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Victims of the rat race


Tags : India | media | communication | Janardhana Reddy | Karnataka |

There are very few nations as diverse as India. The same holds good for the Indian media as well. A media house reflects the philosophy and vested interests of its owner. The year 2012 witnessed some of the most contentious incidents concerning TV and social media, which is emerging as a powerful tool of communication.The year kicked off with a notorious incident in which few legislators were caught watching porn in the Karnataka state Assembly. It created furore all over the country. The incident proved that the media was watching everyone.

The mining scam has been hogging the attention of the media for more than a year. The offshoot of this was the clashes between media persons and the lawyers when Janardhana Reddy was produced in court in Bangalore. The clashes between media crews and lawyers were highlighted by media like a major event. Several channels screamed for hours and the legal community was shown in a bad light. It was almost a pitched battle wherein lawyers and media persons clashed outside the court complex. The accusations were hurled to and fro for weeks and the controversy ended with the appointment of a judicial enquiry.

The other noted controversy was that of godman Swami Nithyananda, whose alleged sexual clippings adorned TV screens for days. He was hounded by Kannada channels who were acting as prosecutors. Politicians owning media outlets are posing frequent problems not only for their media units but also for those working in those units. The rivalry between media units resulted in the selective leaking of information to a few media organisations by the CBI to discredit Jagan, MP from Kadapa. Saakshi, the news-channel and the newspaper owned by Jagan alleged that the CBI shared some confidential information with rival media houses on interrogations pertaining to a high-profile corruption cases involving him. The alleged “great conspiracy” dominated AP media for a while. Politicians of all shades have found it rewarding to have their own media outfits and the biggest casualties are truth and conscience of media persons working for them.

The latest controversy involving Zee and MP Naveen Jindal is also said to be another case of business rivalry. Naveen Jindal, using his status of MP, is hounding Zee TV, alleging that two top people of Zee demanded Rs 100 crores from his organisation. Social media is the new weapon in the hands of millions, who are ready to employ it for both good and bad. The fact that Facebook reached one billion people in 2012 on its network proved its popularity and its clout.  The violence in Assam involving Bodos and Bengali speaking Muslims echoed through social media across the country. The inflammatory messages were circulated, warning people of the north east states to get back to their places or face the consequences. Overnight, the railway stations were crammed with passengers heading towards the north-east from several pars of the country, particularly from Bengaluru. The rumours of attacks spread like wildfire and people woke up suddenly to the magical clout of the invisible new social media. The arrest of the two girls who condemned the undeclared bundh of Mumbai after the passing away of Bal Thackery is an example of how we are yet to understand how to handle social media. Yet, there are several social networking sites fuelling the animosity among various religious groups in the country, posting vicious and blood-soaked images which don’t seem to be sourced or attributed to anyone.

The acrimony extended to Mumbai where several journalists who attended a demonstration organised by Raza Academy and other organisations against the killing of Muslims in the riots in Kokhrajar, Assam in which several journalists were seriously injured were attacked. The OB vans of several TV channels were burnt. Those who addressed the rally accused the media for neglecting the deaths of children in Assam but covering the Olympics. 

India is home to several socio-cultural and religious groups. Unless and until we learn to use these sophisticated new media carefully, these skirmishes will erupt frequently. What is immediately needed is an alert and vigilant intelligence network and the coordinated effort both at state and national level to deal with such situations.
The privacy of individuals has been violated frequently by TV channels in the rat race for TRP. Several such incidents were reported grossly violating ethical guidelines.  The alleged incident of gang-rape of one of the students of National Law School of India University, Bangalore was sensationalised and the identity of the victim was also revealed.

It is a mandate that media ought to protect the privacy of a rape victim. The victim has to live with the stigma even after the crime. Even though the disclosure of the victim is a cognizable offence, the TV channels have a scant regard for it. Even the guidelines of Press Council are violated blatantly day in day out. The  guidelines related to journalistic conduct specified by the PCI states that “while reporting crime involving rape, abduction or kidnap of women/females or sexual assault on children, or raising doubts and questions touching the chastity, personal character and privacy of women, the names, photographs of the victims or other particulars leading to their identity shall not be published.”

Amidst all the commercialisation and the rat race for TRP, a few programmes caught the attention of viewers. One among them was Satyamev Jayate which proved the power of TV to focus the attention of people on social evils.  Though not a sensation because of the language barrier, another was the legal literacy programme aired by the HMTV Telugu news channel Bhoomi Kosam, India’s first television weekly programme which aims at creating awareness and empowerment among the families whose lives are tied with land holdings. Media monitoring is an uphill task in a country like India, but ways and means have to be devised to keep a constant vigil on them and to mend them using most powerful applications. Both the PCI headed by Justice Markandeya Katzu or the Information and Broadcasting ministry has failed to evolve consensus among the stake holders for the effective regulations of media units.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017