Wednesday 18 February 2015

The Indian Media

" In the First Amendment ( of the U.S.Constitution ) the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The press was protected, so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people.
  Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers  and foreign shot and shell.
In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose which the Founding Fathers saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of the government which led to the Vietnam War, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do "

 ( Passage from the judgment of Justice Hugo Black of the U.S.Supreme Court in New York Times vs. U.S.,1971, the Pentagon Papers case ).
 Having been the Chairman of the Press Council of India for 3 years ( after retiring from the Supreme Court ) I had extensive interaction with media people in India, including those in the electronic media.

 I regret to say that I have a very poor opinion of most media people,particularly those in the broadcast media, though there are also some whom I respect and hold in high regard e.g. P.Sainath, N.Ram, Vinod Mehta, Krishna Prasad, Ravish Kumar,Madhu Trehan, etc. But as regards the majority of journalists, the less said about them the better. They are simply not doing their duty to the nation as journalists, and often doing just the reverse.

  It is not that they are inherently bad people. I believe, as the great French thinker Rousseau said, that people are basically good by nature. But Rousseau also said that they can be corrupted by the system and circumstances. In my opinion most media people in India ( though not all ) have been corrupted by the system and circumstances. This is mainly because they hold insecure jobs, and would not like to be fired at any cost.

 So far as the top media people, the anchors and Group Editors in  many T.V. channels, are concerned, they are often enjoying huge packages, sometimes of crores of rupees annually, and they have raised their life styles accordingly. They often have huge houses, huge cars, etc. So they do not wish to be deprived of all this, and will do whatever their masters, the corporate owners who own these channels, tell them to do, and will not do anything to displease them.

 So far as the journalists at the lowest level ( known as 'stringers', etc ) are concerned, they are usually paid a pittance ( often Rs. 10,000 per month or even less ). They too hold insecure jobs, and in the present state of massive unemployment in India, would not like to lose them. They often have families to support.

 Most Indian journalists are nowadays given jobs on contract basis, which makes them totally 
insecure and under the thumb of the proprietors. The Working Journalists Act, which was made by the Indian Parliament to give some security to journalists, has been thrown to the winds.

 As regards the proprietors, they are often big businessmen, who have close ties with the politicians, and would not like to displease them. For example, the owners of many media houses in India have issued instructions that nothing should be said against the leaders of the present ruling party and government. Many who were regarded as hostile to them have been sacked, or conditions created that they had to quit.

 This is the reality of the Indian media today. The bulk of it ( though not all ) has sunk to the lowest level. Paid news, Radia tapes, etc are well known phenomena. The Indian media, probably on instructions from the owners, usually diverts attention from the real problems facing the Indian people---massive poverty, massive unemployment, almost total absence of healthcare or good education for the masses, widespread malnutrition among children, farmers suicides, discrimination against minorities, women and depressed classes, etc and instead devotes about 90% of its coverage to trivialities like lives of filmstars, cricket, politics ( which has fallen to the lowest level ), astrology, etc

  The Roman Emperors used to say " If you cannot give the people bread, give them circuses.". The French Queen Marie Antoinette said " If the people do not have bread let them eat cake ". The circuses and cake the Indian media gives to the Indian people is petty politics, film stars, cricket astrology, etc---a splendid opium mixture to keep them drugged.

 I regret to say that most mediapersons ( though not all ) have sold their souls, like Dr. Faust, to some Mephistopheles.


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  3. Totally agree. There has been an alarming drop in ethics and integrity in journalism across the globe in recent times.

    Here is my take:

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