(Brig (retd) GV Reddi)
Visual media professionalism is at an all time low following the proliferation visual media channels – 798 TV channels as of July 2014. Similarly, print media professionalism too is waning – more than 70,000 newspapers registered. The latest is e-papers and journals. Mediocrity of media!
Alongside, spokespersons of political parties indulge in cacophony of the most despicable order. Most often, debates turn into verbal duels between spokespersons at the highest decibel levels to drown or gag each other voices.
The latest gory spectacle is journalists turned political party spokespersons pre-empting, muffling and gagging anchors even before the later initiates the debate and also during press conferences.
In retrospect, it is worst type of intolerance that is happening on daily basis in the visual media. Is it instant media hype or media gone amok or media vendetta on grand display into the drawing rooms and mobiles?
Intellectuals they may claim to be; but they do not behave in a sedate manner and maintain sanctity of debates. Intervening when the other person is speaking in a debate reflects height of immaturity. On the screen, they appear to be suffering from schizophrenia.
Spokespersons, more often than not, instead of sagaciously and succinctly covering salient issues in a mature manner, behave sardonically, spread scandalous claims, indulge in muckraking and make scathing attacks against each other. Quite a few among them indulge in skullduggery and subterfuge to divert the attention from the real issue.
Political leaders and parties are congenital lairs as per recent studies in USA. Only they differ in relative degrees.
So also, spokespersons of political parties, under directions, are liars and behave in a preposterous manner to justify their postures.
Viewed in the above context and content, the terms “Spin Masters or Street Fighters” may be more appropriate to categorize political party representatives appearing in daily debates in various visual media channels.
None can blame such absurd behavior of political party representatives. After all, they follow their “masters” atrocious behavior patterns in the so called “Temple of Democracy” – the ruckus inside and outside the Parliament day in day out when in session.
Ipso facto, everyone has mastered the art and science of acrimonious verbal assaults against each other – muffling voices by rabble rousing interventions and most discourteous to the sanctity of intellectual debate.
Like the incredible transformations in society in the name of modernization, media, too is undergoing extraordinary transformations. The only solace is that we are still a young and immature society and in an evolutionary or formative state.
Claiming to be professionals, editors, anchors, string of sub editors, newscasters, news reporters, journalists turned expert panelists and even individuals on the streets are not only covering news but also partisan and contentious views and value judgments.
“Breaking News” 24×365 and “Paid News” quite often makes headlines. Sensationalism governs news coverage. Self boasting as the “Number One Channel” rating reflects disgusting and deplorable order of hypocrisy.
From covering news, the shifts have been quite dramatic: views depending on patronage and ownership; partisan opinions to influence and sway sentiments and loyalties of people; conducting media trials donning all in one roles of judge, prosecutor, defendant, and jury; shaping and dictating policy making from skewed perspectives of editorial boards; and so on.
Media community goes under many categories: News reporters/newscasters, journalists turned expert panelists, freelance citizen journalists, sub editors/editors, anchors and so on.
Today, there are quite a few institutions that equip individuals for jobs in the media. There are Bachelor and Master of Communications programs offered in various institutions. But the focus is in communication skills so that they can cover and present events for the common man. Surely, a journalist cannot be just only a “Jack of all trades; and master of none”.
To become experts, however, they have to acquire additional knowledge – breadth and depth – in the concerned subject particularly to identify issues for debates and pass value judgments during concluding remarks. Such an expertise cannot be acquired overnight; but through long years of study and research of the concerned subject and personal experiences.
Credentials of quite a few experts, particularly national security or defense or strategic affairs or technology experts are suspect. Yet, they appear and cover issues out of context. Quite a few times, they give misleading or half baked data and ideas in support of their postulations.
Add to it, social media networks pouring vitriolic due to diatribe on internet by media.
In sum, the transformations in media are quite negative, disturbing and disgusting. Lack of professionalism is real among the spokespersons of political parties, experts appearing as panelists and the anchors/editors. Consequently, people’s sentiments, attitudes, opinions and behavior are traversing in a negative mode spurned by hatred spurned by media.
Their “Apex” organizations have dismally failed to bring about quantum transformation on a positive mode. And, the government is mortally afraid of impinging on the “Freedom of Press” out of fear of backlash.
If the vicious cycle perpetrated by media goes uncontrolled, India is sure to experience bitter hatred and violence on sectarian lines in posterity.