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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Social Media the new mainstream media?


Aditya Raj Kaul is the India Editor of 'The Indian' published from Australia. His online campaign triggered the social media revolution in India
ADITYA RAJ KAUL | New Delhi, June 2, 2012 18:06
Tags : social media | mainstream media |

Social media is increasingly being seen as the fastest mode of news dissemination. This may cause a severe jolt to the mainstream media if marketing experts see more growth on the web. While the print has already seen a drastic decline both in readership and advertising, news-channels aren’t far behind.

In the past year itself, several undemocratic steps have been taken to muzzle the internet by draconian regimes like the one in China.

Amidst fears of such censorship in India through a legislation, research-firm Gartner claimed that, in the years ahead, social media growth in the country could decrease as compared to other nations. Are these fears genuine or have they read too much into the mindset?

According to a recent survey, more than 60 per cent of social networking traffic in India came from non-metros. The youth in India is increasingly switching online for studies and jobs among other things. The space is only increasing with it reaching into the giant rural belt which at times even the mainstream media has failed to touch.

The duplicity of the mainstream media was visible recently when Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi figured in a CD scandal. The video spread across social networking sites overnight, even after an injunction against publishing the CD by the Delhi High Court. In all expectation, the news would have broken on news-channels (which didn’t figure in the injunction) because of its TRP driven worth, but strangely the media remained tightlipped on the controversy. It took a barrage of heated criticism over the internet for the media to start talking.

On the other hand, several editors, disoriented by the increasing ability of the social media to force mainstream press have turned cynical, many even supporting the move to curb online freedom, though behind closed doors. Is this insecurity due to the hurt caused to the monopoly of mainstream media?

This recent incident points out at the easily controllable ‘editorial policy’ of media by external agents in India. In the given circumstance, a move to censor the web will only result in a state of emergency in this 21st century India. India remains one of the major markets for Facebook with over 25 million users. Social media, whether you like it or not, has become the new age mainstream media with its sheer power. Not only has it questioned the bad governance and supported anti-corruption drive but has also slammed the media on various occasions for its double standards.

In this hour of reckoning, the mainstream media will have to prominently display its integrity in the profession to survive in this age of Twitter, where news often breaks online before reaching the news-rooms. In January this year, while inaugurating a book The Tribune 130 Years: A Witness to History written by historian V N Dutta, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked the media to introspect, suggesting a “degree of self-regulation”. “Sensationalism, driven by a desire to sell a story at any cost... stories without a clear understanding of the underlined issues. There is reporting which is prejudiced. There is trivialisation of important matters. There is corruption. The prevalence of the practice of ‘paid news’ exposed recently has come as a shock,” he pointed out.

Do we in the media concur with these tough words from the PM? Or, are we too blind to identify the new low we have touched? At a time when new technologies are uprooting the traditional practices, it would be relevant to ask – is the social media overtaking the mainstream media in India?

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017