Media freedoms must be responsible freedoms!

venkiah-naiduWe welcome the senior minister in Modi government for speaking out on certain sensitive issues like press freedoms. Our democracy today faces many challenges and distortions.

Sometimes, it is small media that behaves responsibility. Big houses are driven by profit and so many distortions set in. Press freedoms must take note of the pressures to sell and survive.

In the West, large print media names are closed down. In India the scene seems different. In totalitarian countries, there are official newspapers. In India, we see commercial interests distorts news, paid news is dished out as news. Media barons also hobnob with big industrialists and serve their business interest. We need a regulation of the big corporate buying into media ventures. This is another worry. So, we need to study, establish commissions to examine the many issues that face media industry that doesn’t serve the common man as we all imagine.

Today our ideas of press freedoms have completely changed. The old world ideas of press freedoms, as if the press had some dharma or morality to adopt.

We don’t have that environment in today’s world of all sorts of terrorism and violence and even other violent activities.
A recent report notes that India score high, the fourth place, in the worldwide rise in terrorist activities and the Maoists are mentioned as contributing to the rise in terrorist activities.

Also, our media industry has now become huge sector with nearly 900 TCV channels beaming all sorts of news breakthroughs and what not. Go to any language channel, the more the number, the more numbers the nonsense!

Yes, when you come to even the mature market like in Tamil, what you find is the ceaseless film series. Day in and day out it is only film series and what sort of films, all sorts, the more vulgar the songs and dialogues there more the visitors the series commands.  It reached a stage that recently the Madras high court has called for banning vulgar songs and dialogues as one case came up before the hon’ble court was about a teenager listening to a film song went on to commit violence, criminal act and the judge squarely blamed the TV channels broadcasting such vulgarity.

Tamil Nadu us a peculiarly corrupt society, a corrupt culture had gripped the film makers, the state is a heady mix of super stars are also becoming politicians, there are any number of film star-turned politicians. Dialogue writers also notorious to play the multi-act roles. As a result the culture, politics, film-making, song writers and actors and actresses turning to political party spokespersons.
What more you expect than plain stupidity when it comes to making quick money by a series of low-minded promises and deceiving the audiences when the films released.

And when it comes to mainstream news channels, only the owners seem to be again actors or men and women in power. So, all the news channels are not strictly news channels but only propaganda weapons. You get to hear only prejudiced, twisted plain brain washing!

So, strictly speaking there are no news channels operating on strict objectivity or even discussions by media experts or public figures.
The politicians never appeal and participate or answer questions. What sort of news you get?

No news, no analysis or any public commitment by leaders. The print media in Tamil(we take this particular language only as a test case)in no better. Again the tabloidization of the print media is almost complete and there is no other way ahead, it seems.
Here again you don’t see any free media operating.

The print media industry is afraid of the incumbent government in India. This is also so in even so-called progressive states like Kerala and West Bengal!

So, what leads to this press fear from press freedom? No values, no restraint on public conduct and hence you see some of the high profile corruption cases originate from these states!

And now if you throw in the terrorism issue there is no reliable reporting. To hide their business interests some print publications resort to too much religious reporting or sports, cricket is always the staple diet and the rest sometimes too many features like astrology, or pilgrim temples and so on.

So, the state of the media in India is very deplorable. The flow of information in many productive sectors, economy, industry and even culture, entertainment and leisure, travel are all left out.

Ironically press men and women, the working journalists face many hurdles. Some hurdles are defamation cases, privilege issues or sedition charges.

The Supreme Court came out against such steps government take to stifle the political opponents or take revenge against others who have some public interest in mind.

On the whole the new ideas voiced by hon’ble Naidu is welcome and we welcome new debates on press freedoms. Press freedoms in India has a long history. It started during the British days in the early 19th century. And so we have so many seditious laws!.

Now, in the new Independent India, we have to formulate a new policy. Let us hope Naidu would reform the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s structure. Debureaucratise, decentralise and liberalise!

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