MEDIA AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY - A REVISIT TO MY PAST BLOGS
As I read the Hindustan Times, a day after Rahul addressed a Solo Show on Dr.Amnedkar's birth anniversary, forgetting Dr.Ambedkar and speaking about Modi Suit, saying "Rahul tears into Modi?". What did he tear? He was adept in tearing ordinances issued by his own PM, was it not? But, Media uses a "lingo" in headlines to attract attention of viewers and sees that viewers do not switch channels.
I do not have TV connection and I am happy as of now. The other day, when I was in my daughters house, I have switched on Telugu News Channels, where we have two TV channels that survive on gossip. The News channel broke news. I will repeat in English, " Syringe Psycho creates panic in Vetla Palem. Injured Mr. Sreenivasa rao, admitted in hospital" What do people do? They panic. After few seconds, news follows. "The reported Sreenivasa Rao was drunk full and injured himself. There is no psycho anywhere. Please do not believe rumors. Police clarify". Which news should precede? There is a Code of Ethics for Media. It was given a go-by, by the erstwhile Congress Government. Now, first time after I started reading News decades back, I was seeing News Channels being issued show-cause notice. Pat jump liberals "Freedom of Speech is being trampled upon." My advice to these liberals is "Your freedom of speech stops when bad odor from your stinking mouths stops" Brush your brand and voice. Or there is n reason why Media should highlight Rahul's Make In India remark. Does he want to to try to make in China like his Great grand Father, the rose petal in the lives of the Mountbatten/s and committed a Himalayan Blunder. Media should be able to tell the moronic Rahul and his nincompoop advisers that if you have to make anything in India, you have to take the raw material and infra, power etc., from India. Outsiders can only lend money on interest or profit. Please do not create a Dr.Amartya Sen here, with no knowledge of economics of our country.
MEDIA AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
“ The contest, Sir,” said Mr Pott, “ shall be prolonged so long as I have health and strength, and that portion of talent with which I was gifted. From that contest, sir, although it may unsettle men's minds and excite their feeling, and render them incapable for the discharge of the every-day duties of ordinary life; from that contest, sir, I will never shrink, till I set my heel on the Eatanswill Independent.” (Verbatim)
So, whatever be fate of the lives of the multitudes these two news papers The Eatanswill Gazette and The Eatanswill Independent will continue their nasty public brawl until they settle their scores with each other.
The bold and underlined portion of the dialogue is important in the present context when I seek to express my views on “Media's Social Responsibility.” As the very Head Line suggests, Media should look beyond personal or political prejudices, should not select their patrons across political spectrum nor should they express jaded views in favor of or against one or the other political dispensation. An Editor in the Media House should be sensitive to the social and political realities of the day and not over exhaust readers/viewers with pointed views as illustrated by Dickens. As stated by Dickens, the news should not make people incapable of the discharge of their everyday duties. This is the political part of it. As politics is so intermingled with the society and the religion that the members of the society are aligned to, this responsibility will increase many fold.
Let us examine this in the context of the present day Media presentation of News, Views, Arguments and alas! Adjudications too! It is inevitable while discussing the subject to quote one or two recent news that attracted national attention but were projected by Media most insensitively. Let us take the latest.
“The unfortunate death of innocent kids who were carrying plates instead of slates to Schools (as tweeted by one very famous Journalist of yester years) in a Bihar Village.” On the day the incident happened and as news started trickling in about death of children (it started with 13 children, if I remember well), I switched News Channels for the latest on the tragedy, not for sensation, but out of anger and frustration. The first day, it passed off as a non-issue in many channels. They reported on and off that a tragedy, in fact, occurred. So far so good. The news is not one that need be sensationalized. And they did not, I presumed and was happy.
But. come next day, all the channels were abuzz with the news. Gory pictures of sick children being carried into ambulances were relayed and re-relayed. It did not stop there. Most of the channels were suddenly alive to the fact that poor quality Mid Day Meal is, in fact, being supplied everywhere. It is a fait accompli, they cried hoarse. An ignorant nation knows not this, they presumed! A lizard here, a rat there, a cockroach here, insects there! Oh! What a revelation! One very famous Journo of Yester Years again tweeted “Don't spread panic!” What a great advice? But, they survive on spreading it!
It did not end there. The over enthusiastic reporters searched lanes and by-lanes, caught hold of politicians of all parties for their opinion. And pat comes the question on screens, “Are politicians politicizing a tragedy?” Please SMS. The work of politicians is to politicize. Is it not? Panel discussions followed. Some shouted, some cried, some shed tears (actual or crocodile even FBI cant decide). Ultimately each one expressed his/her learned opinion which is always “The other guy is guilty”. Someone brings out conspiracy, someone inefficiency, someone corruption but each stops short of saying it is the curse of poverty they perpetuated in the country. No channel thought it fit to interview or hold panel discussions with the poor parents that are still sending their children to Schools with plates in hands. None of them thought it fit to go into systemic loopholes or the institutionalized corruption in many schemes. None of them dared ask a question to the Central Government, “How can you assure supply of quality food grains to 825 million people, if you cant assure supply of pure Mid Day Meal to a minute percentage of children?” Nobody thought it appropriate why the Chief Minister of Bihar was not going around Studios explaining the reality, assuring public he is ruling the State in his own model when he did so to take on a political rival. Nobody dared ask, “Are Modi's Off-the-cuff remarks more important to the CM than the lives of innocent children?” But they ask you a question, “Is secularism-communalism debate more important than the lives of poor children?” You and I are part of the system that are paying taxes to fund the schemes and fill the coffers of Government as well as of politicians and contractors, who are their relations. You and I are not the ones who fight 24X7X365 about religion. We live like neighbors and die like ones. It is the politicians and the Media through the Medium of politicians that are raising these issues every day and keeping these issues alive. Whither Social responsibility? Whither religious decorum and decency?
