In the recent past, media has been accused and discussed by others for various reasons. Its integrity has always been questioned. However, its authenticity is the duty of thinkers, readers and buyers. We are fortunate that in our country people are extremely interested in political news. The headline craze has brooked the credentials of a newspaper. Everywhere, we are talking about politics as Indian politics got attention since British Raj. Thus, our newspapers are much serious on the quotes and much better compared to other newspapers of the world. Second thing is that newspapers or news does not mean only news; news has variety of segments. News does not mean only the national issues. News by itself is very rich in its nature and anything that gives healthy entertainment and right education and inspires people to do better or asks the Government its accountability to do a better job is news. All these aspects constitute good journalism. My point however is that in the recent decade, the largest selling newspapers actually sell news space at a price tag; the so called supplement is completely paid advertisement in the form of news. We should not follow western culture of journalism; there should be a social control on it.
Generally news channels have a favourite quote, “If this is what people want to see, we are going to show”. Is that correct? Ethical or unethical, no one knows. I think a viewer has choice, if he is not interested in what you are showing he can turn you off. We being politically hungry, there was a time when Indian youth was not at all interested in political development or politics of this country but you look around now and you will find youth discussing politics and also have their own opinion for it, and this is probably the impact of intense political coverage.
Today, it’s more about young media, young audience. Youth know their right to vote and they are keeping eye on the good, bad and ugly side of politics. If today we say media is aggressive, historic or ascertain then it is because of the youth who are in position to say we understand the point which you are trying to put across. Earlier, we could see two people in the corner discussing politics in the pale dim light and with bad picture quality of the national channel and no one was really bothered to look at those interviews or shows. Today, there is large participation in news based talk shows and discussions.
Now if you look at the tabloids, even they are aggressive. They are also into investigative journalism. Somewhere down the line, a tabloid is much better than hydro media nowadays. It’s not only hydro media which talks about serious issues such as poverty, fertilizations, but are also widely published in other publications too. Everyone wants to know about fashion, cooking, films, party, Page three, Derby and race course activities. Nothing is limited to particular segment of news print. Music, arts, cinema gossips all has its relevant space in the news print. What we are talking about is appetite, courage and willingness required for which we will go for money and power in its best ways.
When AAP came up with sudden win in Delhi, media went overhaul about the party and its simplicity. None of the channels dared to show Salman Khan’s bare body or Shahrukh Khan’s hyped coverage and Modi bashing and even Modi’s rally had disappeared. The subject had its own relevance and steadiness. Sometimes during dry days, when there is nothing much to show, no news or scandals to expose, then the TV channels has to focus on Poonam Pandey or Sunny Leone to entertain their viewers. The news has to be relevant and worth grabbing the attention of readers or viewers. We know there are dry spell also and at that time we have to show some alternative to news. News is all about analysis and paralysis; at times we see TV shows discussing all irrelevant things which don’t create an impact on anyone.
When it comes to paid news, even today the regional newspapers have no courage to speak against the government. There is a silent understanding between the management of the newspaper and authorities not to go against each other. If gone against government then the solution is its closure. Many such bold newspapers had to shut down their shop for writing against the government. Many prospered by supporting and promoting and being the mouth piece of state governments or Chief Ministers. In north India, this kind of news culture is quite aggressively witnessed. There is a large section of media especially if we go in the rural areas, or to be specific local media, whose journalists acts like blackmailers. Obviously, the ethics and morality has taken a backseat there. Let us not stigmatise small media but there are blackmailers in the small media as well as in the national media. It won’t be wrong to say that blackmailers are everywhere.
There are many regional papers that can be tagged as the best examples for honest journalism but unfortunately, they did not survive. Why? They would not have died if they would have grown at a sub regional level. You take the example of one of the leading Hindi newspapers; it is publishing sixty three editions for this country. It has tried to reach almost every district and state. Many times media has crossed its ethical boundaries. These are hypnosis views about ethical and unethical journalism. Media is intruding too much into people’s private life. The biggest example is Tehelka. They used prostitutes to pose as arm dealers and got into defence boundaries, but it was in the public interest. It was liked by many but condemned by large. Sometimes, media feels it’s OK to go beyond the normal parameters of ethics. What happened to Tehelka and its owner; the organisation collapsed and Tarun Tejpal is in jail over rape charges. If there is appetite in media, I would say all is fair if it’s done in the public interest. Anyways, today we have more stringent rules and regulations even on media.
Journalists have to raise their voice on unethical practices. Even if they want to say no to their own bosses, managements and pay masters and challenge them. Sometimes, there is too much interference and journalists cannot really execute their freedom and work within an ethical frame. Media in India is sometimes constantly under accusations. They are related with one or other political parties, if you say well about Congress then you are against BJP and if you stand by BJP then you are accused of being against Congress. And if you stand in between, then you are accused of being paid by some third party or both the parties will attack you. The general assumption is that media and party are sold out in the country.
In other ways, finance is one of the biggest aspects of media. Weather it is small town or state level, media is actually controlled by political parties directly while at national levels they are holding indirect control. It is very difficult for working journalists to understand how they are directly and indirectly being controlled by political parties. Actually, journalists must assert themselves, and today common people are scrutinising media much more. The mouth full is mouth shut. There is no doubt, media has become powerful and that’s why everyone wants to control them. The debate over ethics is rudimentary. Nowadays, ethics deal with the silences of authorities. It’s time to revolt from within us, but that is not in the hands of journalists actually.