By Reeti Mahobe:
Molestation of a girl from Guwahati, Baghpat panchayat’s diktat, Nirmal Baba’s case, rupee depreciation, petrol price hike, CWG scam, 2G scam, not to forget Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement and Baba Ramdev’s movement against black money have been much talked about and discussed all along the length and breadth of the country. The issues have the caught attention not just of those who are directly involved in them but also became the status updates of many and pressing concern among the commoners.
That one thing, which has been common thread in taking up issues to the mass, is the public media. Media is rightly considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. Much has been spoken about its role by the Chairman of Press Council of India, Markandey Katju himself. While various institutions and organization are directly or indirectly involved in influencing the formulation of policies, their implementation and execution, such as civil society, NGOs, voluntary organizations and of course the final authority that puts a stamp for the action i.e. the government; the indispensable role that the media plays can’t be ignored. Where e-governance, MIS, public discussion of draft bills have become the buzzword with the seeping in of various forms of media to the larger public be it radio, print, television or the internet, media has moved from it just being disseminator of information to the one which sensitizes the mass who are the end beneficiaries of all such activities.
In this context the social media needs to be mentioned and discussed elaborately. The social network giants have been revolutionary in many ways. They played major role in the protests that happened at Tahrir square, Egypt, Anna Hazare’s movement and several other such movements gained a lot of public attention particularly among the youth. It helped not just in creating awareness but also in mobilizing them to stand up for the cause.
In all the issues that come into light one of the most prominent ways in tackling them is said to be creating and enhancing the awareness of masses. Be it, for instance, on female foeticide where people need to be made aware about the crept in discrimination against women and downtrodden status in the society while making an attempt to make them realize about the potential of women and their achievements. This issue was taken up by several news channels recently as well as by a popular show on a leading entertainment channel which showcased a picture away from that depicted by the daily soaps.
While print media has become a cheaper means of spreading ‘knowledge’ among the literate ones, radio and television have emerged as strong modes of mass communication to the illiterates and rural population which definitely continue to be doing the same in the urban arena.
In events of natural disaster and calamities or even anthropogenic ones, the media has been phenomenal in educating people about the warnings and likewise informing them about the orders passed by the administration for the same.
The malpractices and misdeeds by the government or even private players are busted by the media that acts as the alarm bell for both the government and the affected. Media is like a watchdog in a big democracy like ours. Whenever strikes or hartals or demonstrations on big issues happen they are covered widely by the media that in turn helps to ventilate and voice the demands and views to all. Many a times a good forum of discussion is staged by them presenting perspectives of experts in respective areas and thus it becomes of immense help and significance. In a nutshell, it would be right to say that it has given true meaning to the ‘right to free speech and freedom of expression’ enshrined in the law of the land.
Although so far it’s been so good but not without any shortcomings. The issue of ‘paid news’ and yellow journalism came to be viewed as a blot on the media. The one that exposes the ‘wrongs’ had itself got caught in corruption which is really a sorry state for something so strong getting so narrowed down. Presenting ‘news’ in much ‘fashioned’ and distorted manner has been another part of the darker picture. With the Nira Radia tapes, as also some others the extent to which media must go to has been questioned; the right to delve into the private lives of the people is certainly not acceptable. Further media should not attempt to create ‘sensational news’ rather sensitize the people and ‘inform’ them that they ought to know. Another concern has been the growing commercialization in every sphere. The long breaks in prime time shows with commercial advertisements are quite an errant, moreover the promotion of films and even television soaps on news channels have become the trend these days that are presented as ‘news’. This is in some way needs to be controlled.
Definitely this doesn’t mean that freedom of the press should be curbed but that some form of regulation be there so that people instead of putting them ahead in the society misleads them. There must be fair, just and reliable presentation of what’s there and undesired glorification of violence etc be not tried upon. It should remain unbiased; without highlighting favours to any section of the society or a group.
A code of conduct was issued regarding this and ministry of broadcasting too keeps an eye on the conduct of media. If one flips back the pages of history, the law that was much condemned was the Vernacular Press Act (1878) that gave the government the authority to clamp down the writing which would turn out to be seditious. Few other acts were passed during the British rule to curb freedom of the press particularly the print one which was gaining a lot of popularity and emerging out as important tool in spreading national consciousness. Acts such as Cable television regulation act, the copyright act also work in this regard. Self discipline should be the norm followed by media that would work out the best in resolving such areas. Such regulations may appear to some as barrier to the fundamental right of freedom of expression and thereby press. While imposing too much of laws that are prohibitory in nature defeat the very idea of press and media and also discourage those involved in it. But it becomes the responsibility of media to stop practices of such that of paid news or the ones that create cheap sensationalism or be defamatory. One good solution to such practices could this: like there are TRP ratings that measure the viewership of various programmes, there must be similar rating agency somewhat democratic in nature that could evaluate the kind of programs and shows being aired.
Thus the role of media has been indispensable and would continue to be the one in a democracy like ours when carried out with a sense of responsibility in the building of the nation.