Is Indian media becoming shallow? Yet it is. Which of the two: the print media or the television channels. The answer is both. The print media is becoming unbelievably shallow, giving space for non-news, pictures of seminude females and those attending social evening get-togethers. Page after page is splashed with colours. Nobody seems to care. Nobody, really? Well, not quite.
Reading Freedom First (March 2014) is now, at least for me, a must, if only because the contributors dare to tell the truth. In two consecutive issues Dr Ramesh Babu, a specialist in International Relations has discussed Dr Manmohan Singh’s performance (2004-2014) in glaring terms. The March issues runs a lengthy commentary on the media, by Firoze Hirjikaka who is on the journal’s Advisory Board. As he sees it “a major drawback of the media encouraging and giving publicity to antagonistic non-issues is that it lets our bankrupt politicians off the hook.” And he is so right. Hirjikaka draws special attention to a ‘historic’ interview broadcasted by Times Now channel on January 27 featuring Arnab Goswami and Rahul Gandhi. As Hirjikaka saw it, the episode illustrated “how shallow the Indian media has become in its relentless quest for controversial headlines, even if it is at the expense of hard news.” Says Hirjikaka: “Even worse, it had influenced the mindset of political parties and their spokespersons. Ever hungry for publicity they have realised that it is controversies and incessant attacks on political opponents – rather than achievements – that gets them on the television. And they play shamelessly to the public gallery.” Incidentally, Hirjikaka, a stern critic of Narendra Modi has some nice things to say about him. As he put it, “one may not be enamoured of Narendrabhai but one cannot but gasp in admiration at his speechifying. He has perfected the art to a subliminal level.” Says Hirjikaka: “Modi is a politician for all seasons. He instinctively gauges what a particular audience wants to hear and adroitly tailors his address to suit the prevalent temperament.” Hirjikaka is particularly charmed with Modi’s one liner, such a one when Modi said: “Chidambaram has come from Harvard, but I have come from Hard work.”
A problem with the print media is that it does not want to publicise what has gone in TVs with the result that an average citizen who cannot possibly have all the time to watch the channels, all of them, is deprived of what an interviewee has told his interviewer. Indeed it seems that reporting interviews in toto has become No-No.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) meanwhile, continues to draw strong criticism from the print media. According to The Asian Age (March 27 ) “the AAP’s fundamental weakness is that it is yet to stake out an ideological territory for itself, unlike the Congress, the BJP or the Left” and, “in order to appeal to voters, it is trying to be all things to all people”. As the paper sees it Kejriwal seems thoroughly confused raising doubts over whether he was in favour of FDI in retail. “The seeming contradiction” said the paper, “arises from the AAP not having done its ideological math.”
Meanwhile, here in India, the resignation of US Ambassador Nancy Powell has been well received. She should have quit a long while ago. Considering her involvement in the Devyani Khobragade affair. Said the Indian Express (April 2): “Though the Obama administration has refuted reports that she (Powell) has resigned because of differences with it, the move cannot be without political significance. The US has been interfering in the internal affairs of India and using diplomats for political leveraging. Many of its ambassadors work more like political players than serious diplomats. It is indeed time the Americans choose ambassadors who shun politics and don’t discriminate between elected representatives of the people of India.”
According to ToI dt. 4.4.2014 “To end an unnecessary quarrel, both sides can agree not to press charges on alleged visa fraud issues or other minor legal violations… The US could agree on common interpretation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular relations that would protect Indian diplomats from petty harassment and prevent the recurrence of Khobragade-like incidents.” All that one can say to this is: ‘Amen’.
(The writer is a senior journalist and former Editor of Illustrated Weekly)