Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Can you trust the Indian Media?

Oil sector PSU officers are on strike from today demanding an honourable wage revision. Scanning through news channels for strike news, I came across some shocker. Most television news channels are found to be conveying whatever message the govt propoganda wanted to show after garnishing it with their own masala and a bit of crocodile tears for common public. Notable among these are the self proclaimed No.1 channels like Zee news and Aaj Tak. The worst part of it is that most of the channels were actually ignorant of the reasons of the strike.

A situation of conflict got created by the strike between the officers of these premier companies of Govt of India and their controlling ministry. What resulted is a lose-lose situation for both parties. The officers association could not be taken into confidence by the PM by forming a GoM on the eve of the sheduled strike as the petroleum ministry had been making only hollowed promises over last few months. To crush, the agitation the govt unleased a propoganda to villify the oil officers. But these only worsended the situation and this where the govt lost.

The sad part of this story is that for most of us newspaper and news channels are our primary source of information. The worst is that most of us accept or tend to belief as true whatever is written in newspapers. But when you know the facts, you understand the truth behind the news. This makes you think as to how much of all the news you are fed by media for the day are true. This is making many to look for news in the net and independent blogs provides probably one of the most authentic source of information.

The malaise of the Indian media are primarily 1) Unsubstantiated news without any research and 2) Hunger for breaking news for TRP.

Many news items are written according to the handouts handed out by babus and officials holding press conferences in plush hotels. The hospitality decides whether the handouts require editing or not. I had a brief stint at handling outside pressure groups and understood that it was not my cup of tea.

The Breaking News fever of Indian media is still worse. The week after the Mumbai terror attacks, a series on terror was run in national Geographic channel. In one of the shows, they highlighted the case of how terrorists exploiting this hunger for breaking news. Months after the Mumbai attack, it is quite clear now how those breaking news and live coverage of Indian media were actually helping the terrorists. The anchors which were literally shouting to make a point that these pictures are shown live exclusively on his channel, have now gone silent. Some of these news anchors are incompetent but tries to be jack of all trade and runs shows on subject without even having minimum knowledge on the subject. Fortunately we still have a few good news channels and good newspapers which gives relatively better news, if not 100% accurate. Though most of the media are sellable, not all of them are doing yellow journalism.

As I had started with the issue of indefinite strike by all oil sector PSU, I need to let you know a few facts. It is quite obvious that the hardship caused to common man by any strike creates bad feeling for the group indulged in it. But a strike is always a last resort in a democratic country. Gandhiji started this peaceful process of hartal. One should understand that the group had exhausted all its available peaceful means to go for a life crippling strike. By this direct confontation and conflict, some of the officers had put their job at risk. 55000 others had lent their support to it. For the Govt a lot is at stake with election looming just a couple of months away. But who will gain from a lose-lose situation?

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