88. A disscussion on the Role of the Media



Once a well known journalist remarked, ‘isit wrong to make money?’ being in a masters course with full enthusiasm forlanding in a good job by one of your prospective employers, I replied anemphatic ‘no’. We are being taught the economics of running a media  house and to get those plum salaries ,’truth’,was a matter of perception according to the readership survey or TRPs. Afterliberalisation like everything that mattered with money in India, Indian mediatoo was subjected to a sea of changes.

Competition was the buzz word. One mediahouse talked about its legacy another its infotainment and countless otherregional publications and channels were on a rat race to get a pie of the greatIndian media market. Soon everything was ‘breaking news’ from road accident insome remote village to a bad hairdo of a Bollywood starlet and some politicswith our kurta clad netas thrown in between. Scandals or no scandals everyheadline and every channel’s main anchor picked up stories and gave theirjustifications of why you should listen to them as they usurped the position ofbeing the conscious keepers of our society. But the question in the great game,who is shaping our public opinion?

The manner in which stories of commoninterest were dealt with showed the political and corporate alignments in themedia houses. With a remote and a 5 to 6 choice of national news channels, itis easy to spot the alliance. Call it a holistic view point for those whoconsume English news but for those who get information in their mother tongue,they  get an additional dose of blaringmusic, bias and sometimes rants from the guests in the studio who are more interestedin poisoning the mind of the society with sectarianism , communalism and blatantnepotism. When business came into Indian media, content is anything andeverything. The mundane with peppy music or youtube videos downloaded and airedwith umpteen repetitions is the news that Indian media is letting its massesswallow. Thus what meaningful public opinion can be built by the Indian Media? Theelite are made to hear what they want, the middle class propaganda while thepoor get the bizarre. Thus the corporate Indian media house wants populistnews content over objectivity and discernment. They want the readership and theTRPs so that money flows in. They have become wealthy fast victims ofliberalisation losing out on their conscious, so the question for today’s Indianmedia professional ‘is it really wrong to make money?’ is technicallynonsensical.







10 thoughts on “88. A disscussion on the Role of the Media

  1. Good show, Mr. Ajit. Thank you for your initiative. Persuade others to respond. We need to make our students participate more and more. There is no dearth of talent in India but they have not been trained properly. Please do come either this Sunday or the next at 9 AM to the Institute and address the students. I am really thankful to you for helping me in training the students. God bless you!


    1. will do sir..and i hope students start contributing so that i can build an argument for the next session regarding RTI and media

  2. The views expressed by some sections that Media has become voice of the ‘few’, middle class propaganda, under corporate structure and in the race of TRPs and ‘neck-throat’ competition has become highly unethical, and too much money oriented, cannot be fully negated but these defects cannot overshadow the fact that Media has come out as very strong player in our democratic system and transforming the political and social scenario.

    There was time when “state” had become too powerful, politicians and bureaucrats could not anything in the name of ‘public purpose’ abusing the authority and position. But, now in the age of 24X7 media no action of political authorities and bureaucracy is not hidden from the eyes of public. The same ‘breaking news’ concept had also make possible to bend the ‘state’ against public opinion (Jessica-lal murder case) even if it may be the case that it corresponded to some particular section or class of society but in the path to macro level justice we cannot ignore micro level justice. The public can now see the white collar crimes more clearly and closely and that is why corruption has become so huge issue in the country in which there is no dearth of issues (Tahlaka journalism; disclosure of abuse of funds by using RTI as tool – LPG portal showing huge amount of cylinders used by politicians).

    The media have sensitized the people for many important issues like corruption (the kind of coverage 2G spectrum case and coal-gate scandal have taken media attention), environment, Maoist problem, many social problems – gender discrimination, gender based crime etc. It is agreed that some issues like poverty, inequality, agrarian crisis etc have not got due importance in the media at they should but having said that even issues like corruption, scams, social crimes also cannot be undermined. Therefore we can’t say that media has totally become the slave of particular class or segment. Off course it sometimes get carried away from the issue and gets biased towards the popular opinion rather than rational opinion, but the solution does not lie in entangled or ignore its importance.

    What is needed is improvement in quality of education and training of journalists as in the face unprecedented growth of media industry; many untrained and unethical elements have entered in this domain and are responsible for the noise, suppressing the quality journalism. The Press Council has to play more active role in regulating the media and Digital media should also be brought under some kind of body similar to Press council for self-regulation of TV media, so that they also follow certain common ethics and practices.

