The Media... and us citizens

Of late, it has become a habit to first read... and then criticize the media for reporting precisely what we have just read with a great deal of interest. Take the latest example of what happened in Mumbai, or many such  previous sensational cases. Many bloggers, readers have made the point that the Media frequently resorts to sensationalism, that it does not highlight and make attempts to reform. What precisely is the role of the Media in a modern and free society? And why does the media write what it does? The Media is simply the mirror reflection of the society. It will only write what the people want to read... they are in the business of selling news. That is one undeniable truth, and the sooner we accept it the better.


It is our patronage of the kind of reportage that occurs in the news, our penchant for the sensational and the spicy that forces the Media to highlight what it does. If we did not read it - they would not print or show it for the very simple reason that sales will be adversely impacted. So, rather than scream at and blame the Media, we should all look in the mirror and say " I am to blame".


But what we should be asking ourselves is what should the role of Media in our - or any free - society be?     The Media is a powerful tool – it is something we Indians can be extremely proud of. But it depends upon us – its image and its structure, its form and its content depends upon us. We are the determinants of The Media.  We are looking at our own reflection… we are the viewers. We are the ones who ensure that the Media and its components exist. The choice between the role of Media – reporting + information V/s entertainment is made by us.


Reporting, Information and Entertainment are all important, constituent roles of a functioning Media in a Modern Society. But when people start to derive entertainment from someones’ misfortune… that is a sign of depravity.  For entertainment, we have sports and movies etcetera.  Misfortune is not fun. It should not be regarded as such!


There are any number of issues that can be taken up by the Media, like the status of Primary Education, Inflation, Population Control, Crime Control, Armed Forces Upgradation,  Current Affairs, Energy Security, China, Dumping... why is there a profound silence on these matters of primary importance to India? There is no discernible national dialogue on these matters.


Why should there be a dialogue? How can there be a dialogue when the people are themselves not interested in the matter, when there is little realisation how a national dialogue on such matters can influence national policy and make the powers that be sit up and take notice? A dialogue requires participants... the absence of a national dialogue is mute testimony to the fact that there just aren't many participants.


And that is precisely why we should be worried as a nation. Rather than blame the Media for the poor quality of reportage, let us start questioning oureselves....


The only question that now remains regards the efficacy of such efforts. One such example can be quoted from our Media- the almost incessant focus on Black Money, which is just showing signs of bringing in some results. The moot question is how did this happen - black money was always a serious issue. Why has it taken centre-stage now? In my opinion, the people started getting more vocal, bringing this issue centre-stage. The Media, to be fair, also helped in this by continously highlighting cases of corruption.


From this we can conclude that the Media, thus, has another important role in a free society, over and above the 3 primary roles of Reportage, Information & Analysis and Entertainment: leading change - social as well as economic - maybe even political change. In that, our Media has been sightly slow and reactive rather than proactive. (Even so, there have been notable exceptions which are unfortunately very few and far between). However, recent developments have altered the scenario a lot: there is increasing evidence of proactivism. For this to continue, we need to keep leading issues centrestage in our minds and be supportive in terms of our attention. This passive support from us will suffice...


There is a hindi proverb: taali do haaton se bajti hai, which is quite apt here. For this to continue, we citizens too have to do our part. All that is required is passive support in the form of our interest and awareness (awareness that problems exists AND that they are serious enough to impact our families).


The author is  not pro-Media; nor pro-citizen. This is just an objective statement based on personal observations. There has been increasing evidence of some superb work by both the Media and the general populace in recent years... let us keep this up and even extend this. From our side, as I stated earlier- all that is needed is passive support and awareness...


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