Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rotting at the core? Losing credibility of Indian media

Media frequently qualifies themselves with soaring words like fourth estate, pillar of democracy, voice of people etc. In this hustle, they often fail to comprehend, how far their deeds match with principles.

One routine from childhood days that still stick with me is reading newspapers. I used to believe that, things are happening exactly as it is described in newspapers. I synchronized myself with the opinions produced by media outlets; we used to think, these are some of the dogmas which everyone needs to safeguard.

However, along with the passage of time, many of these beliefs shattered to the ground. It was a realization; media, most often is not neutral. It’s just like any human beings - prone to mis-communication and selecting what they want to select and seeing what they want to see. If you are reading three different newspapers, you will see three different versions of same story. It may be a headline or breaking news at one place, in the second one it may become space fillers for inner pages. This is applicable for electronic media as well.

Indian Media and the modern world

There are three major scandals that shook my belief and confidence in Indian media. First one is the infamous ‘Paid news scandal’, second one is ‘Nira Radia tapes’ and the third one is ‘Jindal-Zee episode’. When the first one broke out in to public, I didn’t think much about it. After all, people will make mistakes. Then came ‘Radia tapes’, which not only gave me a jolt but also forced to scrutinize the previous paid news scandal through a new prism. Recent ‘Jindal-Zee episode’ put the final nail in the coffin of my belief about the reliability of many Indian media outlets.

Media freedom

Indian democracy has many short comings, but I firmly believe, suppressing media freedom is not one of them. In India media is free, free to support, free to criticize the government, political parties etc. With a hyper-competitive industry and over populated channels, Indian media holds significant powers on news and its distribution. You can see many issues enjoying 24*7 coverage and some others are completely blocked out.

Selling out

Advertising revenue is important for the sustainability of both electronic and print media. But the most important asset any news paper/ electronic media have is its credibility and originality of the news they report. If they are spicing it up or adding water to that, she will lose her virginity. People may like spiced up one, but may no longer be able to believe it. If the industry is not able to get followers then, advertising revenues will definitely dry up. Moreover, such news is highly poisonous to consume.

If left leaning, right leaning political propaganda and interests of various entities are coming as news, then I can definitely say that, the industry is on its way down.

Twelve suggestions 

These are some of the suggestions I have for Indian media to consider,

1. India is not limited to Delhi and Mumbai; it has many other cities and a vast country side.
2. India’s easternmost point is Kibithu (Anjaw district, Arunachal Pradesh), not West Bengal. 
3. Maoist’s activities are not the only thing happening in vast Central India.
4. GDP and FDI numbers are not the only basis for measuring development (I doubt whether I can call all those numbers as FDI, after all many are routed through tax heavens).
5. Globalization, liberalization, free trade etc may not be the only way to go forward, but it certainly can’t be and should not be dubbed as a dinosaur which eats humans alive.
6. There is a significant difference between capitalism and crony capitalism; both are not the same.
7. Indian public sector is not a sacred cow that can’t be touched.
8. Farmer’s deaths are not the only problem in agriculture and this required much more attention than fashion shows in Mumbai (unless the media outlet is specialised in fashion industry).
9. There is no problem in supporting any political party. But, if you are supporting someone, admit it; and never print/ report the propaganda as news.
10. Collaborating with foreign and western media outlets will definitely improve the quality of journalism; but please select the columnists evenly – representing both sides of the coin.
11. Selective reporting and cannibalizing news is not considered as good journalism. 
12. Sting operations are not the only branch of investigative journalism.


Indian media has to travel a long way to qualify as fourth estate or vanguard of democracy or representing the voice of people. Any more issues like paid news, Raida tapes, Jindal-Zee episode will further sink them to a black hole, from where recovering will be difficult.

At the same time, I sincerely appreciate many journalists and media houses which still believe in field reporting and produce wonderful observations, views and analysis.


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

1 comment:

  1. Another development which few people seem to know about is the proliferation of private treaties. This model has been pioneered in Indian media by Bennett Coleman which runs the Times Group. They acquire equity in private companies and provide media coverage to the concerned companies through their outlets. It brings into question the conflict of interest. The down slide in the editorial standards of TOI is for everyone to see.
    Dependence of media on advertisers for revenues has also influenced their independence. There is a need to find an alternative model for revenue generation in media.