  3. Comment accepted but how do you figure out the fact that a once illustrous name in journalism was figured in 2G spectrum and also how do you know whether it is objective reporting or a powerful background force settling issues with its rival…scams for instance….remember what you see need not be the truth. there were tv channels in the their 24×7 perspective tried to highlight more of pick pockets and anti social elements joining the Anna Hazare movement and there was a clear attempt at diluting the importance of the movement….a general audience is made to consume the fine print packaged in an event that is being printed…but my question is who is putting that fine print there to sway public opinion…

  4. The main function of the media is to provide people truthful information to help them form rational public opinion. Over the last couple of years, citizens of this country have felt that media is becoming irresponsible. Even when the country is plagued with issues like poverty, unemployment, farmer suicides, healthcare, inflation etc, the media has been largely behaving irresponsibly by shutting itself from those real issues and resorting to cheap sensationalism.

    Is it wrong for the media to make money? I see nothing wrong in making profits. But it is a problem when making profits becomes the primary objective of the media houses. Today most of our media houses are owned by politicians with vested interests and big business houses with business interests in various other sectors too. How is it possible to justify their unbiased reporting in such cases? In chasing their revenue targets, media houses resort to various unethical practices like paid news, yellow journalism etc.

    Paid news has become one of the most important problems in Indian journalism today. In paid news, people pay to be in the news. In the 2009 general elections, political parties and their candidates resorted to paid news for greater coverage. Good things about the candidates were written as news articles and the candidates are reported to have paid a large sum of money for this coverage. Several corporations have been found to be using the same method to promote their products and build a good opinion about themselves.

    The second issue is about media forgetting about its own primary responsibilities. By resorting to sensaltionism, reporting unimportant issues and important issues media is forming a false opinion about certain issues among the citizens. The media has been taking greater interest in covering unimportant issues like personal lives of celebrities, superstitions which neglecting the pressing socio-economic problems like poverty, unemployment etc. The media has to make sure that the news that they are reporting is accurate and serve the public. If we were to compare the number of journalists covering critical issues like poverty, it is far less than the number probably covering IPL or a fashion show. Surely, covering cricket is important too but it is important to maintain a balance by covering other issues as well. Media has to be a watchdog and constantly bring out the loopholes in the functioning of the govt and warn the public when things aren’t all that well in the country. Even with these issues in the media industry, there are several of them doing a great job in sensitising the public about the real issues in mining, counter insurgency etc.

    Media is a service to the public and not a business. It is possible for them to make profits from their advertisement and circulation. When media organisations become greedy, it makes them work against its primary objective. The journalists need to be senstised aout their responsibilities. The Press Council of India should take stock of the issues like paid news and false reporting very seriously and take action against the guilty.

  5. I am really confuse about the question “Is it wrong to make money?” with respect to Media. This question needs to be put for more scrutiny over different views such as economic point of view, social point of view and political point of view.

    Economic point of view: In economy, each activity is defined by profit or loss. It deals with the way an individual or a group can add value to its investment. In layman terms – Earn more money.

    Social point of view: According to sociology, if any activity which will harm or destabilize society should not be entertained and that activity should be stop then and there. Here an individual has to trade off between its own goal and restriction put to protect society as a whole. The investment should be such that whole society should gain.

    Political point of view: Politic is actually combination of both where best possible path has to be chosen to add value to an individual and also protect society.

    Now coming to the main objective for which this question has been raised – “MEDIA”.
    Let’s try to find answer based on certain questions.
    1) What is the purpose of media in this whole ecosystem?
    2) To whom does it serve?
    3) Why does it so important?

    Answering first question, Media plays an important part in current ecosystem. It brings news and activities happening across the globe. Its helps people in improving their knowledge base and framing perspective about any subject/topic.
    Answering second question, Media serves mass or society. It informs mass about every activities happening around them and remain impartial while informing.
    Answering to third question, Media play very important role in forming opinion and helping mass in restructuring society.

    So i would like to assume based on above answers that Media is an important part of society which help people in forming an opinion and add to the changes happening in any society. It has to remain impartial and should not form any opinion of its own while informing mass. Hence we can say that Media is more inclined to Society and less to economical or political perspective. Its main goal is to inform people and should not make money by twisting facts.

    Today in India lot of new channels have come up and there are stiff competition among them. Huge number of people is employed and it has formed as a big industry. In this race to become best or to reach at the top to earn more, they have forgotten the main purpose of their existence. They are indulging in different legal/illegal activity.

    Though, it is not right to say that all people in this media world are wrong. Some still follow the principle over which the foundation of Media was laid. They have contributed largely to remove some of illegal activities in our society such as corruption, injustice etc and also acted as watchdog over government and different organizations.

