INDIAN NEWS CHANNELS: A NECESSARY EVIL OF OUR TIME? — DR MEHNAZ NAJMI

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media

Barring few, majority of 24 hour news channels are dishing out masala news today to suit the interest of varied viewers. There are shows on current affairs, discussions and debates available on anything from Indo-Pak relations to triple talaq to terrorism to Karan Johar’s children, sports news which not only inform you about the sports (read cricket to be precise) but about the marriages and affairs of sportspersons and entertainment/Bollywood news programs which are senselessly discussing about saas-bahu and sazish.

DR MEHNAZ NAJMI | Caravan Daily

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance”. –George Barnard Shaw.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he word ‘news’ earlier meant ‘information’ about North, East, West and South but with the advent of 24X7 news channels it has become a necessary evil which has established a psychological control over our mindsets. These news channels have penetrated so deep into our thought processes that we now behave like puppets whose strings are held by the news anchors. They have become conscience keepers of our society instead of being information providers.

Barring few, majority of 24 hour news channels are dishing out masala news today to suit the interest of varied viewers. There are shows on current affairs, discussions and debates available on anything from Indo-Pak relations to triple talaq to terrorism to Karan Johar’s children, sports news which not only inform you about the sports (read cricket to be precise) but about the marriages and affairs of sportspersons and entertainment/Bollywood news programs which are senselessly discussing about saas-bahu and sazish.

You can watch what you like or flip the channel which is telecasting the program of your interest. A lot of options are provided to the viewer to garner maximum TRPs, because of which there is an erosion in the sense of responsibility and accountability.

Today, every channel is affiliated with big business house or a political party and instead of providing news they are indulged in creating news for their affiliates. In the span of 20 years, it has become one of the largest and booming industries in India.

The idea of news these days is something that ‘sells’. The news which does not sell or does not create mass hysteria is no news at all. To sell the news, facts are distorted, manipulated and factoids are created on a daily basis. A lie is spoken several times, till it starts sounding like a truth, debate sessions are held on it and then public is asked to give their opinion by typing yes or no. Later on dedicated viewers are asked to pen down their opinions which are either read by the anchor or displayed on the channels, degrading the noble profession of journalism into ‘yellow journalism’.

tv channels indiaJoseph Campbell describes yellow press which concentrates on headlines covering a variety of topics, such as sports and scandals, using bold layouts (with large illustrations), heavy reliance on unnamed sources, and unabashed self-promotion. Like the news of chip inside the new 2000 rupees and our news anchors made special programs on innovative technology used in it, which went viral on social media resulting into becoming a factoid or a news of fatwa on a Muslim girl by local cleric for singing in Assam, which later on proved to be fake news.

Frank Luther Mott identifies characteristics of yellow journalism like scare headlines, often of minor news, lavish use of pictures or imaginary drawings/graphics and use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts. Most of the news channels today are following this idea and their favorite topic is Islam and Muslims.

As Ravish Kumar sarcastically points out that heavy discussions on Hindu-Muslim topics will eventually result into corruption free country, equality will prevail, there shall be no traffic jams on roads, education will become important, school fees shall be slashed and India will become great again!

Right now, there is so much of hue and cry over what singer Sonu Nigam had said about Azaan. He called it ‘religious gundagardi and forced religiousness’ as it disturbs his sleep in the morning. The only problem which I found with his statement is pin-pointing Azaan as noise only but remaining selectively silent about the use of loud speakers in Jaagrans, jagratas, marriages, parties and even on roads where non-stop honking takes place.

Since the media is interested in everything that directly or remotely sounds against Islam, so it grabbed the opportunity and created mayhem on television. A religious buffoon from an undisclosed location was given prime time lime spotlight to create communal frenzy and whip Islam.

