Saturday, May 30, 2015

Page-3 to Crony Journalism - We are at a bad phase


Only way to enhance media's estimation in the eyes of the readers is by raising the quality of journalism. 
A quality journalism enhances media's influence. Enhanced investment ultimately can help promote quality journalism and work for stability in northeast. Without profit there will be no investment and without investment there can be no improvement.
Lately, we are also confronted with 'crony journalism'. This crony journalism need not be a cousin of 'crony capitalism' alone. 
The Journalism in the service of a particular ideology - Leftist and anti-Americanism, or anti-Congressim and anti-development or anti-military as often seen in northeastern India -- with malafide intention of a group of journos and media owners - is also crony journalism. It is equally dangerous. 

When the standard of journalism is raised, a newspaper or a TV channel becomes 'more attractive' to the readers, and therefore you attract more readers. Thus in the ultimate, this enhance the media's influencing power. This would also ensure attracting more advertisements and enhanced profit for the owners. But sadly over the last few decades what has happened with the mainstream national media and also in the region is something else. Either there has been sensationalism, a case of mountain out of mole hills, or they had promoted page-3 variety of journalism. 
Blogger during a media interaction

Axel Springer, the German journalist and newspaper magnate had succinctly said in 1970s, : 'A free society cannot exist without a Free Press'. Well, the point is well taken. But he had also acidly asked a question: "Is the (same) Free Society willing to pay the price of a Free Press?".

This question is not only relevant for overall Indian media scenario, it's all the more important for the northeast India.
But why single out media and the northeast alone? The source is the society and media is the stream; and as is the source thus shall be the stream.

In other words, expecting pristine glories and all virtues in the functioning of media that also in a violence-hit and ethnic tribals dominated region could be erroneous as the 'society' itself is not perfect.
But humankind has learnt to live with hopes amid the hurdles. Overall the governance in this country and more so in the north east India has been at a premium and the quality of political leaders and administrators found wanting. The police and other institutions also have mostly left people in a depressing stage. 
Photo credit from FB posting of Prabhudev Shastrimath
Amid this chaos, media in the region has lived through its shortcomings of which there are many. 
Now, like the fourth estate elsewhere, let us try to look at the factors those 'ail' the media in the north east. The symptoms of the disease are too stark. Thus what's required is remedial measures, one must say, to analyse objectively and rather effectively on how would the fourth pillar of democracy help the northeast region resolve its pending problems. 

To debate this, one must start with admission that the chief concern for the media in the region is to ensure the 'freedom' from external forces -- the government agencies, armed forces, political class and the insurgent groups.

This 'freedom' essentially would mean the liberty for the media to set their own agenda. 

Media must resist and challenge all external pressures - sometime oppressive ones - to control a newspaper's or a TV channel's editorial discretion. But having said these, one must also categorically emphasise that the media in the region like elsewhere should be expected to function as an industry. The market dynamics must be allowed to prevail both in terms of content and quality. But the media's role as a social institution - at the same time - must not be lost either due to commercial dictates or political inclinations (pressures) of the owners themselves.

On this backdrop perhaps it would not be wrong to speak a few words on what's expected of media as an off-shoot of an industry. In any industry there is and there must be a profit motive. This vital aspect in any business is unfortunately often not appreciated. Making 'profit' as such is no act of guilt. Newspaper owners should not be expected to run some charitable trust. This would be unfair and self-defeating in terms of improving the media per se. 

Why I say this, because: without profit there will be no investment and without investment there can be no improvement.

Striking that elementary 'balance' between commercial interests and social purposes thus would remain a challenge for the media in general. It's more so in the far-flung northeast region especially in an age of TRP-directed TV channel shows at the national or metro city level. This challenge becomes all the more significant in an era when the internet revolution has changed the manner human beings can think.
But now WHAT HAS INTERNET DONE? - Perhaps it has compelled people to realise the importance of spending someone else's money on someone else...and yet you garner profits and also happiness. 

The moot point I am trying to emphasise here is you cannot run away from the truth that good or bad changes that one plans to bring to the media cannot come without pumping in money or without taking help of technology and internet. 

The basic job of media is to inform people so that a public space is created for issues of 'importance' to be discussed for people's benefits. It is thus a power that arises from the social understanding (recognition) that all human beings have the right to 'know' (information about certain facts) and the freedom of expression. The latent emphasis on INDIVIDUAL RIGHT cannot be overlooked.

So, when we talk about these so called 'individual rights' -- it ought to be appreciated that a sound policy considers/shall evaluate long-term consequences of a policy (decisions) over all groups of people not just the short term effects of one group.
The usefulness of Internet is exemplified in understanding this vital fact that the new web technology has enhanced the 'power of the Net users'. So, media in the north east India need not shy away from 'informing' the readers and enhancing their 'knowledge bank'. 
This brings to the issue of greater investment referred above.

Call it an emphasis on the 'news Consumerism', but one is not hesitating about it. I  believe 'empowerment' of the news consumers through freedom to choose from all markets - economic, social, ethnic and political - can fetch in long term benefits. For long, this country as a whole and the northeast too have played 'protective' and 'entitlement' regimes. Information also has been blocked and more often distorted and viewed through prejudiced prism. Rationing of information is no body's case today.

But my take is: if democracy provided avenues to compete and making choice about 'politics' in the political market place, the freedom to provide choice vis-a-vis media can be beneficial similarly. 


Interestingly, the global market and technological forces are already driving the information movement. 
The web revolution already provides a reader in the interiors of Mizoram township Lunglei the freedom to surf what is
written about his state and his chief minister by a blogger in Delhi, Dhaka or in Denmark. 
Hence, a society that robs an individual of the benefits of his own efforts or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind or compels him to act against his own rationale judgement is hardly a society. It will be at best a 'mob' held together by some institutionalised 'gang-rule'.

We have also spoken about 'individual right'. But this individual right cannot be akin to animal instinct. In other words, we cannot presume that men or women can survive, as animals do, by acting on the range of immediate moment. 
We human beings have to chart out a roadmap, think of a goal and then achieve them through hard work and in a specified span of time. 

This brings us back to the point of keeping the readers informed. My take is, the better the mind will be, the greater will be man's (woman's) knowledge and longer the range of planning to excel. 

The media industry in the northeast must try to understand the importance of these. It must look ahead. That's why I say whenever a law is debated or a Bill is piloted we need to focus on the future and of course the present. But in most cases, the myopic visions compel politcal players, media and even intellectuals to look at the rearview mirror. 

The country and the northeast India is paranoid with the past.

Such a society can seldom visualise properly about the future. 
It's high time, we realise it well pretty fast that mere slogans like 'Garibi Hatao' cannot reduce poverty. It's not simply a good case to suggest that  the Government of India has not done enough for the north east or the region has been exploited. 

Thus the local state and regional papers in the region and number of TV channels have more significant role to play on these.
In today's world, it would be pertinent to drag economy as a chief catalyst for peace and conflict resolutions. So keeping aside the political and insurgency related issues, will it not be relevant for the media in the northeast to talk about border trade at the larger canvas of ASEAN economy, friendly relations with neighbours like Myanmar and Bangladesh, proper usage of natural resources, promoting organic farming, horticulture etc?

ends

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