The Indian media that creates (I repeat, creates) sensational headlines is now itself in the headlines for its characteristic sensationalisation and hate-mongering. The Supreme Court called out strong remarks on the Indian media, particularly the electronic media’s arbitrary use of freedom of speech, when a petitioner highlighted a private channel’s controversial show that vilifies a particular community. But this isn’t a sudden downfall of the Indian media, it’s been in the process of deterioration for years, having been aggravated in the recent years, and now achieving a greater low.
The recent show that puts forward false claims of how the institution of UPSC favours a particular community is a direct attack on that community, the institution and also the Constitution, but this vilification is not a first of its kind. Many other media houses have, time and again, conducted their so-called debates and news stories that try to please a certain community at the cost of spreading hate against others. From a source of information, these media channels have become a source of infotainment and now, without an iota of doubt, these TRP-hungry channels are just popcorn entertainment.
But this is a two-way process. The channels put what they think the audiences will watch, and since a large section of their audience watches their shows day and night in the name of news, they bring the channel TRPs and swell their pockets. The kind of news shown today have made their jobs easier, as they can do it from the comfort of their AC chambers without even making an effort to fact-check their breaking headlines.
Speaking of freedom of speech, the Supreme Court of India underlines that the rights of journalists are no less or more than that of any other Indian citizen. One should not and cannot base their opinions on their personal biases instead of facts and call them freedom of speech. Moreover, news channels are not opinion portals. They are supposed to collect and disseminate facts with their essence intact. One’s claim to freedom of speech, that too on a public platform, should not come at the cost of spreading falsity.
The privatisation of news has caused various corporate bodies to invest in news-making, and just like education, this also has now become an industry — an industry of news, selling its profit propaganda to us, shutting out all our social vices stemming out of illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, lack of public health facilities, lack of social security and what not. And the people consume this hate with blind eyes and closed ears. We consume it out of laziness, the laziness to find credible sources of news that are not for entertainment but pure facts.
It’s always fun to blame someone else for our adversities, and these TRP-oriented channels provide us with that image of an opponent. And they don’t stop there. They have created a larger than life hero, a messiah who will solve all problems, but how, no one knows. These channels have absolutely no accountability to the media or the people. Again, there are channels who get so tired of their own shouting and howling that they also run propaganda-inspired positive news time and again. Optimism is fine, but when the economy is crashing and there is a war-like situation at one of our borders and an on-going pandemic, reality must overshadow careless positivity.
The funds that these news channels get from private and governments bodies are out of what we pay as consumers and tax payers respectively. It is the common citizen who indirectly funds these channels, but since none of us could care enough, it has acted against us and created a lethal weapon against ourselves. The aggressive, biased and unproductive stances of the media houses need to be urgently questioned and actively opposed.
A silver lining to this grave media crisis can be seen in a comparatively better space that the print and digital media are in. Despite the financial crunch that affects them from time to time, they have been better at their job of reporting facts pulled out with sheer hard work, which is not as profitable as the TRP whales, but surely profitable to the earned democracy of India. Any democracy needs to be nurtured and protected by its active and well-informed citizens, and any individual or institution who tries to demolish these pillars of democracy must be opposed.