Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stories to tell, or stories to sell?

** Is the Indian media biased, irresponsible and like a wild animal out of control?

SMS Y to 54321 to vote Yes.
SMS N to 54321 if you are from Star News.

In a subject such as media, the terms quality and responsibility are interlinked. Often one would find that irresponsible matter, complete with all the masala is after-all of poor quality. That is the reality of Indian media today according to me.

Like so many of us, when I was in school, I used to be a TV addict. Because I was very lazy and dint have much else to do. Then I moved out of home and for the past four years of college, I stayed either in a hostel or a rented room, with no access to television. The only times I did watch TV, at friends’ places, were on the weekends when the football was on or during the IPL. Did I really miss much?

India is massive. What you and I think, might not find agreement with a majority of citizens. We must keep in mind the varying tastes, requirements and wishes of an entire country while attempting to answer a question like this, or rather dismissing it as a stupid question.

Which divides media into two categories. One : the entertainment media. Who should provide what the larger Indian audiences want like mentioned above. Responsible or not, they need people to watch their stuff. Two : The media we trust for the truth : For important current affairs that affect our lives. Like news channels. Unlike the previous category this form of media, before looking at what the audiences like, ought to focus primarily on the truth. The important stuff. Most probably the non glamorous stuff. But who are we kidding?

The entertainment section of the media by the way, also doesn’t find appreciation from me. Especially the dumb serials. But then again, the channels and the shows have their priority in addressing what the consumer needs. Imagine people from across the land wanting a break from their daily monotonous routines and wishing to see such dramas. Fair Play. Irresponsible yes. Due to the quality. But then they are in a genre where they can get away with it. The other category cant.

Saas Bahu serials actually target the best audience possible in my opinion. Awesome marketing strategies. You see, the boss of the house is often the ladies. :P So in the evenings, when a mom puts her foot down and says I want to watch my favorite serial, the others in the household have no choice. So the kids who have nothing to do then, and the tired dad from office would settle down on the sofa and watch what the boss is watching. So basically the serial that targeted one set of eyeballs from that particular house now has four. Genius. Haha. Such silly reasoning i had used before when i wroteabout the misplaced priorities of the Indian media in an earlier blogpost. On the same lines.

Jokes apart the average quality is actually way below average.

Our media is not as sad as in some countries of the world. Its 'free'. Yes. But haven't we taken it too far. After a certain point, doesn't it resemble a biscuit or soap (sorry for bad examples, please get the point) industry with new players entering everyday with crap. Atleast their biscuit counterparts might have a quality product. Obviously, the freedom is there to be exploited. The regulators perhaps are busy removing adult content from channels and not even interested in what other sub-standard products are shown.

Coming to the favorite whipping boy of this debate. News Channels. 24 hours mind you. Or scripted news. #Youprefer. I won’t be surprised if one day I logged onto this ’ No.1 Indian News Channel’s website’ and found an advert of a political party. Because few months back I actually saw a reporter blog about how the Youth Congress is the best organization to sign up for, on the same website. I wouldn’t be surprised if Manish Tewary disclosed his current address to be ‘CNN-IBN / NDTV studios.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if Rajiv Pratap Rudi is officially given the post of ‘Prime time National TV debater’ of his party, instead of the spokesperson tag he now has. Maybe we will also have a dedicated twitter correspondent reporting live from twitter in the future. New job profiles, new posts created, good for the country I guess.

I love debates, but 17 debates on 17 channels at the same time are more like an obsession now, rather than a necessity. Its like if you have a 24/7 news channel, you will have to compulsorily keep aside one hour for live debates. Some are thoroughly enjoyable and interesting, the rest are just time-wasting. Yellow Card please.

Less said about the hindi 'NEWS' channels, the better. 30 minute special show for Dhoni dyeing his hair black, or Shah Rukh Khan tweeting about his meeting with Shakira. Mockery of the free media? Responsible? Enough said.

I do not intend to go on a media bashing zone, even though personally I am shocked by them. But in a country we live in, I believe that hoping for a 100 percent free media, or even 100 percent independent ‘sections’ of media is difficult to achieve. The channels won’t come up if someone was not watching. Sections of the masses want such masala. Even in their news.

These channels, to their credit, have launched various initiatives that are significant. They have dug up important issues. And brought about action too. The election analysis, not having to wait for next day’s newspaper to find who won in the remotest corner of the country. Getting reports throughout the day of important issues. We just cannot do without it. Credit to them for all their good work. But then again, aren’t those their duty? Responsibility. Hence in such a world, the negatives would just overshadow the good work they might be doing. I feel too bored to even mention how these channels, in an attempt to go one up on the other cover real life tragedies and stick microphones up the faces of victims. Responsible and ethical coverage? We know the answer.

