Thursday, May 31, 2012

మీడియా కమిషన్ ఏర్పాటు తక్షణావసరం

ప్రస్తుత మీడియా పరిణామాలపై ఆలోచించే, ఆవేదన చెందే వారిలో ఉస్మానియా విశ్వవిద్యాలయం జర్నలిజం ప్రొఫెసర్ పద్మజా షా గారు ఒకరు.  అమెరికాలో ఉన్నత విద్య అభ్యసించిన ఆమె ప్రొఫెసర్ హరగోపాల్ గారి దగ్గర పీహెచ్.డీ.చేసారు. ఆమె నా పీహెచ్.డీ.కి గైడ్ గా వ్యవహరించారు. ఆమె వల్ల నాకు మీడియా-ఎథిక్స్ విషయంలో పరిజ్ఞానం పెరిగింది. ఆమె భాషా పటిమ అద్భుతమైనది.  క్రమం తప్పకుండా మీడియా పరిణామాల మీద పద్మజా మేడం వ్యాసాలూ రాస్తుంటారు. 'ద హన్స్ ఇండియా' లో ప్రతి మంగళవారం ఆమె ఒక వ్యాసం రాస్తారు. మీడియా కమిషన్ గురించి ఆమె ఈ వారం రాసిన వ్యాసం మీ కోసం....రాము 
Needed: A media commission

In the midst of the Jagan drama in Andhra Pradesh, the report of the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) interlocutors has been made public. In their report submitted to the government of India, the interlocutors had much to comment on media and journalists in J&K for pursuing journalism as a political game rather than as a pursuit of fact.

The report also is quoted as saying: "Publishers have alleged that newspapers that do not toe the line are denied government advertisements. On the other hand, the government alleges that certain newspapers publish unsubstantiated stories and engage in a vilification campaign. Both these matters need to be investigated by a body like the Press Council of India or the Editors Guild of India."

The interlocutors are also quoted as saying that the source of funding of newspapers is also a matter of unhealthy speculation and the Press Council of India “alone can settle the issue.”

This list of comments can well apply to the media in Andhra Pradesh today, and, for that matter, much of the media elsewhere in the country. AP is not a border State. It is not troubled by cross-border terrorism. Article 370 does not apply to it. But, still, the media scene is riddled with similar problems. The roots of the problem obviously are elsewhere.

Anyone watching Telugu television news channels or reading ‘rival’ Telugu newspapers cannot but notice that the coverage is partisan and polarised on the channels and the papers with political affiliations. 
The lack of balance comes from the desire to fight to finish the adversaries. The unsubstantiated stories and the vilification campaigns are a part of the routine strategy in the turf wars; as in our great Mahabharata, all the contenders to power are essentially illegitimate but see themselves as the sole title-holders.

This apparently is the state of affairs in Tamil Nadu and other States as well, wherever rival political, business or caste lobbies have entered the media market. Most of the establishments ironically run training schools for young recruits and teach them high principles of journalistic practice. But the reality of their media product often falls far short of all tenets of journalism and completely lacks accuracy, balance and professionalism. 

One wonders what this does to the general ecology of the newsrooms and to the young men and women who work in them. A senior journalist in a private conversation recently confessed that the work environment is completely vitiated but one continues because of family and personal commitments. Journalists are thinking beings and the manner in which they are forced to be megaphones pushing their managements’ cause for a salary is intensely dehumanising. 

Some of them may be sold out, but the majority prefer to work under fairer conditions. And this is not just about compensation.
The tragedy is that regulators, like the Press Council of India or the Editors’ Guild, have been able to intervene effectively. The governments of the day have not conducted themselves with any degree of probity, either, when dealing with the media houses that play an adversarial role. 

Most have used advertising as a means to control media and showered out-of-turn favours on friends, be they individual journalists or media houses. Unless the media is subjected to standards of accountability by a strong ethics body, there is little hope for journalism in India. The Leveson inquiry underway in the UK, which is probing into the media-government-society relationships in the context of the phone-hacking scandal by Murdoch’s media empire, is one such exemplary exercise.

In the UK too it was found that the industry controlled Press Complaints Commission, which had no punitive powers, remained a mute spectator to gross violations of all journalistic ethics and sometimes criminal conduct of the media persons and corporations. 
In any such Leveson-like inquiry in India, one is sure some of the biggest political/corporate fish will stand exposed. 

Change in the role of the press from mission to business, vilification of rivals, scurrilous writing about castes and communities, indecency and vulgarity, even the declining importance of editors, are major problems that have been repeatedly identified since the First Press Commission (1954). 

The First Press Commission acknowledged that, by and large, the established newspapers maintained a fairly high standard of journalism. If there is any difference from that time to now, it is in the behaviour of the established players. Any inquiry into the media today will find it hard to make such a generalization as the ‘established’ players are in the forefront of violators. 

Those who maintain high standards of journalism are a dwindling minority caught in the dilemma of having to succeed in a highly unethical environment without losing one’s core values. It is high time that there is a thorough inquiry into the many skeletons in the cupboards of the media industry, covering a broad spectrum of issues from the unethical nexus between corporate houses, governments and the bureaucracy; dubious sources of financing of media enterprises; other business interests of the media houses and the need for answerability when there is a conflict of interest in coverage; extent and nature of advertising and so on.

It is clear, as it is in the UK, that neither the Press Council of India nor a body like the Editors’ Guild is able or willing to set the house in order. It takes a comprehensive inquiry, perhaps another Media Commission, to review the entire media business and to evolve a binding regulatory and ethical framework that meets the needs of the contemporary media scene. It is touching to see the faith the interlocutors placed on the Press Council and the Editors’ Guild. 

It is also revealing to see that whether it is J&K or any other part of India, the issues in media industry appear to be similar. The corporate media that are fattened on the spoils of a liberalised economy need to be re-educated to focus on the rights of the ordinary people instead of concentrating on installing friendly governments.
(Courtesy: The Hans India) 

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