Sunday, January 29, 2012


Media can't be treated as cat's paw for long

The plan that information, and specifically the news media, can play a substantive and even a crucial role in the formation of public opinion in society and in shaping public policy on major social, political, and economic issues is an appealing one in intellectual and socio-political terms. The discovery that on vital matters such as mass hunger, deprivation, and a sudden collapse of entitlements, timely and relevant information makes a qualitative difference to the way public opinion is shaped and official policy is made to respond is somewhat flattering to the self-image of professional journalism was a face of Indian media before liberalization in the nation. But as for post-1991 economic liberalisation, press and broadcasting media coverage to date has tended to adopt a laudatory tone, keep out or underplay the criticisms and objections, censor the negative political and socio-economic effects, especially among the poor, and provide little space to the voices of robust criticism and opposition, including those raised from the ranks of professional economists. This, if anything, is a more conscious and more systematic case of manufacture of consent.

‘The media themselves’, observes an experienced insider, ‘have become more and more class self-conscious, with little going for those below a set purchasing power threshold. The lower you are in the social and economic scale, seems the moral and the model, the less relevant you are to the media, either as subject or consumer… Profit maximization, rather than any commitment to the citizen’s right to be informed, drives the news media’ says Shashi Kumar, founder of India’s first satellite TV channel Asianet and Chairman of Asian College of Journalism.

By launching a website on 30 December, 2011, for Jail Bharo and publishing a report in a renowned magazine regarding the framework and strategy to reserve a place in Media by time management proves that Team Anna prefers to invest most of their energy in getting Media attention in social and mainstream media instead of trusting themselves. Personalities like Om Puri, Anupam Kher, Raghubir Yadav, Amir Khan, Kailash Kher, Manoj Tiwari, Raza Murad, Malini Awasthi, Deepak Kumar, Raj Kumar Hirani were invited because they could hypnotize Media, despite the fact that none of them possess any grass root experience of social activism in real life on such a broad issue. Can anyone answer what was the need for shifting the place of demonstration from Delhi to Mumbai instead of holding it in any interior village of India? Something dubious which emerge tailspin and finally a world famous movement, that could win affinity of Indian common people got ruined…alas!

Now let’s walk on the scene of Indian media and social media in the Indian context before analyzing. In 2012, television households in India are estimated to number 141 million, with 116 million of them served by cable and 26 million by direct-to-home television (TAM, 2011). The another interesting reality is the total number of households in India is estimated to be 231 million, which only goes to show that there is considerable space for further growth. There is yet another issue that needs serious discussion, especially in the current Indian context. It is the propaganda or manufacture of consent contribution of the press and the other news media. This can be seen to be the subversion of the two central functions, the credible-informational and the critical-investigative adversarial.  

Liberal democratic theory asserts for the most part that in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, the media are free, independent, respectful of a diversity and pluralism of views, strive to report the news fairly, fully and without undue bias, play adversarial roles, and act as watchdogs of the democratic and public interest. The propaganda model conceptualised by Herman and Chomsky (1988) in their influential book, Manufacturing Consent, is a frontal challenge to this liberal theorising on the media and democracy. In another classic, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, Chomsky (1989) explains that the propaganda model shows how ‘the media serve the interests of state and corporate power, which are closely interlinked, framing their reporting and analysis in a manner supportive of established privilege and limiting debate and discussion accordingly’.

In a highly developed context, the major media can be seen to be ‘corporations “selling” privileged audiences to other businesses’ and the picture of the world they present tends to ‘reflect the perspectives and interests of the sellers, the buyers, and the products’. The management structure of the media as well as their dependence on advertising powerfully promotes such a role. The interesting question is whether the propaganda model applies to the Indian news media and the answer must be in the affirmative. The propaganda of state controlled television and radio is widely recognised and ridiculed in the Indian public arena, but the press too can be seen to manufacture consent from time to time in relation to sensitive, contentious issues.

It won’t be exaggerated by saying Anna’s movement was a drama and just like a saas bahu serial for a big class. Not only Media but also a big part of audience treated the movement in the same manner. They were excited to know the next episode as other TV serials. They were enjoying themselves in their home. The reality of TRP has been better understood in India, if someone is getting high TRP it doesn’t mean that they are interacting with India in toto. It’s basically a misunderstanding which clearly visualized in Anna’s movement, too. 

According to reports, the use of Social networking sites has played a unique and watershed role in Anna’s movement. Yes it can be accepted but let’s again discuss the approach of internet in India. According to UNESCO 2011, ‘the arrival of the digital revolution-the evolution of the internet, the emergence of new forms of media, and the rise of online social networks – has reshaped the media landscape and made “the press” of 2011 of the something that those gathered in Windhoek in 1991 could not have imagined while establishing of World Press Freedom Day’.

As per the reports, Anna Hazare's fast was successful in mobilising the support of thousands in the virtual world of social media. On Independence Day, Anna had over 500,000 mentions through status updates and comments across top social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter in the country. Two days later, the number had shot up to 9 million. On YouTube, over 40,000 people watched the video shot by Kiran Bedi inside Tihar Jail in which Anna has addressed his supporters. Facebook has 542 fan pages by Anna's name. India, by contrast, has only something like 100 million internet users (Internet World Stats 2011), most of them poorly served by bandwidth. One would think the number would be much higher, given the country’s fairly advanced capabilities in the software field but this is typical of India’s political economy paradox, large swathes of backwardness amidst high economic growth rates.

The most revealing indicator in the comparison is the internet’s penetration of the comparable populations: China’s 36.30 per cent, which is still only about half the developed country norm, contrasts sharply with India’s 8.40 per cent (Ibid.). What this means is that the impact of the digital revolution on the print press and on broadcast television is considerably stronger and the tipping point is likely to arrive sooner in China than in India.  China’s development in this area has been quite spectacular: it has upwards of 500 million internet users – by far the largest number for any country in the world – most of them served by broadband, minimally defined by western standards (Fu 2011). In this condition, the number of hits on official page of this movement is nothing except an eyewash! The campaign may be used for threatening the government but it can’t be played for long time because the movement had to do more for connecting common people with regard and trust. It’s well known to all that nexus between Corporate Sector and Government after globalization is the key reason of corruption in India. Now media is being injected by corporate publicly by so many treaties and tie up! So, trust on media will get same result what Anna movement got, no doubt.
Robin Jeffrey’s scholarship on the growth of successful newspapers in a dozen Indian languages (1987; 1993; 1997) highlights a lively and buoyant situation where, essentially, five factors have been capitalized on over the past two decades. They are: improved technology (which enables the production and distribution of larger numbers of more attractive newspapers), steadily expanding literacy, better purchasing power, aggressive publishing, and  political excitement. ‘The logic of capitalism’, Jeffrey explains, has driven newspaper expansion ‘as strongly as a thirsty potential readership’ (Jeffrey 1993: 2007). “ye to logo ko sochna hai ki Anna jee yahan baithe hai wo kab ghar se baahar aayenge ” quoted by Arvind Kejriwal, a key member of Team Anna during Anna’s last fast in Mumbai. Mr. Kejriwal could have known that they should join the common people as they joined tycoon. People are still waiting for you Team Anna.                 LINK

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