Media is considered as one of the pillars of Democracy, the importance of this fact can’t be stressed more. Even when Democracy was absent in India during the colonial rule, media played an important role in keeping people informed and in mobilizing the masses towards a common cause of independence. A glance at the pivotal role which media played in the attainment of Independence will give a grip of the value systems which the media stood for. Some of the value systems included secularism, nationalism, diversity. Yes there was propaganda too, but not for TRP ratings, it was to unite people’s opinion against the colonial rule. In short, media was a guidance to the freedom movement, it was always ahead of times, playing a progressive and unifying role in India.
Where are we today?
TRP driven news media has caused more harm than good to the thought process, perceptions and progressive thought that media generally inspires. There is barely any quality in the debates, there is barely any information in the news covered and there is barely any important social issues addressed in the news. Journalists have got into an open mud slinging exercise adding more embarrassment to the existing woeful quality exhibited by the news media. Yes, there are bright spots, there are some fantastic journalists, highly knowledgeable and experienced editors, and exemplary writers, but, the smoke of TRP-driven media seems to quite easily cover up the bright spots in Indian media. Some tough questions we should ask today from ourselves and from the media.
- How much has media in the last decade helped in informing people about the important issues that matter?
- How much has the media been able to stay independent?
- Is TRP driven media losing its intellectual high grounds and compromising on ethics?
- Have citizens’ thought process become progressive or regressive?
- To what extent are the news covered the most important issues India faces today?
and much more which we can list and which you can ask.
The way forward
- Issues that matters : Media should bring back the most important issues to the forefront, inform people about the challenges India and its people are facing i.e., malnutrition, education, infrastructure, health and much more. Media could not only inform but also throw light on the means to solve the issues.
- Politics is not everything : Politics is and should be a small yet important part of our public imagination and debate space. What each politician said and tweeted ranks very low in comparison with many issues mentioned above. The public discussion and debates have become too political rather than issue based. People are debating and defending politics and politicians instead of policies.
- Accountability & Positivity : Every country has its own issues, and the elected representatives and government are elected to hold them accountable for the policies and their implementation. Media has an important role in holding the elected governments accountable for their promises and responsibilities by highlighting lapses in governance and policy implementation. On the other hand, Media should play a unifying role in bringing together people through civil debates, historical precedents, and many other ways. Means can be discussed but accountability and positivity should be part of the end objectives of the media.
The media should look into its own history to understand its significance, how it informed people, how it unified people, how it held governments accountable through fearless journalism and the high ideals they stood for. Good business sense and good journalism can definitely go hand in hand. Media should pull its act together and play a vibrant role in Team India and its progress, re-establish the trust it had with people and live up to the high standards of its own history.