Let me make a small comparison here with another news. Sreeshanth and three others were caught for fixing IPL matches. Few consider IPL as an important part of life. Few out of them consider them sacrosanct. Few of them don't know who the three others are except Sreeshanth. I, for one, don't know. But News Channels, the very minute they got wind of this news started airing the news, views, trials and adjudications 24X7. This continued for ten or fifteen days, non-stop. No other news found little space. Why? What happened? The news broke out exactly at a time when demand for PM's resignation was peaking for his alleged silence on the coal scam and the alleged dubious role of officers in PMO. Suddenly Government found it convenient to start “Bharath Nirmaan”. News socially and politically relevant was swept under carpet and news that nobody cares was prominently aired. Whither your love of Nation, Media? Did your think fit to ever seek answer from the public, “Do you think the PM or PMO culpable in the Coal Scam, please send replies by SMS?” No? Because , lacs of crores of public money going the drain is not your concern. Courts are looking into it. It is Sub-Judice. But, IPL fixing that too is in court is not!
A full scale debate rages on the puppy remark of Modi Jee (nobody heard it except the Journo who interviewed him). She tweeted in the morning that it was wrongly contextualized. By evening the tweet was deleted. One Senior Journo in a reputed (?) channel and one spokesperson of the Grand Old Party Tweeted' “What he said was Kutton Ke Bacchaa” and news channels repeat it like parrots. What are we aiming at? A full scale debate is raged on the “Burkha of Secularism” comment. They conveniently forget the “Maut Ka Saudagar” remark and don't bring it out from archives. Politicians make many remarks on the eve of elections be it Sonia Jee or Modi Jee. Duty of Media should be to act as Swans and separate Milk from water and spread an aura of goodwill. Instead they take sides as the Eatanswill Gazette and Eatanswill Independent of Dickens and spew venom on behalf of one party or the other. Are they sponsored Media or independent? They should ask the question themselves.
The most surprising news item, I saw yesterday on one news channel. Rajnath Singh Jee spoke in BJP Parliamentary Board Meeting and said English Language was a bane on the country and our culture by intermingling with that of the British had a negative effect on our culture. The News editor sitting in the Studio asks a question. “do you think this will rake up a political storm?' To which the reporter replies, “Certainly, a lot of storm is going to be raised by rival parties'. There are various aspects here. First it is an internal high level meeting of the Party going to fight elections. The issue was not addressed to the general public. Second, parties discuss on various issues and each leader expresses one opinion or other. That need not form the core of their strategy. Issue closes there. But Media does not want. The intention seems to (I may not be correct) to wean away a large section of English speaking youth and others from the party. They form their core vote bank. So here the Media House is playing the fiddle of another party, they owe allegiance to. I was in Rome. Nobody speaks English. I was in Helsinki, all speak in Finnish. In Paris and Spain they don't speak English. In Amsterdam Airport I fought to find English speaking Aide. In Pisa they appoint Americans in hotels to speak English. In USA Chinese speak little English. Migrants from Mexico do not. Most of the immigrants there do not know English. In Stockholm they say only “Sorry and Thank you” in English. They don't say “Hello” but say “Hey”. If all these countries are progressing why should these channels bother about remarks of a leader on English? Because they want to pull down his party?
Is it right when you swear by certain values and are one of the four pillars of democracy? Don't you have any responsibility to the society? Even if you consider yourself as a business house and work on profit lines, do businesses not have a social responsibility? Does a retail Store not have a responsibility to supply unadulterated food items and packed items whose expiry date has not ended? Do you never realize you are supplying 'stale views' with the color of “Breaking News'? Do you not find adulteration in your views, trials and adjudications? Are not your talk shows like unbranded items sold in retail stores with colorful wrappers to lure the gullible clients?
A butcher who sells meat is having a social responsibility to keep his environs clean and free from flies.
They cover the meat with a veil, so that flies will not spread deceases. Are you ensuring you are creating a healthy environment while you are selling the news and views? Are you ensuring that flies of views that carry Bacteria are not polluting the news with all kinds of views? Are you ensuring you cover or filter views before they are aired?
For all the above questions the answer is a “BIG NO.”
The climax of the fight between the editors of Eatanswill Independent and Eatanswill Gazette in “Pickwick Papers” by Dickens is that they come to blows with each other in an inn during a snow storm- hit night on the outskirts of a City. Pickwick saves the day for them. But, it is difficult to find such a magnanimous and generous Pickwick today. Better to be circumspect about the climax here. I am not the one to air my views, conduct a trial or adjudicate on the matter. After all, I am not a practicing Journalist!