Friday, February 09, 2007

God of unnecessary things

Mindless Media
This week was an altime low in terms of media behaviour. The events in question were both totally trivial when compared to serial suicides happening in the Maratha heartland or merciless brutalities unleashed on Dalits in the same state. There were also other major events like the spacewalk of Sunita Williams and mega defence deals signed on the runway in Bangalore. There was a mother of all river water disputes Cauvery, raging in Karnataka and Thamizh Nadu. However two events that were catapaulted into top coverage where.... blink and pinch yourselves...
  • Marlon Samuels hotel room conversations and
  • Celebrity car purchases

As far as Marlon Samuels talks with "so-called" bookie is concerned, every news channel registered with I&B ministry ran an "exclusive" investigations on it. The most hilarious was that of Times Now as they showed a house called "Kochars", one guy(bearded reporter) walked upto the gate and the watchman told this great reporter that "he is not there". Immediately the news anchor clarifies to the intelligent viewers that "Mr. Kochar is already hiding!!!". All this only to receive a phone call from Kochar 25 mins later that he is hiding no where!! This is scinitilliating investigative journalism at its very best. In the 25 minutes that preceded, Mr.Kochar(whom no one else knew before) was portrayed as everything except being Osama in make up. Very little concern was shown to the reputation of people involved or their feelings. Suddenly Robin Singh was made to be a shady person from being an unsung hero of Indian cricket team in late nineties!! Truly Media has become a monster indeed.

The second event that got generous media coverage was not even worth a microsecond of notice - of a gifted car to the talent less Abishek Bachan. Less said about the disgusting prominence given by reputed journos like Prannoy Roy and Rajdeep Sardesai to this non event the better. It was a horrible display of lack of priorities before the media. If it was un controllable thirst to "try" some one as guilty in the earlier case, it was callous waste of news time to the second one that was disgusting. In both the cases no news channel could acquit themselves better.

The overall scenario was compounded by the recent scenario or intolerance and lack of cooperation prevailing in the country, be it objection to freedom of expression in Gujarat or lack of cooperative spirit in Kaveri issue. Media, instead of giving full throttle to speaking sense, was seemingly waiting for something sleazy, tabloidish or violent to happen for their TRP's sake. As they say in news circles, "nothing like a bad news". There was not even a single proper debate on river water disputes or continued farmer suicides. All hindi news channels were wasting hours on the prospective line up in world cup(not even 1/3rd of the world participates!!) in which there are only 8 serious competitors( recall a joke - son to father: I came second in the race. Father replies: how many participated? Son replies : Including me, two!!), who can remain in the side and who can be thrown out !! All while dalits continued to be treated as second class citizens in MAhatma Gandhi's villages in secular and democratic India. All this while educated and unemployed attended training camps conducted by naxals in the "Red corridor".

Media can be a true instrument of change. If and if only they do what they display in their logos "Whatever it takes" in chasing and exposing true stories instead of chasing sleaze, supermodels and expensive cars. Till then, politicians would be more concerned on getting chairman posts of cricket associations instead of stopping farmer suicides. I can only write this blog in the time I have, journalists have this as their career, and as an Indian media consumer, I expect more from them.

Arundhati Roy in her landmark speech called American free media as a "hollow pillar of democracy". The Indian mainstream media is fast catching up.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Bala (Karthik) said...

Jaiganesh,
Good post. As bad as the media coverage is, a common 'explanation' of the media priorities is "the market is god".
The fact that there IS a market for "news" like this is disgusting. I don't see this getting any better.
Atleast for me, the so-called "commie-crap" Hindu is better than these toilet papers. And about the Rajdeep Sardesai's and their channels, the less said the better

9:20 AM  
Blogger V.P.Jaiganesh said...

I agree with you on the fact that there is a huge market for news. However that still doesn't justify half page stories or one hour specials on the career of Abishek bachan and his romance with Aishwarya Rai while Karnataka and Thamizh Nadu are virtually dealing blows or while farmers are dying by the dozen every day in Vidharba. Not that the latter incident doesnt get covered, in fact NDTV cleverly covered farmer suicide in a documentary to get a "Telly" award. Disturbing trend is that a model serving liquor shot to death by a stupid, angry and wealthy man is prime time cause for rallying people to marches and candle lights, while scores of dead bodies of farmers doesn't even call for a opinion poll against Sharad Pawar(who seems to have a lot of time for BCCI, ICC, municipal elections in mumbai and only a flying visit for Vidharba!!). When it comes to taking on people, media is all gung ho. However when it comes to taking up causes and sticking to a line, media chooses the grey line. Thats a pity as educated people like Jessica Lal's mom have the wherewithals to push a supreme court into action by themselves, while a media is required to kick up the government in issues like farmer suicides. While the media talks eloquently on corruption and "sting projects", it is less forceful when talking on issues affecting the illiterate who can't speak for themselves. What use of such media power?
As far as your point on Hindu is concerned, in spite of being pro left, it still is very late to talk on grassroot issues and incidents. It is conveniently toeing anti-US line without staying left in its operations. It is one of the costlier and cozy for upper middle class papers. There is no fire, no conviction when commenting on issues on their face value. Always a check is done to see if the issue is against its leanings politically. That is why I am anti-Hindu(the paper). I am quite happy with a Vijay Times that reports more and comments less. Atleast that gives me to take my own decisions.

11:46 AM  
Blogger V.P.Jaiganesh said...

Please read the last line as "Atleast that gives me space to take my own decisions without any judgements"

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Bala (Karthik) said...

Jaiganesh,
I should have added that i don't buy the 'common' explanation at all :) Completely agree on the media's consistent and deliberate dumbing down of "news".
Infact, one more irony is that while the coverage of Reliance and others selling vegetables etc is at an all time high (not that it is necessarily bad or anything but perspective/priority matters), the farmer suicide issue is pushed to the fringes.

The inherent hypocrisies (if any) of its chief and stands notwithstanding, i still find The Hindu the better among the worst.

4:03 PM  
Blogger V.P.Jaiganesh said...

No two thoughts on "the Hindu" being the number 1 when it comes to details and responsible reporting. Thankfully they have not gone the "Tabloid" way or the "Sting" journalism way of Indian Express. Among the investigative journals, Tehelka, true to its name are making waves. They unearth out really untold stories of not just corruption, but also of social marginalisation of communities in ways too true to beleive. I found their story on "Pudhirai Vannars", a society lower than dalits and treated by them in a way how rest of the society treats the dalits. Such stories ought to be told and The Hindu shows hesitancy there. They react well to an already unearthed story(although a little late), but then they are restricting themselves to too much of political commentary, than reporting. Their team lacks the fire in the belly, but make up with balanced presentation. What we need is a media that has "missionary zeal", but with balance to keep focussed on truth and not on hype and prime time ratings. Going by that yard stick, then even Hindu just about qualifies. Indian Express of yester years was good( though their language was not as refined as Hindu). Vijay Times in Bangalore is trying to catch up. I find their political columns brief and to the point, while their reporters cover news with little bias. Still they have years to catch up with the standard set by Hindu or Indian Express. As far as Hindu goes, there is an interesting info. Nov-1 1948 Hindu had a full page commercial ad on the first page. That was the day after Gandhi was shot dead!!

12:23 PM  
Blogger Prabhu S said...

True...sensationalism has become the mantra.

8:59 AM  

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