It was year 1780 when James Hickey started the 1st ever newspaper in Indian history, The Bengal Gazette. His press was seized just after 2 years of operation for his open criticism of British policies and exposing the corrupt behaviour of the officials.
But that was a long time ago. Press has come a long way since then, we have come a long way since then. We are a free country and freedom of speech and expression is one of our fundamental rights. Unlike the pre-independence days when the press was responsible for influencing major public opinions, and that too against the malpractices of the British rule, the post independence era was totally different. In the beginning the press was mainly concerned in informing people about the government policies and drawing the attention of the concerned authorities towards the various public issues. Broadly speaking it was a channel of communication between the two, acting as a loudspeaker and enunciating whatever happens. But this honeymoon never last for too long. Very soon once again public opinion, affected hugely by press, emerged as a strong current with which the country’s rulers struggle. Time passed, world changed and so does the media.
In this race of ‘me first’ and the bout for TRPs and circulation, media reports anything and almost everything. Not even the slightest of detail about the report is left by them. Open any news channel or for that matter pick up any newspaper, and one can easily find all the news items in each and every one of them. When one sees these news channels or read newspapers then certain things, inevitably come to mind. Like isn’t this amazing that the amount of news happening everyday around the world is exactly enough to fill in the newspaper completely, or to cover the 24 hours of broadcasting the news channels. Moreover the news item being shown on the channels and the one in the papers is more or less the same, with hardly any variations [talking about the Indian newspapers and news channels only]. On this one can conclude that, either these were the only happenings around the world, that’s why the entire media reports them, or that there is some kind of general consensus among all the rival publishing houses and the media groups on what is to be published, reported and what not to. No problems with the former case, which sound a little absurd, but if it’s the latter one then we really need to think on various aspects of media which nowadays is influencing our life and the complete thought process to a great extent.
People in general today have a certain set of beliefs regarding the role of media. For instance a common perception being that having so many different media groups and various media intellects working on a news item provide us with all the various angles associated with the issue. It is helpful for analyzing, contemplating and scrutinizing news and hence reaching a conclusion. Sounds good! But if we look at these “different and all possible” aspects of various issues surrounding us and the kind of reporting which the so called “intellectual class” of the journalists put forward, then they have something very interesting to note. Pick up any news which is doing the rounds. Lets say the recent exit polls about UP assembly. All of them reported a hung assembly and the number of seats which they gave to each party was more or less the same. NDTV gave the Bahujan Samaj Party between 117 and 127 seats after its last exit poll. A slight margin of error is acceptable in such predictions. But to get the number wrong by 80 to 90 seats is really astonishing. It also gave Congress between 35 and 45 seats. But the actual number was almost the half. They projected the BJP with the allies getting between 108 and 118 seats. Others were not much better: Star TV gave BJP a very precise 108 seats. But to the exit polls dismay and BSP’s delight the actual figures were less than half. Even if one remembers the time of last general elections, every news channel and paper predicted BJP emerging as the single largest party and NDA retaining the power. But what happened was, as they say is history. Doesn’t this sound weird? Well not only the exit polls, but if we talk about any issue on which the “intellectual class” has a point of view then they all have striking similarities and as a general rule of profession they hardly disagree with each other. One wonders how come all the intellectuals think and perceive matters in exactly the same way?
From all this what one infers is, that the media might have come of age, but it still is a loudspeaker. An echo enters this loudspeaker and it amplifies this echo to such an extent that one can only hear it and nothing else. The “intellects” associated with it, have the same things to say, similar conclusions to reach and put forward an opinion which nowhere gives you the so called different aspects of the issue. Its really sad to see the media which once was responsible for giving radical and revolutionary thinking to the people, has merely turned into an amplifier with its leading lights talking something which hardly reflects any intellect.
Perhaps it’s time that these intellects of our country be given some intellect