Jul 20, 2010

Indian Media - Does it report responsibly or does it just sensationalize?

(This is an entry to BlogAdda's contest 'Is Indian Media misusing its freedom?' sponsored by Pringoo.com)

No serious news follower would have missed the expose carried out on a self-styled god-man by a leading Tamil entertainment channel. A late night crime reporting show that it was, brought out the hidden life of the god-man and showed his non-celibate side being in compromising positions with a yester-year leading actress. For a show that is at 10:30pm, though we don’t expect non-nature audience to be viewers of this show, it was indeed scandalous on the part of the new channel to air an almost X-rated video footage on national television. And the following day, the channel lost it totally. The footage of this tape found its way into the most watched news bulletin in Tamilnadu and by the Tamil speaking population across the globe. Following this, this footage made its way into every other news channel in the country. Whatever may be the gravity of the situation, there are indeed some ethics that a television channel would want to follow, in at least censoring the segments that may be X-rated. Was the channel working towards the expose of the god-man genuinely, or was it working towards sensationalizing a not-so-important issue and gain target rating points (TRP) to boost its advertising revenue? This is a question that even a non-MBA graduate can answer.

26/11/2008 is a date not many people would be able to forget. The Mumbai attacks on this day made it to the news channels all over the world, with some major reporting all around the round. The media sure had its moment of glory, by capturing the footage of a terror-accused, something that even the police couldn’t get. But, what was disappointing about this reporting was that it was also probably one of the most irresponsible reporting by the Indian media. The blasts had disturbing images of dead and charred bodies, injured people and more importantly that of people, whose loved ones were dead in the blast. The news channels didn’t show any responsibility in censoring out these disturbing images on national television for a while. Also, just to gain TRPs and once again sensationalize this national disaster, all the news channels began interviewing the victims of the blast and the loved ones of the dead ones in the blast. The last thing that some one who is in such a situation would want to do is to explain what happened inside the hotel where the blasts took place. Whatever happened has happened, and we need to take steps to get these people to lead a normal life. Instead, the news channels only ended up grilling the already depressed minds of these people, just to make their own bread and butter out of these victims’ grief. It was also a very disgusting sight that the editor/owner of one of India’s leading news channels brushed aside a witness’ statements, just because it was not sensational enough for him to air it on his news channel and moved on to the next witness. What responsible media would have done and should have done is to help the help people in the blast area get back to normalcy, and aid in the police and army’s rehabilitation efforts.

A Hindi movie made based on a popular and best-selling Indian ‘novel’ garnered a lot of attention in the media and amongst the public. The reason – the book’s author was unhappy that he was not given enough credit for his contribution to the movie and that the film’s producer and director took credit for the story. The author raised a hue and cry about this situation, resulting in press conferences given out by both parties – the book’s author and the film’s production team. In one of the press meets, the film’s producers lost his cool at the media and asked a reporter to shut up. And this was enough for the news channels to magnify this issue and blow it out of proportion. At the end of the day, we are not too sure who gained from this – whether it was the producers of the movie that made more than Rs. 350 crores, or the author who found a new fan following. But surely, the media houses which kept track of every single movement that the two parties made, thus made sure that the viewers have their eyes glued to the screen, as thought there was a natural calamity, and eventually made idiots out of the idiot box viewers.

Off late, a news item that’s garnered national attention is not that of any national calamity or disaster, but that of the marriage of the captain of the Indian cricket team. The Indian cricket team skipper married his school friend, and this was enough to have our news channels splash pictures of the bride, the groom and the many link ups that the captain had. After all, a wedding is a private life event and anyone not invited to the wedding should respect the privacy of the bride and groom parties. Instead, the media goes into the details regarding who was invited to the wedding, who made it to the wedding, and more importantly where the couple first met and how their relationship blossomed. This was the exact same situation that happened when a former Miss World got married to the so-called first family of the Indian cinema, or the actress who made it big, thanks to her Big Brother win due to the racist slur got married to a London millionaire. I am sure the Indian public deserves better food for thought, than the generic gossip that cricket and Bollywood have been churning out for decades.

There’ve been many instances apart from these where the media has misused its freedom of reporting, expression and thought. These include instances where a former prime minister of India voiced out curse words against the current chief minister of Karnataka, the publishing of photos of a dead model in compromising positions with her significant other, or creating a ruckus thanks to intentionally misread celebrity twitter statements. Sadly during an election, the opinion polls of each of the news channels show a different figure thanks to the different political parties that they are biased towards. (This is the case not only in our country, but also in the so-called developed nation, United States of America.)

Thanks to the mushrooming of TV news channels every day, it seems like anyone with a good command over English, an opinion and with some financial backing can open a new channel of his own. And to maintain their position in the TRPs they end up resorting to cheap gimmicks. This needs to change! The news media in India needs to understand that the thoughts of the Indian public have grown beyond what it sensationalizes, and responsible and unbiased reporting is what the public demands.




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