By Danish Khan:
“Everybody is accountable in a democracy. No freedom is absolute. Every freedom is subject to reasonable restrictions. I am accountable, you are accountable, we are accountable to the people.” The Press Council chairman Markandey Katju’s openly raising serious doubts over media ethics has sparked a fresh debate in the media industry. A few days ago, in an interview Katju told veteran journalist Karan Thapar that he wants powers to stop government advertisement, to suspend license of that media for a certain period if it behaves in a very obnoxious manner, to impose fines.
After that he also wrote a series of article in a newspaper, condemning the media of India. He pointed out various aspects of current Indian media scenario by comparing it with European media. He averred that Indian media is positively anti-people because it often diverts the attention of the people from the real issues to non-issues.
The Editors Guild of India, unhappy with the comments of Katju condemned them. Media, the fourth estate of democracy, is entrusted with the responsibility to disseminate unbiased information. Acting as a watchdog of the society, it keeps the other decision-making authorities i.e. Legislature, Executive and Judiciary in check. Media’s role in the society has undergone a drastic change as the conventional principles/practices governing media are considered outmoded. The lines between news and non-news content have blurred as the media is dabbling into paparazzi and tabloid journalism too. Under these circumstances, Katju’s comments can’t be completely brushed aside by terming them “ill-considered, sweeping and uninformed comments on the media”.
Though, Katju’s remarks on the Indian media seems to be proven by a recent Bhanwari Devi CD case, where two national news channels showed a indecent video of a Minister Madrena and Bhanwari Devi.
However, the Ministry of I &B has issued show-cause notices to the involved channels, but if we see it from the glasses of self-regulation, it would certainly not satisfy anyone. Are media channels taking care of the ethics while practicing journalism?
Amid sharp criticism by the media houses, voices can be heard in support of Press council President Justice Katju. Some newspapers have supported the view-point of Katju by saying that he has shown a mirror to the industry. Hence, there is certainly something wrong with the media industry.
Media always plays its game in the disguise of freedom of speech and expression, it always overlook the ethics. There is a change in the way news is treated these days. In the market-driven media industry, the journalistic principles have taken a backseat and are often comprised to sell news like hot cakes as a commodity. The media no longer remains impartial and balanced while covering news as the market forces tend to exert their influence. TRPs play the vital role in setting the strategy of any news channel; the more entertainment it will serve, the more advertisements it will get. This has led to the lowering of ethical standards in media’s sphere.
The existing regulations are violated blatantly and especially by the electronic media. The coverage given to Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement is still fresh in our minds. Hazare’s campaign turned out to be a highly-sensationalised drama, which kept on running on the news channels 24×7. As soon as there was even a tiniest of development in the story, it was immediately flashed as breaking news. The channels turned a blind-eye to other news, as if they lacked news-worthiness and the Anna hangover lasted for almost 2 weeks in the media.
The television channels unnecessarily drag a news story and blow things out of proportion. The NBA’s code of ethics bars the channels from invading the privacy of individuals, but the news channels openly showing their disregard for the ethical standards, dig up the personal lives of public figures and present
Sensationalized stories. The stories of celebrity link-ups and break-ups are quite common. The entertainment and glamour quotient seems to be always high in news channels.
The problem also arises as the self-regulatory mechanism for electronic and newly emerging new media is weak and it has failed to act as a deterrent against the violations of norms. Recently, NBA issued guidelines for all the news channels to show only 8 minutes of GEC (General Entertainment Content), but nobody is following these guidelines as clips of popular reality shows and daily shows can be seen easily.
New media, which is within the reach of almost everyone, poses a great danger in the absence of stringent norms. The content which is not in good public taste is also easily available and accessible on the internet. Various websites on the internet put soft porn content with the pictures of bikini clad women popping out in window. Obscene pictures of women are often put up even on the news websites to grab more eyeballs. Serious violations of ethics go unchecked on the internet.
But the government’s reaction to objectionable content is always met by strong opposition from the media representative bodies. Any attempt to regulate the media is resisted in the name of right to freedom of speech and expression. The mechanism of self-regulation has disappointed on many accounts, which makes it necessary to emulate the model of co-regulation, which is practiced in other countries.