Thursday, April 14, 2011

When a chronicler turns actor -television media in India today

We have often heard this saying "News does not happen, it is made". One can only realize how true it is when we see the various television news channels in India today. The recent "crusade" for the Lok Pal bill to combat corruption using an aging Gandhian as a "puppet" is a prime example of how these channels are trying to shape public opinion. We had this old gentleman , Anna Hazare announcing a fast unto death until the Lok Pal became a reality ( Lok Pal is an Ombudsman body which would consist of Judges and other nomiated persons to which a citizen can complain about corruption related issues). All television channels carried long footage about this with good sound "bytes". This was followed up with announcements of candlelight marches to show solidarity for this cause.

I dont watch too much television and am mostly informed by the print media, however I found that the print media was more subdued in its reporting on this. Reflecting on this, I can only say that it is probably because the print media is "burdened" with the responsibility of providing facts and figures to satisfy readers like me who want to know more about an issue. Television on the other hand is simpler - you get a few moments on this and with cleverly drafted words and a smart looking anchor can "brainwash" a viewer into beleiving facts as you want to present it.

I am not critical about television viewers but I find that catering as it does to people with limited attention spans, it can influence its target audience much more easily than the print media. Television also has the advantage of introducing "drama" into any news item with shrieking and screaming anchors and provides the common man/woman to participate in the drama by sticking microphones in front of just any one.

But the television media is more than a group of dramatist personae- they have of late tried to meddle in policy issues through lobbyists have tried to be part of a number of larger corrupt deals ( the 2G spectrum scam/ the Radia tapes and Barkha Dutt and Veer Sanghvi's role in that...just some examples). So it is surprising that they should try to suddenly be so "holier than thou" on this..! Somewhere along the way their own ends are being met under the cloak of "news' that is manufactured.

I was just discussing this with a friend of mine and she had this interesting point about how the middle class today are often so confused about the complexities of certain news items. We dont have the time to read up something in a newspaper that would probably explain this in greater detail-we just have that few minutes during breakfast or dinner to catch some points , hear a celebrity's views on it and then we decide "yes certainly that is a cause"!

I remember a journalist friend once telling me that people who report on news items certainly do colour it with thier own perspectives but there is a difference between being a reporter and an actor. When a reporter tries to be an actor then obviously the script backs the actor. If we recall the 26/11 scene outside the Taj in Mumbai, we will remember how the satellite connection suddenly blacked out some channels because it was suddenly realized by our security forces that the terrorists were also watching these channels and planning their strategies accordingly - in essence we were providing them information through our channels!! And ofcourse no one reported about the carnage in VT station where common peple like us -commuters had died. There just wasnt enough drama there!

Today there seems to be an aggression with which the televsion media is growing and beginning to meddle in issues that ideally is none of their business. They also think that they can "conscientise" the public into taking action ... they would like to decide who we should vote for and who we should not- they also decide who is corrupt and who is not through the time they give on the coverage of corruption issues.

A free press is a sign of a vibrant democracy-certainly! Our democracy has given rise today to this genie who unfortunately will not longer be contained in a bottle!

7 comments:

IRFANUDDIN said...

Nice post....

Most of the time they make a breaking news just out of anything....

and the Media trials of the baseless issues are simply irritating.

KParthasarathi said...

The political orator who spews venom and vitriol from public platforms against opposing leaders has only a limited audience.The party magazines which thrives on lies
,hyperboles and slander is again confined by its limited circulation.But the visual media is of a different kind wth a far reaching audience conveying news along with its 'half truths in spoken form with selective pictures that highlight their coloured views.The only saving grace is the plethora of channels with different political slants feeding the viewers with diverse views.How much credence we give to the programmes depends on the cerebral level of the viwers.The democracy can be a success only when the people are discerning and wise enough to distinguish the genuine from the fake.All said ,it must be conceded that but for an alert visual media and print media and the strong judiciary the recent scams would not have received the public attention as much.The goverment would not have also acted as it did now.An alert and strong media however imperfect it may be is a sine qua non in our country.

When we hv given adult suffrage to a population that has 50% not literate and who are willing to barter their vote for a mess of pottage, how can these media aggravate the problem any further.The damage has been irretrievably done and there is a clamour to reduce voting age even further.

Anna's movement galvanised the nation and created an awareness to the canker that has eaten into the vitals of the system.No institution will like to be seen supporting the corrupt atleast in the near future.Hence the quick blinking by the government.But the drafting of the bill may pose insurmountable problems the government members stone walling the suggestions/amendments from public group.How the lokpal would be chosen,his powers and whom he cannot probe, the danger of a remedy becoming more serious than the ailment if it falls in wrong hands, his removal in extreme cases would all be daunting issues to resolve.The non-governemnt group may even walk out in disgust.

I feel this Jantar mantar fast will hv an impact on the outcome of elections

dr.antony said...

Very sensitive issue.A study I happened to see recently showed that most of the media and channels are owned by either political parties or foreign agencies.All have their own agendas.
How do you expect then to come up with unbiased views?

Emmy said...

As always your writing is imformative and interesting. I found it very easy to understand even though i do not really follow all this politics

Deepa said...

And what about the disgusting behaviour of Barkha Dutt on that show she has - We the People? She put together a motley bunch of people - Ratna Pathak, Kunal Kohli (?!!). A blatant attempt to catch eyeballs. And asking such prying and intrusive questions that the poor guy was reduced to tears.

On the anti corruption movement, I feel that social media played a greater and more proactive role than television. Only thing is - as you say, it is all about short attention spans and instant gratification. So it is a challenge to keep it alive.

Deepa said...

Read my blog. I have left an Award for you in it.

kamalika said...

Why left in the recent TAMILNAD polls.., the DMK based channels tried to paint Black Actor vijaykant as a drunkard...and created a videoclip as he s beating a electoral candidate.(by editing)

and made a comedian as an overnight HERO of tamilnad politicl world.( for which ppl of tamil community should feel ashamed for whom they happened /forced to listen to).

is it nt facisim to make ppl watch , think ,hear ,read,follow a certain ideological grouo by way of sheer political and money power.??

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