    Since this media has become an important part of a society and also contribute economically. It is indispensable. And to run it, it will require financial assistance or money. To earn this, they should take correct measures without indulging in any illegal/unwanted activities keeping in mind about their main purpose of their existence.

  6. the question that the journalist raised was whether it was wrong for media to make money since making money would involve a whole series of factors that could make the media house conscious about it not hurting its ad revenues

  7. According to me as long as media person does his job morally and ethically and then if media house has the choice to mint money through advertisement then there is no problem. Why we should put a boundary around media or any profession that it can never be rich? Now a day airing Mega serials, commercial advertisements and popular innovative programmes attracts lot of money to electronic media. Even the constitution recommends individual to excel in their professional.
    I have simple example for this, if a private doctor in his clinic works more than regular hours to make money, what is wrong?

  8. The boom in Indian Media started around end of last century and it had a boom in the later part of the last decade. In this disucussion the other factor mentioned is economy. It won’t be wrong to say that the growth of economy has a same dateline. The free market economy allowed media to grow, and this is the reason for a capitalist attitude of media houses. And it is fair in their part to promote this spirit as they also have to grow and they have grown. In present times, where capitalism is viwed as the only way to grow, concepts of corporate social responsibity have emerged. Before commenting on the vices and virtues of the media we should try to understand what role media plays in our socitey and what responsiblity it has.

    This growth had the growing middle class as its cornerstone. They sold, we bought. From a time when there was only a state run channel we now have hundreds of channel. Media in true sense has become a democratic affair. It is available in all colors and flavours. Soaps, movies, sports, news, music. You want it, you have it.

    “The intent is clear. Keep the people drugged so they do not revolt against poverty and the terrible mess created for them.”
    These remarks of Dr Katju have some serious interpretations. To understand this we need to do analysis of effects of media on individuals.
    A point here is of prime importance is that we are biologically inclined to do so. Ears and eyes are powerful than any other senses. We are influenced more by what we see and hear than any other sitmuli. This initiment connection perhaps has made tv as a family member. The most important observable fact is that in present times people spend most of their free time with TV. Our thoughts are in a major way guided by what we see on television.

    The second point is in this age of competition how do media, houses feed their journalists ‘enough’. They had to worry about TRPs since free market means success. At the receiver end was our huge society. I feel disturbed when I realize that most of the channels which show unimportant but sensational news are having a ball.

    A recent news clip of mental harassment in Shantiniketan was being discussed on prime time for an hour in a primer channel. The market here is the whole range of middle class who are angry about how can teachers do such things to this poor little girl.
    Kayju’s comment here is proved to be true since these very same people should be worried about the failed schooling system in our country. The ego supercedds super ego.

    When we say that only masala news can churn money, then we are implicitly admiting that we have failed ourselves. Putting a restrictions on these so called masala news channel are in way forcing people surprres the ego. Since I have drawn a lot of similarity between democracy and media, I also remember a remark given by Dr Ambedkar who said, if people fail us democracy will fail us. If the question of ethics is begin asked to media with regards to money , I would rather urge people to ask themselves what they think about the morality of making money?

  9. As I come from the media department myself, It has become quiet a trend amongst the media houses to present ‘Breaking news’ to the viewers, or even readers for that matter.
    There is no ethical journalism or an ethical media house as such in today’s modern world. They are filled with lies, some made up stories to gain higher viewer rates from other channels and making money. There are new strategies devised. New techniques found, new victims to have news built upon and have stories created.
    During the independence struggle, media was a medium, a strong weapon to propagate unity among the people. But today, it expands the divide that has been existing. The media house today has one thing in mind, and that is to be a powerful channel that can find ways to mint money in seconds, whether is it an ethical idea or no. We media students are taught to be ethical, follow our morals and work in the most decent, acceptable manner. But on experience of work, as I did for a month in an English Daily in Bangalore, I learnt that there is no place for values, or morals. When work has to be done, we have to do it. We fish for stories to fill gaps in the papers, we fish for ‘creative ideas’ to have documentaries made.
    The following link is one example on how is it:
    Its about a famous news channel called Fox News.
    In India, the media house thrives on poverty, murder, death and corruption. It is not about bringing the right news to the people, but who brings the news out first is what counts. Ethics can’t be forced. Values can’t be sold. They are experienced and learnt. When the mindset itself has narrowed down to competition and money, one help save the world against being fed lies, or half truthful stories.
    Rupert Murdoch, another example:

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