date_range 07 Jun, 2020

Beastly Bad, and Can’t Improve: The State of Mass Media in India Today

How progressive or regressive a country is, depends on how well-informed, misinformed, or uninformed its people are. Probably, the worst are the misinformed citizens since they become resistant to learning, and imagine they are the best informed in the world.

How information is handled defines how dependable the source becomes. Mass media has a significant role to play in the diffusion of information. In this respect, these days the major news channels and newspapers are falling down on the job reprehensibly.

### Sensationalism Is the Name of the Game
Much of the reporting that goes in the guise of news these days is enough to make the savvy viewer or reader wince. It is all about sensationalism and TRPs.
In the race to be ahead in TRPs every journalistic and editorial norm falls by the wayside. The overkill of certain attention seeking tactics make serious thinking viewers prefer to retreat into books, or search information online. There never seems to be any well-developed format or carefully crafted discussion to draw out the flaws in the system under discussion to seek workable solutions, or to investigate what went wrong when some major breakdown in law and order occurs.

Accuracy is murdered, and reporting of events and reactions are edited, the impolite say doctored, to suit the propaganda purposes of the news outlet, be it a TV channel or a newspaper or periodical. Make the audience view and listen to the laughter, not the applause that came as a response to what a potential leader says, if the media house desires to denigrate and underplay his value. As long as it is grabbing eyeballs, why should anyone bother about the authenticity of the news item?

### Ignorance Trumps All
Sometime ago, the front page of a major newspaper carried a photograph of a boy swimming in, what the paper claimed was, the water which had collected on an arterial road of Kolkata after a heavy downpour.
According the snippet below the picture, the previous day the city had experienced “heavy rain measuring 59 mm, according to the meteorological office”. Obviously, the crassly ignorant subeditor has never held a measuring tape or ruler in her/his hand, or have any conception of dimensions.

### Mission impossible:
A rat might drown in 59 mm of water. An adult would find it ankle deep water, since it is just a little more than two inches (2.32 inches to be precise). No child would be able to swim in it!
How that snippet was allowed in the first place, or why there was no editorial apology/retraction/erratum published the next day is inexplicable to any journalistic old timer. It is, however, indicative of the dismal depths to which journalistic and editorial standards have fallen.

### Professional Integrity Can Take the Hindmost
Independent reporting? What’s that? What do you mean by saying that journalists should have professional integrity?
If howling that Salman Khan has denigrated rape victims by comparing himself to how battered a rape victim feels after shooting some scenes in Sultan brings in prime time viewers; why should any channel bother with the fact that he had immediately requested the reporters present to leave out the comment, and said that he shouldn’t have expressed it that way? The first broadcast of the interview had shown him requesting people to edit the remark.
It served the hysterical shriekers right that he simply ignored all demands to publicly apologize to all rape victims.
### TRP is king:
Celebrities should be more sensitive in their choice of illustrations. The media going overboard about the issue highlighted the sheer opportunism which is garbed as principles. If the news channels had been really so concerned about gender sensitivity, how come none except two Bengali news channels carried excerpts of the speech where the chief of the BJP’s Bengal unit described all female students belonging to Jadavpur University as being of the world’s oldest profession?
His exact verbiage is unprintable. Obviously, it wasn’t going to generate the TRPs that berating the country’s top star would. Nor did the Women’s Commission issue a summons to him to explain his choice of epithets; though they were swift to slam a notice on Salman.

### The State Ruling Dispensation Matters
Usually, any shoe to beat Bihar serves. Remember the Bihar topper scandal? Most Hindi news channels hollered about little else for days. However, soon afterwards there were reports in select news channels of a similar scam in Gujarat where the topper in Music couldn’t sing the basic seven notes right.
Regardless of whether you have learned Hindustani classical music, Carnatic music, western music, folk music, or any other form of music; the same seven notes and their nuances and halftones are used.

### Vanished:
The news disappeared as suddenly as it had been telecast. There was no hounding of the student or the teacher who had given star marks, as was done in Bihar. No panel discussions denouncing the failures of the education system in that state. And, does the name Vyapam still ring a bell? Well, that was Madhya Pradesh.
Shhh. Such things are better swept under the carpet. Of course, there was an overspeeding Aston Martin in Mumbai about which no channel or newspaper dared take up the story. A far cry from the way the Reliance story broke, and the backlash was handled by the concerned media house way back in the eighties of the twentieth century. Makes one wonder whether the nation has moved forward, or regressed in the last few years,

### Only strong opposition leaders are corrupt:
Nobody could have missed the sanctimonious manner in which Lalu Prasad Yadav’s own and familial corruption have been discussed at length on news channels of different languages.
Naturally, Venkaiah Naidu’s corruption cases have been buried somewhere deep, unreachable to media representatives who find it imprudent to dig. Amit Shah’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots is raked up only rarely by some Congress spokesperson; never by any media personality, not post-2014 general elections.

### The Media Stars Are Equally Culpable
Even journalistic heroes like Rajat Sharma quail at the prospect of asking pointed questions of members of the ruling dispensation.
Someone who built a Himalayan reputation for his ability to pose very uncomfortable or awkward questions to just about anyone — all in a very pleasant tone and with a smiling visage — stopped short of asking the question which was begging to be asked when interviewing Arun Jaitley.

### The cat got his tongue:
In an episode of Aap Ki Adalat post demonetization, Arun Jaitley was justifying the central government’s decision to suddenly withdraw two major denominations.
Inter alia he said that doctors and lawyers should pay income tax, and went on to query why they shouldn’t accept payments in cheques. Even Rajat Sharma dared not ask whether Mr. Jaitley used to take his payments in cheques when he practiced in the Supreme Court.

Media stalwarts like Rusi Karanjia, M. J. Akbar, Arun Shourie, S. P. Singh, or Karan Thapar wouldn’t have bitten their tongue on that question no matter who the interviewee was — certainly not in their heyday. It is also symbolic of the lessening freedom of the press and allied media, a prerequisite of a strong and thriving democracy, that media tigers have become tame cats.

### Let’s See Who Can Outshout Opponents
Panel discussions are more about who is shouting more — the panelists or the host. Why should TV news channels allow discussions to degenerate into mudslinging matches? Regardless of the language medium, each news channel has its pet “experts” who are visible on every panel discussion.

If nothing else, just seeing the same bunch day in, and day out is off-putting. What’s worse, they have same standard responses to every event or occurrence be it mob lynchings, floods, border ceasefire violations, a major sporting victory (or defeat), demonetization or GST.
Naturally the Congress and Pakistan are at the root of every evil besetting this great country. Yawn. So, what’s new? Or, news for that matter?

**Author**:- Kalopna Moitra

_This Content does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Instafeed and its owners_

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