TV news, newspapers and TV programs together form a very powerful medium of expression. Media have penetrated into deep pockets of India. Media dictate our lives. Media rule the bedroom; the dining room; the home; in short the society. Simple science tells us that audio visual means are the most effective methods of communication. Given the omnipresence of media, it becomes necessary to inquire into the nature of their functioning. No freedom is absolute. Every passage of liberty brings with it responsibility to use that liberty properly.
Indian media are currently falling short on many grounds. In a vast and varied country like India, media must have encouraged multiplicity of voices, dissent, bold discourse and difference of opinion. Instead, Indian media have decided to play the boss. Every channel has a survey to serve. A country where many people are uneducated, surveys crush the spirit to go against the current. Media declares in every breath, ‘Go, and waste your vote. No matter whom you vote for, here’s the final tally. My survey is final.’
There’s no discussion on policies. As a Professor, I’d have loved our leaders to chalk out their thoughts on higher education in India, foreign universities, state and central universities and funding. But alas, no such word. Somebody wants someone stripped, someone wants someone chopped and most of them want their opponents in mental hospitals! This is what media is serving us, every moment. The anchors specialize in raising the blood pressure of viewers and thereby TRPs. The greatest anchors are forming alliances, suggesting possible partners. Everybody has an agenda. Just everybody! Listen to an anchor and you know where s/he stands. Neutrality, objectivity, fair approach - please go to hell!
Patent, pharmacy, diplomacy, and economic policies (sector-wise), policy towards Pakistan- the nation has a right to know who stands where on crucial issues. But thanks to media, it’s a dog-cat fight. Media have failed to elevate the level of discourse in this country. Journalism is promoting monism. Skillfully, our half-educated, half-bred journalists are desperately trying to portray the picture they’ve been ordered to project. If tomorrow, Indian democracy stands threatened, who will punish this irresponsible media? Democracy is not monocracy. Anchors shout, the participants shout, the crowd shouts. We have an out-shouting competition going on. It’s as though the neck will burst and the vocal cord will come out. How many ways do you have to mock, to silence, to dominate your opponent? Perhaps shouting is the single most important virtue the media seek in our politicians as well as anchors.
Who’ll bell the cat? Where are the laws? Where’s the Election Commission? The aftermath of the ideal code of conduct is suffered only the poor government servant. While the poor government servant is instructed to paint all slogans in all lanes and by lanes, go to vulnerable pockets to see if someone is not influencing votes unethically, here we sit in our bedroom and whole ‘game’ of vote influencing is smoothly done. The underlying assumption is that Indian public is silly, brazen and unthinking. This is what the people of India deserve and that’s why this is what they’re getting. Media have failed to lead; it has failed to educate. The media have failed to explore various possibilities in this great election dialogue between our aspiring legislators and the public and amongst aspiring parliamentarians themselves. It is testing its power to create a wave in favor of A or B. In such frenzy, the undecided voter might go the media way. No one wants to waste vote. Uneducated, unthinking masses tend to go in the flow. This is what media have been promoting. Had media churned, something good would have emerged. Perhaps the media have been working on the principle that an untruth spoken, shown, repeated a thousand times over graduates to being the truth.
One does not know what would be the fruits of this great media experiment. But one thing is certain. This whole net of communication poses a huge challenge before us. What will happen to the lone voice? If some rich entity manipulates the whole media, where will dissent go? This democracy of ours might crash even before blooming. Given huge layers of communities, languages, cultures, traditions and life styles of the Indian people, media have a duty to voice everyone, everything. Even a whisper must be heard. The Mahatma developed that chord with people. The people of India might be formally devoid of degrees;
Every individual has the right to speak. Every voice counts. I can only remember Faiz Ahmad Faiz because my own words do not suffice:
Speak up, while your thoughts are still free
Speak up, while your tongue is still your own
Speak, for your strong body is your own
Speak, while your soul is your own
Speak for this brief time is enough
Before your body and words die
Speak for the truth still prevails
Speak up, say what you must. — Faiz Ahmad Faiz