Hindu-Muslim divide (often the real cause of riots), which is the pathetic state of India's Muslims when it comes to education, job opportunities and quality of life; these are things that the government denies Muslims by keeping them in poor economic conditions. The same applies to the Dalits in this country.

But then, who cares about the real story? Who cares about fighting for the rights of the millions of Muslims or Dalits in the country when fraudulent sympathy and Modi-bashing can get more mileage in the international media!

Then again, most of the times, the Indian media blindly apes what comes out in the Western media; so how can one blame the international media? Let's take, for example, the case of Iran! India does not have any problems with Iran. It badly needs oil and gas from Iran. It is in India's national interests to have good relations with Iran and there is absolutely no reason why India should participate in any kind of Iran bashing... But just because American and British media demonise Iran, the Indian media parrots the same tune! We shamefully didn't protest the many American wrongs over the last couple of decades just because USSR broke down and we lost our voice. And, of course, our media didn't have voices either; so whatever the West says, is what we love to promote! All in all, I believe it’s time for the Indian media to stop treating the Indian populace as dumb donkeys who can be fed anything; or like dustbins, where any waste material can be dumped. It’s time that media plays a role in taking correct stances, in making Indians more intelligent by giving them news that matters instead of catering nonstop and shamefully to news that only titillates and fulfils the eyeball-grabbing techniques at the cost of keeping an entire nation fed with crap that is ruining the brains of generations to come.

Author is a Management Guru and Honorary Director of IIPM Think Tank.
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