We live in a society where media has been present since the ancient days in forms of folklores, dramas, street plays etc. But, the Indian media of modern times has always been under the radar of the critics. Especially after the post-liberalisation era, the role and functioning of media has changed drastically. Formerly a social organization media has now turned into an industry that works for social welfare. But, there are two aspects of every coin. On one side liberalisation allowed privatisation of media which indeed has numerous benefits and on the other side it created so many problems for the media. Some of these issues continue their existence since the beginning and several factors such as technological growth, liberalisation, socio-economic developments have contributed to the increment of challenges that the media is facing.
India is a democratic state and media is considered to be the fourth pillar of the democracy which strengthens it. Nowadays the politicians who want to project their propaganda through media have understood the immense power of it and have started to own media organisations or at least have some share in them. This simply enables them to project and publicize whatever they wish to and also refrains them from criticism. For reference, SUN TV which owns 32 channels of different genres is a venture of Kalanidhi Maran, who is grand-nephew of DMK president M. Karunanidhi. SUN network’s content is not only consumed by Indians but also by Sri Lankans and has a huge impact. Similarly, a number of political parties either have their own channel or publication to influence the public through media. It reflects the murky involvement of politics in media and this has turned out to be one of the biggest problems that media as a whole if facing today. It is sheer violation of the rules and regulations that media has set for itself and the functions it should perform.
After the commercialization of media, several corporate entities own major media houses. They seldom take the media for social welfare otherwise at most their media ventures are looked at as profit generators. To generate those profits and continue to survive in the 24-hour news era, the phenomenon of paid news has caught the media in its web. It seems like there is no escape because, media needs money for their survival anyhow. The credibility is being lost at a rapid pace and the common people look at every news as a paid one. Recently, leading English dailies “Times of India” and “Hindustan Times” published the same headline “Phir bhi Dil Hai Sindhustani” after the shuttler won the silver medal at Rio Olympics. Although, it wasn’t related to any company or political party but, it still evokes so many questions. A similar incident occurred during 2009 elections, setting off speculations that the news was paid. The documentary ‘Brokering News’ showed how rate cards are set before elections for a selected time period of coverage. The cocktail of politics, media and business is now being defined with terms like ‘Media Circus’. The managerial and corporate level corruption and the monetary urge is a threat to media’s functioning as the watchdog of the society and a huge challenge which is likely to grow in near future.
In a diverse country like ours it is very difficult to please every single person or group. People are divided according to their caste, religion, economic strata and what not. If the media tries to project the issues of one particular group, the other group feels left out and starts to blame the media for not projecting their issues. So, in this time where the nation is mostly unsettled with a lot of issue it is a huge challenge for the media to work for every sector of the society. Moreover, the media has started to ignore issues of importance at grass root. To get TRPs, news like ‘A Boy in Manhole’ get coverage of more than 24 hours rather than other issues. It reflects that sometimes issues are ‘created’ just to fill the gaps of time and the vision isn’t broad. Astrologers, Tarot card readers, snakes, people advising to eat chutneys with samosas as utopian solutions are getting more time and space in the media. Rather than educating the society against these, important time is invested to advertise such things in exchange of money. Even panel discussions on TV channels never really come to a conclusive decision.
Another problem that media face nowadays is the lack of training. Although almost every media group runs their own school but it is mostly on the lines of extracting money and pushing people out in the industry. The attacks of 26/11 exposed the insensitivity and lack of judgement before broadcasting an issue. Though, it was a one of its kind event it still reflected media’s inability to sense the impact of what it pushes out to the masses. The lack of journalistic sensibility is a huge problem in the Indian media industry which can be improved by only by proper training and education.