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Opinion: Is There Any Values Or Ethics Left In Indian Journalism?

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‘Value-Based media’ is probably is one of the least valued phases in this contemporary post-truth world. If you are still hoping for mainstream media to be truthful, transparent, accurate, accountable, impartial, objective, balanced then most probably you are over-optimistic and living in a fictional world.

So now a question arises that what led to this distressing trend of Mass Media where even the very basic ‘Media value and ethics’ is being largely ignored. And the situation becomes worse when this ‘ignorance’ is not even a part of mainstream discourse, debate, and discussion. Here we will try to scrutinize this issue by answering a couple of burning questions that have been mentioned below:

Q1: What is the contemporary situation of media so far ethical/value aspects are concerned?

Q2: What led to such consequences?

Q3: And finally, what is the way forward?

Let’s answer the first question! To understand the contemporary state of media in the Indian context we need to have a flashback over the past trends.  There was a time when the press used to be an instrument of social reformations and a weapon to fight against ‘British colonialism’. Most of the freedom fighters and social reformers of those days used pens as a sword to unite the masses for political independence and the formation of a more inclusive society.

Just to name a few; people like Ram Mohan Roy, Aurobindo Ghose, Jyotiba Phule, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar, etc. largely used the press as a weapon to propagate their ideas and mobilize the masses. Finally, we got political independence on 15th Aug 1947.

In the post-Independence era, the nature and character of different institutions were changing, so it was quite obvious for ‘Media’(Institution) as well. Now media was no longer an instrument of social change rather had become a source of livelihood just like other professions. But media of the day had not lost its value completely till the 1990s. Even if there was a bit of degradation of value and ethics in this phase, still the spirit of journalism was largely intact. And this was clearly evident during the national emergency when few news outlets continued to become critical of govt of the day despite huge regulations.

Now another trend appeared in the post LPG era where the news industry like other industry became market-driven. Now ethics/value least matter. What matters the most is the ‘profit’. Hereafter the viewers, listeners, and readers have become consumers of media products. ‘Cultural Globalization’ promoted the ‘culture industry’ where domestic media houses faced steep competition from cosmopolitan rivals. The content of the media became diversified and market-driven.

In this consumerism culture what values the most is ‘Entertainment’. People (Consumers) started finding the entertainment value in every kind of media product and even in News which is most concerning. And this created huge room for the media houses to sensationalize their content to give the media consumers an entertainment value, ultimately leading to degradation and dilution of values and ethics.

Way Forward

So, should we say market-driven forces i.e., Capitalism solely responsible for the pathetic state of Mass Media? The answer is ‘No’. If the market-driven forces were the sole reason for its value degradation, then probably the condition of press and media of USA would have been worse than us, America being a society of mass consumerism.

Years back Keynes said, “Demand creates its own supply”. Probably we Indian demand has a fascination for consuming news and views packaged with jingoism, sensationalism that lacks rationalism. Maybe we have a serious dearth of ‘Media literacy’ which is the need of the hours. In order to restore the media institution and make it a value-based probably modification in demand forces is essential. Anyhow people have to develop the skill of critically evaluating media content that they come across and start consuming fair-development societal value-based content by rejecting biased and sensationalized ones.

But who will proactively take this initiative of making people ‘Media Literate’ still a matter a big question? No hope left from Mainstream media, since it has already set its regressive agenda. No hope is left from statutory/regulatory institutions like the Press Council of India (PCI) or the News Broadcasting Standard Authority (NBSA). Maybe it is the turn of ‘Citizen Journalism’ to come forward and plays a progressive role in this regard and restore the mechanism of ‘Value-Based journalism and Mass Media.

Feature image is for representational purposes only 
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