“Remember the Bruce Springsteen song ‘57 channels, and nothing on?’ What we have is a growing number of channels, but the diversity is limited to the direction of hip movement. On one channel the hips are swaying to the left, and on the other they are swaying right, and it’s Prabhu Deva on both channels!”
The Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu and the 2007 winner of the Ramon Magsaysay award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts.
It is an era in mass communication today, where newspapers begin from page three and run series of advertisements in the following pages, till you realise you have reached the end without even taking a sip of your morning tea. Where 24*7 news channels broadcast reruns of a Bipasha Basu defining her idea of style or a Kareena Kapoor explaining how much fun she had on the sets of her latest flick, thrice, the same day. Where the difference between one channel from the next lies only on which celebrity scoop they are ‘investigating’that day. As you finish seeping in pages of a drag queen suspecting her husband of adultery, scanning through pictures of partying-to-eternity socialites and wonder whether they really have a job or not, one wouldn’t blame you if you mistook an article in your ‘National Daily’ for an advertisement. Who would blame you, when journalism today is dominant only in its sensational, promotional, vested-interest serving mode? ‘Is there any other mode?’, some would ask.
Channels talk of being ‘refreshingly different’ and ‘seeking truth, always’ but an instant later, you realise they mean broadcasting globe trotting freak shows that are just minutely ‘different’ from Bollywood award programmes, or discovering the real reason behind Shahid Kapoor’s absence from Kareena’s dance programme. Truly, deeply, sincerely, BLAH!
The media is one of the most powerful tools that a democracy possesses. Using it to its maximum potential should be the topmost priority for every media professional calling himself the editor of‘leading English daily’ and the like. It is utterly saddening to see burning issues, the ones that require the attention of the public to drown away when the media engulfs it to highlight issues that seem unworthy, at times, almost trivial, in comparison. It is correctly believed that in India today, the Communication sector enjoys what is called as, ‘Freedom of the Purse’ and not ‘Freedom of the Press’! This is evident in journalists assuming the role of personal publicity campaigners to celebrities or blowing the trumpet of a particular political party or a high-flying corporate bathing in money. Front full page advertisements are common and so are repeated paid interviews of theatre-goers ‘immensely enjoying’ the latest flick from the new-age cinema bandwagon and ‘Making of the film’ snapshots for a film’s publicity.
Issues such as unemployment, farmer’s suicides, failure of various Governmental schemes, and plight of victims of public tragedies are rarely, if not never covered. It is also a well known fact that certain Media houses employ a large number of journalists for either business or entertainment sections while completely neglecting essential issues like agriculture. The educational channels which do manage to telecast programmes on agriculture, health, education etc such as DD’s Gyan Darshan and the like have poor viewer ship among urban viewers, partly due to their poor formatting and presentation in comparison to high-tech private channels and partly, due to their utter lack of publicity.
Defenders of the current scenario of media say that viewers don’t want to watch serious stuff. Well, has anyone even tried launching a sensible channel with more air time for real journalism than entertainment?
Such is the dismal scenario today. Sadly, as a spokesperson of a popular entertainment channel revealed, there will be a launch of 300 more channels in this year, with no Board or Central authority to manage its content.
It is the matter that we absorb through our newspapers and news shows that to a great extent influence our perspective of society. Hence, it is no wonder that we have become a generation addicted to social gossip and exasperatingly indifferent to serious questions that provoke us to look beyond what is shown to us through media, today.
However, we, as readers and writers have the power of expression like never before. Forums such as blogs, school journals, magazines that invite inputs from the readers, give us a unique opportunity of initiating change. This section of new media, not being bound by corporate ownership, gives us the freedom to choose what we write about and how we write it. Perhaps, a shift in perspective would go a long way and not restrict us as merely receivers of what some sections of society feed us with.
[Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nohodamon/2479931938/]