Since the media is interested in everything that directly or remotely sounds against Islam, so it grabbed the opportunity and created mayhem on television. A religious buffoon from an undisclosed location was given prime time lime spotlight to create communal frenzy and whip Islam. The underlying idea, which should have been given importance was ‘noise pollution’ and not attached religiousness to it
Since the media is interested in everything that directly or remotely sounds against Islam, so it grabbed the opportunity and created mayhem on television. A religious buffoon from an undisclosed location was given prime time lime spotlight to create communal frenzy and whip Islam.
The underlying idea, which should have been given importance was ‘noise pollution’ and not attached religiousness to it

The underlying idea, which should have been given importance was ‘noise pollution’ and not attached religiousness to it. Suddenly, the much loved singer has turned into an anti-Muslim crusader, who is being hailed by the Right for saying the “right thing” and is abused by Muslims for being an anti-Muslim. What Sonu Nigam has achieved today is because of his hard work and not due to the people who have suddenly become his enemies or friends.

In our country, the misuse of loudspeakers is an accepted norm. Our media has never raised any question over it as ‘noise pollution’ as the story will not bring TRPs. It has suddenly become interested in noise pollution as it is sellable at the moment because of its association with the celebrity. Had news channels been interested in increased levels of pollution they would have been giving prime time coverage to the environment panel order which has penalized the Art of Living guru Sri Ravi Shankar for polluting the Yamuna bank and has rebuked him in harsh words!

Non-association of celebrities or protest against the establishment is also responsible for killing the important issues as they do not get coverage from news channels. Farmers from Tamil Nadu have been protesting and demanding loan waiver, revised drought relief package and better support price for their produce for the last 40 days at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi but are getting zero coverage from popular news channels.

Non-association of celebrities or protest against the establishment is also responsible for killing the important issues as they do not get coverage from news channels. Farmers from Tamil Nadu have been protesting and demanding loan waiver, revised drought relief package and better support price for their produce for the last 40 days at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi but are getting zero coverage from popular news channels.

They are forced to eat rats and to drink their own urine but the silence of press is deafening here as this news portrays government in bad light and ministers too are not interested in taking cognizance of these farmers’ plight. So there is no point giving them coverage. Gone are the days when the press was the voice of voiceless! Today, what really matters is the number of advertisements it get and TRPs as compared to other channels.

During the 1980s and 90s Doordarshan News was the only source of information available for the viewers. In those days news was just news, without any malicious propaganda and plainly informative. The viewers did not have any other option or right to choose among the channels, which brought greater responsibility to Doordarshan and it played a rather positive role. News readers were loved and appreciated by viewers for their way of speaking and diction and not for their affiliations to political units. They never tried telling viewers what was right or wrong. Most of the news readers were professors in universities or writers or highly educated persons and were not under pressure to sell the news for TRP.

The news readers were treated like celebrities then. There was a feeling of trust between viewers and the news reader, unlike today where news is trusted according to the channel it is telecasted on. That was perhaps the golden time of news in India.

The Press is known as fourth pillar of democracy. When government fails to act then it becomes the voice of voiceless.  But today, the media is of two types – either pro-government or anti-establishment. Those who try to give unbiased view are insulted and humiliated by politicians as Presstitutes. The new unsaid rule is a journalist cannot utter a word against the government otherwise pro-government channels; online paid trolls and even politicians will start attacking in a planned manner.

The character assassination of women journalists, physical and verbal – abusive attacks on male journalists, phone tapping and getting death threats is a norm today. We, the viewers, the people, are a party to this suppression of independent voices as we are not reacting against the atrocities committed on these journalists, who are endangering their lives for our fundamental rights of liberty, justice, speech and expression.

It won’t be fair to criticize news channels only for this deterioration but we the viewers are as much responsible for it. They are media houses — an industry, a capitalist endeavor and are established for the sole purpose of profit. They are ready to cater to our needs and work in accordance to our preferences. They are showing what we enjoy. The moment viewers start rejecting yellow journalism, that day it will die its own death.

 

 

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Halaat-e-haaz.ra ek ya do ghante me nipat jaayega… baaki ke 22 ghanton kya karen ye log.. News channels have hired ppl. Thay have to pay salaries to them.. kuchh toh time pass karna padega na.. Am I not right ?

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