Media: The hero or the Villain

The Indian media has had a rich past to boast about, replete with countless examples of its undoubting and unflinching bravado in the most serious of situations. Be it the Kargil war or the 26/11 terrorist attacks, the media’s unfettering attitude earned them the respect of the entire nation. However, on delving deeper on the media’s role in shaping the current zeitgeist, one can’t help wonder , exactly what motivates the media into their attempts of activism. Is it some good old consumerism or a comprehensive attempt at radicalization?

To answer this question, let us observe a few recent incidents. Starting with IAC’s anti-corruption flagship campaign, media was one of the biggest strengths of the campaign. A formidable presence of luminaries like Shazia Ilmi from NDTV, gave it an edge on the government which shares a love-hate relationship with the media. The extensive coverage by print and electronic media was one of the main reasons that the campaign could garner the support of the masses. Interestingly, a fact worth noticing was that none of the vernacular newspapers or channels could match the support extended by mostly English channels and dailies. Why was it that most of the vernacular newspapers or channels distanced themselves from what could be one of the turning points of the century?I mean, come on, when we talk about removing corruption from India it’s like asking Kim Kardashian to keep her personal life PRIVATE! And the TRP’s of these very channels just went zooming to touch record figures.

Nevertheless, vernacular newspapers were busy showing their audiences all what possibly be called irrelevant at that time. In a nation where a staggering majority is a brand ambassador of illiteracy, one can’t help wondering the role of English media in taking the message of Team Anna to the grass root level demography. I personally don’t have a problem with its role, but it does leave the reputation of the media with a big question mark looming above it.

It is not the first time that the very ethics of media have been questioned, but there have been many times, when media houses have faced the ire of the people as far as their choice of content goes. However, media house put the blame squarely on their viewers, who had rather watch babas performing black magic or the Mayan prediction of the world in 2012 than spare some sympathy for the abstemious ways of Team Anna. Half of us would emphatically deny this blame by calling it out of touch with reality. After all, the new generation aka GEN X, Y, Z (take your pick!!!!) is way above these reminisces of our orthodox past, but surprisingly it is not so. The educated masses succumb to the malaise of generalization and end up viewing everyone with the same lens. A large population of the country considers watching irrelevant special editions on Ash-Abhi’s daughter’s pictures s a better pass time.

This leads people to introspect and asks them how exactly did they end up being so shallow? While I am no mind reader what I actually realize that people have now accepted corruption as a part of the zeitgeist of the 21stcentury. Unless and until they don’t realize its cancerous approach, there is no way that Team Anna or anyone for that matter, could deprive corruption of its ‘sacrosanct’ position in our system.

A yet bigger paradox is that people do hate it but refuse to part with it. Truth is , media houses in India are strongly driven by consumerist tendencies, a thoughtful gift from their allies in the West. Their broadcasting policies are undoubtedly driven by the consideration of TRPs. It seems a little unfair to pass the blame on them, after all none of the media houses have specifically come out to take their share of activism in this cause. It is just a case of chance or opportunity that something like the IAC campaign made its way to their strategy, mainly because of its uniqueness. The question again comes down to the viewer, what does it want.

Strangely, the viewer is the problem as well as the reason.  The media, in strictly my opinion, if anything is opportunistic, without any positive or negative bias. One just needs to flashback to Rupert Murdoch to get the idea about the “height of being opportunistic”. On the other hand, the memories of Occupy Wall Street are still fresh. Two events, that literally redefined the extent and scope of media.  Coming to OSW and IAC, why do we see these movements losing their luster just after a year they set into motion a massive wave of protests, is it because their cause lost its mettle or more importantly because the MEDIA found another cause? I leave this for the reader  to decide.

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