By Tanuj Gupta
Edited by Sanchita Malhotra, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
Rarely has the Indian media been in as much limelight as it was during election season 2014. With the world turned towards the country in what was the biggest democratic exercise, the electronic media in India became the subject of much criticism and ridicule with the over the top coverage and largely inaccurate commentary on the way the mandate of the people was taken across the country.
Starting with John Oliver, Jon Stewart and a host of other international late night show hosts, the ridiculous number of tickers, election updates and even what the dinner menu of the departing Prime Minister was as part of Prime Time television was the subject of much interest.
To compound matters, the quality of debate on TV shows with anchors and panellists alike logged together in a cacophony of sound did not help matters.
The fact of the matter is that while the world’s eyes were turned towards India and its media as a source of credible and responsible provider of information, the media itself seemed to have lost its way with the sort of TRP grabbing reporting that it had. So on one hand you had a channel which called for “A Billion Votes”, which was off the real number of registered voters by about 175 million voters(or the population of Russia) and on the other you had people clamouring for answers without even bothering for questions. The whole idea of a complete and comprehensive coverage was largely left away from the prevailing scenario.
The reason behind this is twofold. One that the Indian media is still largely immature and looks at itself as a product which needs to bring in the largest number of customers as opposed to being the fourth estate of our democracy. The second and more crucial reason for this is the sheer number of media houses we have competing against each other in a bid to gain prime time TV rights. Not only does this lead to a diffusion of the better journalists, with only perhaps one or two who are part of a popular media house, it also brings with it a necessity to produce what is not essentially good news but attractive news.
The risks of this are manifold. There is an overflow of sub-standard reporting with even more irrelevant content which is meant to attract viewership but disperses largely no knowledge or information that is useful. In fact what is even more shocking is the seemingly growing nexus between corporate houses and news agencies with the incident where the son of the richest man of the country allegedly running over pedestrians going completely unreported in the mainstream media. This is not a first with the Nira Radia tapes still being one of the hot topics in media circles.
Unfortunately though, this decline is set to continue. The resignation of some of the biggest names in the news world due to corporate takeovers brings with it a glimmer of hope and despair at the same time. Hope because this signals that there are those who still want that there is an independent media which voices opinions that aren’t paid for by others. Despair because not only are there only a handful of honest journalists left but because they are the last individuals whose voices are heard. There is also hope that the renegade media, particularly on the internet, keeps up the work which it has been doing as this appears to not only be the factor that is keeping the electronic media today in check but also appears to be the reason behind a lot of key issues being bought to light.Tanuj is a final year student of B.Com (Hons.) at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. Simultaneously pursuing CA and doing his Articleship, the remaining time that he gets he spends debating, reading, writing and procrastinating. Not usually in that order. With a keen interest and opinion on practically everything under the sun, he is always more than enthusiastic to share it with others and can be contacted on [email protected] for any sort of lively discussion.