In a Democratic state, media plays an important role in influencing the public narrative and affecting the public opinion about policies, the government, or any law in the country. A journalist’s task is to inform the citizens about this reality by presenting facts differentiated from a particular perspective so that they can form their opinions. Over the years, media has played a significant role in creating awareness amongst the people. Media also helps in facilitating the political and social discourse of the country as it provides a platform for conversation among the people about things that are of prime importance to the people of our nation. Thus, in a democratic set up like India’s, the fourth estate of our democracy has miserably failed to perform its function and it is imperative to examine how the media has slowly withered away from doing its job during the current government’s regime.
The biggest criticism the media has faced is that the media has become a puppet and mouthpiece of the party in power and refuses to question the authority and thus fails to perform its function of being the fourth estate in a representative democracy. It is felt that the journalists and news channels are afraid of the people in power as they have connections with the media house owners and have refused to question them and ask them a tough question. During the last five years, more focus has been on the failure of the opposition party rather than on the party in power like news debates have happened on topics like what has Congress done in the last 60 years. The basic role of the media of critiquing the policies of the government has completely vanished and the media only focuses on augmenting the party in power including focussing on the benefits or the positives of the schemes of the govt which include initiatives like Makeup India or Startup India. Amongst the policies of the current govt, in which Demonetisation tops the list, the media failed in its role to ask the govt questions regarding the failure of implementation and the deaths of innocent people, and merely focussed on what the objectives of the policy were and how they half-achieved its seen in the case of Demonetisation where innocent people die while standing in line which received no media coverage. The spokesperson of BJP come to these news channels and are asked soft questions and all the energies are focussed on asking questions to spokespersons of the other parties.
Another major aspect which shows the degeneration of the media is the propaganda and fake news spreading machine where the newspapers and news channels dish out propaganda day in day out. The concept of Propaganda as evolved by Adolf Hitler of telling a lie at a huge level has become the motto of the media in this regime barring a few. The Indian media has turned into a corporate venture whose role is to manufacture and produce news and to sell the news to viewers who are buying this “manufactured” news. The front pages of many newspapers in our country have started to resemble the front pages of web portals and are full of advertisements and are also selling news! Newspapers like Times of India, Hindustan Times have 4-5 pages of paid advertisements without any news. The Indian society is divided amongst communal and caste lines and media has wedged this divide even deeper and has added fuelled to fire. When these channels run flashy untrue headlines for Target Rating Point (TRP), they act as a dangerous catalyst to the already volatile society. Another consequence of this is the indoctrination of the ill-informed viewers and the ill opinion that is formed amongst the viewers. Thus, it is seen that the Modi government has set a new benchmark in using social media to drive their agenda. The second aspect of this problem is the spreading of a fake machine and how the current Modi government has focussed on perception management. Doctored videos, articles are being posted online and are being run on news channels to manipulate the opinion of the masses as seen in the example of Zee News where the channel ran doctored and manufactured videos. Online websites have popped up which have huge traffic focussing on fake news and supporting the Modi govt. The media houses in this capitalist society are required to run throughout the day and when there is no news as such, they are often seemed to run fake news which is not based on any facts and is usually been doctored by the media houses, but what is even more dangerous is that these media houses seem to run these doctored videos at prime time and thus affecting and manipulating the opinion of the majority.
The economics of the running of the media houses dictates the requirement of money and personnel which has itself become a problem and led to poor quality news being shown in our country. These media houses are owned by political parties thus showing one-sided news which favours their party and criticizes the party opposite to them, whereas, in a disguised form, some media houses are being run by corporate houses and big industrialists which have a particular allegiance and thus show biased news. The mainstream media downplays certain news and gives less importance to certain news and there is also a fear of interference amongst the media houses where they are told to not run certain news or headlines because they are against the vested interests of the owner and thus is seen as becoming biased, stifled, one which is increasingly hijacked by vested interests who control the public. The debates which have become an everyday feature have also deteriorated the quality of political discourse in the country as communal topics are being debated upon, one-sided political topics are being chosen, in which the anchor ends up shouting for almost all of the time and favouring only one side with the ending of the debate resulting in no outcome.
In the last five years, the Indian Media has become binary in nature where reporting is limited to pro-government stances and some critiquing the policies of the government. Thus, over the last five years, there has been a flood of channels and newspapers but a dearth of facts where media has printed and telecasted unverified and biased news. This has led to popcorn entertainment for people where media is seen to be selling news without the objective of informing the public with actual news. The public opinion about journalism has also suffered because of this as people have stopped watching the news or reading the news. Thus, it is high time for the media to start improving the quality of news and show unbiased news and give people a chance to form their own opinion.
Ezzat Hijab, Kamel K Murad, Dr Hanan Ismael Al Sheikh, Raed Ahmad Al-Bayati, (2017) Media and Propaganda
M. Deora (2018). For a democracy, India’s media is not in a happy state at all, Economic Times Retrieved from: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/et-commentary/for-a-democracy-indias-media-is-not-in-a-happy-state-at-all/
Pradeep Nair, Harikrishnan Bhaskaran, Harsh Mishra, (2017), Contextualizing Fake News in Post-truth Era
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Image Credit: The Quint
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