In continuation with
he Indian press is over 220 years old, Indian Radio is about 100 years old and Doordarshan is about 50 years old. In January 1780, James Augustine Hicky started the first newspaper, a weekly, variously called as the Bengal Gazette or the Calcutta General Advisor or Hicky Gazette. He is still regarded as the father of the Indian Journalism. Before Independence, Media was a mission. Its mission was to free India from the clutches of foreign rulers, the Britishers. There were many limitations on the Media in the form of regulations. The infamous gagging act was brought to suppress the vernacular press, for example is one such regulation. After Independence too there have been many commissions but those were to streamline the working conditions of the journalists — categorisation of newspapers into small, medium and large, commercial orientation for revenue earning by radio, the constitution of the press council, the establishment of national level news agencies and the like.
Radio in India, as an organisation, is only two years behind British Broadcasting Corporation. Now, it is terrestrial radio or sky radio reaching 100 per cent geographical area of the Indian subcontinent. Television developed for a mere local cast of Adult education program in 1959 to Krishi Darshan for agricultural extension education in 1967. From the landmark SITE (Satellite Instructional Television Experiment) in 1975 to transmission extended to all parts of the country during Asiad games that too in colour. Now it is DTH and IPTV covering all parts of the country. The private channels are innumerable with more than the required freedom.
If we look at the various functions of the Media, they are Information, Interpretation, Education, Entertainment, and Evaluation. Media informs the people on what is happening around. It interprets the issues for the benefit of the people. It educates the people on various schemes, plans and programmes of the government. It entertains the people through various arts and cultural forms. It also evaluates the functioning of the systems in the society.
Gandhiji said, “A free press should be neither an ally nor adversary… but a constructive critic”. Media is the bridge between the ruler and the ruled for transport of information inputs. The Media, particularly the Press, the Radio, the Television and the Cinema together or independently have the potency to either reform or deform the Society. But what is happening today?
Media that was a mission before independence grew as a profession after independence and of late it is being criticised for becoming a business without ethics and without any social responsibility. It is because the owners of the print and private electronic channels are the owners of either a business establishment or an Industrial house or a financial institution. News, naturally in the hands of these businessmen became a commodity. News, which shall be a bare fact is now angled or slanted to make it marketable. Media wanted stories in place of plain news based on facts. Editorial has become either dictatorial or proprietorial. Parallel media houses are following the mission and aesthetics both but being self-funded and with a limited reach, they are finding hard to survive. Bigger the banner, greater the hypocrisy, everything is agenda based.
It is, therefore, often being quoted as “bad news is good news and good news is no news”. We read newspapers, listen to radio and watch TV to find a murder, a molestation of a minor girl, an atrocity, a celebrity’s divorce, an unholy alliance, a bomb blast, a vehicle plunging into depths, an insurgent attack, an encounter, a political coup, a plane crash where people died or hurt or made to suffer rather than the news on development.
Very recently, an electronic channel captured an event where a chain snatcher was beaten up by the mob; a policeman tied him to his motorcycle and dragged. It happened in Bihar. Those visuals were telecasted repeatedly creating a kind of irritation in the minds of the onlookers. In another incident where a celebrity shook hands with the policemen led to their suspension. It happened in Maharashtra. We are more interested in Taimur Ali Khan photographed in every corner than the upbringing of our own children. We are self-boasted bigots always in denial mode, we don’t want to accept the fact that there is a lot of social imbalance and news is to keep us aware of every situation, but no one is interested in such news. Looking at Media from this point of view, we have to ask ourselves whether Media is in its right direction or going in a wrong way leading the society along with it. The answer would be “Society is the cause”. Any Institution or Organisation or mission or profession is the reflection of the very society and its individuals. The Individual is a measure of the Society.
If the society wants bad, media shall be ready to supply it. If the society demands good, the media shall make such arrangements. It all depends on the society and its individuals and their taste being the consumers of news. Some experts visualise that very soon a particular medium or its programs will be accepted if they are good and will be rejected if it is bad. But before it could happen sufficient damage will be caused to the Civilisation and its people.
Now the question is, who shall change? Should media change or reform itself to discharge its social responsibility? Change it for the welfare and happiness of the public at large? Or the Society shall change for the better. For this, a set of values and a code of ethics are necessary for both the Society and the Media.
The Press Council of India that is supposed to enforce values and ethics in the print medium is said to be toothless. It has to be rejuvenated. There is no regulation on electronic media. The owners of the Media will have to be oriented towards values and ethics. The Society being a composition of many individual ethnic groups belonging to various cultures, religions, various levels of economic status, in order to put this on the right path, all the concerned viz political leaders, social leaders, opinion leaders, religious teachers shall strive for restoring values and ethics in the Society. Media reflects Society. Contemporary media is reflecting the society in its entirety. Therefore, the Government, the Political Parties and the Media Owners etc. shall make efforts for restoration of the values and ethics in the Society.
To be continued…
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