I wish the shocking content on shows, especially hindi news shows could be declared as criminal offense. How i wish The channels would be sentenced to 100 hours of community service, or in this case 100 hours of no-nonsense content. Wouldn't that be an impossible sentence to carry out for them? Haha. If another miracle was possible and we could don Pakistani hats for a day or so in this regard and then proceed on a banning spree, that would be nice too. :P

How about the other major forms of media?

During my initial college years in Pune, often I used to read some 'important' report and attempt to discuss it with my best friend there, who was a localite. She would simply dismiss anything I would say the moment I uttered that it was from a certain XYZ or ‘T’YZ newspaper. The feeling among the localites were so strong, I was amazed. Later on, I understood why. I found out that the paper in question had a 4-6 page supplementary edition celebrating Sharad Pawar’s birthday. Celebrating anyone’s birthday that had their loyalties towards the Congress or NCP.

Its an open secret , here in Calcutta, about which Bengali daily writes in favour of the ruling party. And which paper admires ‘didi’ more than ‘dadu’. Which channels you must watch if the ruling party has erred. And which channels you must tune into when the opposition is embarrassing themselves. Its fun really. LOL. When I was a child, my mom used to tell me about these alleged allegiances. If I was born a few years later, trust me I wouldn’t need anyone to tell me all this, so obvious it has become now.

Again, hoping for 100 percent unbiased opinions and no-nonsense is an idealistic thought. But just doesn’t seem right here. In the small newsletters we bring out in college etc, we put in stuff we actually wouldn’t put in an ideal scenario, but have to so that we can attract some more students.

Thank God for internet, and faster broadband connections. The savior. One would rightly say, just like the world wide web, even in television and print media, you have the option of rejecting the ones you don’t feel are upto the mark. I agree. But then, a lot of Indian households don’t have that 2nd TV set. I feel even though it’s in our hands to see what we want and dismiss what we don’t, nothing compares to the internet in this context. It is bigger than everything else.

“** At this point, since we are running out of time, and the advertisements have to be shown, let’s see how the votes have come in. Slight majority saying YES, and we always poll only in the metros.”

What to do ? Clueless.

How can we improve? The problem is that if such standards are maintained or further lowered for a reasonable time frame, children grow up with them. I grew up with television. It influenced me. We obviously need better people heading media houses. I don't know what else really. Cut down on nonsense time fillers. Some regulation limiting the launch of channel after channel. Public debates are a good way to go deep into issues, but only when necessary. Not like a compulsion. The journalists on the field must not be under orders to get whatever you can. And that too before anyone else. They must be briefed to get stories that are relevant. That add value. Fun and games are always refreshing though, a good laugh is always welcome in serious media.

I love the way the movies are made in India nowadays. Atleast some of them. That is also a form of media. The Anurag Kashyaps use this vast platform constructively to tell beautiful stories. Movies influence and touch us so much. But cinema is misused too. Probably to write off black money or whatever. Haha. Jokes apart, I mean some movies try so hard to be good that they are awful. Especially the ones starring rich kids of filthy rich producers. So what matters is what kind of people are in the business. Who are leading these films. How much talent and honesty they have. That goes a long way indeed in determining what the quality of the end product is. This is comparable to our news media.

Like the name of my blog suggests, I am an inhabitant of Planet Media. And so are you. Good thing is, we got remote controls with us. Thank God for that.

The power of the media to influence minds and bring about changes are infinite. And we all know what comes with great power. One last thing, popular media also to an extent reflects the state of the nation. And its' people. India is no different. The popular media could be a mirror.

In mainstream media today, the only ‘news’ related things that are absolutely true to their name are FakingNews and The Week that Wasn’t. :) That's it.

Pringoo product.

Part of a Blogadda contest : Is Indian Media, misusing its freedom?

Image source :


  1. Kind of saw this one coming from some time...Strong contender for the contest...Good work and Good luck :)

  2. chek out da afternoon weekend programming on ndtv and bbc.ders nothng like it.simply brilliant shows.

  3. very true -our media does not care either about the quality or about the responsibility-

  4. fully agree with u.. media people should open a chat-shop.. actually dey forgot deir job

  5. Nice one! One of the better entries in the contest :)
    All the very best, and I loved the title of this blog!

  6. thanks so much... :) :) appreciate all the comments. :)

  7. Apt title and a unique way of putting your thoughts..

    I wish you a good luck

    Saravana Kumar - Is Indian Media Misusing Its Freedom?

    Yours Frendly,
    Saravana Kumar M