Writing in the The Indian Express (March 11) its editorial adviser T.J.S. George in his front-paged column asked a relevant question. He said: ?Who, really, is Arun Nayar? More to the point, who really cares?? And, for good measure he added: ?Our media thinks that this man and his marriage are topics of the greatest importance to humanity, when, in fact, it is a matter of the utmost unimportance, the saturation coverage shows how the media has made itself irrelevant in many ways. It has lost even the ability to feel ashamed of it self.? How sadly right he is! The tragedy is that hardly anyone protests. Instead there are even efforts to defend the morons who bring out our daily papers.
There were at least two letter in The Hindu defending the coverage given to the Nayars. One writer said that giving wide publicity to such marriages will attract more ?marriage tours?; another reader felt that this is the best way to spread Hindu culture?that there is something unique in the saptapadi, which is attractive to foreigners who must be encouraged to get married in India.
If the western world can outsource commercial transactions why can'tit outsource marriages as well? Perhaps Shri George will provide the answer. According to him, though, marriage has become ? a globalised vulgarity?. And he couldn'tbe more right. But tell that to our media overlords.
In recent times there have been cries from anguished readers that something must be done to control the media. As a matter of fact, as long ago as July last years, an official committee had drafted a comprehensive set of guidelines suggesting a series of do'sand don?ts for the broadcast media. A separate chapter on News and Current Affairs dealt in detail on how broadcast journalists should go about their work, including sting operations. The draft sought to replace the age-old Programme and Advertising Code.
Emphasising that infringement of privacy in news-related programme is important, the guidelines specified that when the media carried out a sting operation, it should be able to justify its undercover operations as ?warranted? in public interest. A section titled ?Privacy? elaborated how a Broadcasting Service Provider (BSP) should avoid any unwarranted infringement of privacy in news-based programmers.
As The Indian Express (July 4,2006) specifically noted, the section spelled out a 16?point do'sand don?ts for the media making it clear that channels must not use material relating to personal or private affairs unless there was an identifiable public interest reason for the material to be broadcast. As the draft put it: ?If the reason is that it is in the public interest, then the licensee should be able to demonstrate that the public interest outweighs the right to privacy.?
What has all this got to do with the Arun Nayar marriage? It was not a sting operation by any manner of means. In fact, one suspects that Arun Nayar exulted in the publicity he received in the Indian media. Was there any infringement of privacy involved in the proceedings? None that one is aware of. In any event there was no complaint by Nayar against the media. Indeed, one suspects that the news-makers went strictly by the Code which lays down that any infringement of privacy in the making of a news-related programme should be with the person or organisation'sconsent or be otherwise warranted. One can be sure that Arun Nayar and his foreign wife were delighted with the free publicity they received. It is now for the media to ask itself whether it is over-doing some things which are permissible but, in the end, turn out to be a case of vulgarisation of the profession. The media, for all that, has a job to do. And this was, interestingly enough, outlined by the new Chief Justice K.G.Balakrishnan addressing a meeting in Kochi (Hitavata March 7).
The Chief justice of India was pleased that the media (newspapers and electronic) is taking greater interest in court proceedings and the decision process of the court. As he put it: ?About five years ago, we (only) got one or two columns about some cases won but now in all the media the major news items are about the court?.it is a good trend?.? The Chief Justice of India was little too generous about media coverage of courts, considering that only sensational proceedings are covered, but let that go. He was probably trying to be nice.
The courts are seldom covered fully unless some murder cases are involved or is some celebrity. Coverage for the sake of coverage to bring out the essence of court judgements is rare, if not non-existent. Justice Balakrishnan wants the media to draw attention of administrators and policy makers of the country to the ways of improving the judiciary. There is one obvious way: Establish more courts all over the country to set up a process of quick justice. There are literally thousands of cases over a decade old and there are not enough courts to handle them.
Shri P.Chidambaram has probably forgotten that fact, while drafting his budget. One cannot blame the judiciary system. It has a very poor infra-structure to which little attention has been given. What is interesting is that Justice Balakrishnan'sspeech made in Kochi received coverage only in Hitavada which is in itself an eloquent commentary on the nature of our media. To many newspapers Justice Balakrishnan does not merit coverage. Arun Nayar does. And that speaks volumes for our newspapers.
But, wonder of wonders, attention was given by Hindustan Times (February 27, 2007) to a statement made by the Japanese Cultural Counsellor in Delhi Shigeyuki Shimamori who said that Japan wants to encourage the study of Hindu gods and goddesses and that Saraswati, Laxmi, Brahma, Ganesha are among the many deities revered in Japan and that Saraswati in Japan is one of the seven lucky deities blessing every home, known as the patroness of writers, composers, musicians and painters. At least that is more enlightening and comforting news than the marriage of Arun Nayar. The paper also quoted the Director of the International Academy of Indian Culture, Lokesh Chandra as saying that ? a 12th century temple of Ganesha in Asa Kusa suburb of Tokyo has been declared a national treasure of Japan?.
So, all is not lost. There is still some hope for our Indian media which can think of something else apart from society gossip.