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Is Katju’s Media–bashing Justified?
John B. Monteiro
There is a debate raging in this country on the remarks made by justice Markandey Katju, the new chairman of the Press Council of India, about the way the media is functioning in this country. Among other things, he has remarked that the media is not seriously addressing the main issues which are socio-economic in nature but focusing on happenings and events which do not have much relevance, importance and don’t contribute to the progress and development of the Indian society. Justice Katju has substantiated his arguments by explaining how the media played a prominent role in the transformation of Europe from the early despotic rule, under which Europe suffered, to the modern industrial and welfare state.
Justice Katju’s laments about the electronic media devoting a substantial time to the glorifying of commercial films, cricket, fashion fiestas, reality shows and the like are justified when one sees excessive coverage given to the glamour and glitter of the Bollywood tinsel town and the excessively hyped cricket games have been literally turned into a national mania that have been eroding the sanity and creativity of the youth of this country. What should have been a pastime for the millions of young people in this country has been turned into a major obsession. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to believe that quite a bit of precious time is spent in watching, discussing and debating the superfluous aspects of these projections across all sections of the society.
It’s not to say that cricket and the films are unimportant but the question is, in a country where more challenging issues of poverty, unemployment, malnutrition, lack of education, corruption, social and economic oppression are eating into the vitals of the nation and obstructing the genuine development and progress needed to pull the country out of the quagmire, what should be the role of the media? If the media has been instrumental in creating icons and demi gods out of cricket and film world and thereby enhanced their fortunes to inconceivable levels by roping in the corporate world, can they not commit themselves in equal measure to the resolution of the socio-economic issues that are crippling the growth of the nation? Justice Katju is dwelling on this point if I understand him right.
Everything is driven by commerce today and so is the media. Because nothing comes free. A newspaper or a TV channel cannot run doing social service alone. The print and the electronic media need commercial advertisements to sustain themselves.
Advertisements themselves cannot sell. A good media is one that intelligently combines commerce, content, news and information. And this way the media delivers and achieves its objective. But what is the role and purpose of media? Is it just to gather news and communicate intelligently, increase circulation, or function as a watchdog of the society? Looking at the way the newspapers and TV channels are competing with one another it seems they are more in the race to gain one-upmanship over the rest of others than being a watchdog.
The fact of the matter is that on a debate of such a crucial issue there cannot be one-dimensional view. It’s a topic which requires a greater understanding such as the socio-economic and socio-cultural processes including the historical developments that have contributed to the growth of Indian journalism. Unlike Europe India did not go through the horrors and inhuman cruelties unleashed by the despotic rule during the couple of centuries prior to Industrial Revolution. The religious tolerance practiced by many benevolent kings was responsible for the growth of congenial social attitude and a progressive outlook among the intellectuals in India. Similarly, poetry art and literature flourished here. William Bentinck and Raja Ram Mohan Roy started a movement that led to many a social reform in India.
Many great philosophies and religious thoughts that took their birth in India have over thousands of years subliminally permeated through the conscientious of millions of people that belong to different cultures and religions. That’s the reason perhaps why we don’t see much of the transgression or assault by one people onto another, one culture on another. Not indifference but non-interference is the quintessential mode of an Indian thought. Tolerance has taught us many things including self-regulation. If the media has overstepped and crossed the limits of the people’s patience such over indulgence, it will be rejected by the society. The gory acts of violence, sex and action in the films are no more accepted by the audience even if they are censored by the government agency.
Similarly the overkill of cricket and Bollywood films followed by Tollywood, Kollywood and sandalwood will meet the same fate. If not now, later, when their cup of woe is full.
Justice Katju can well rest assured that his justly warranted grouse against the over indulgence of the media, which he has pointed out, will be outwitted by the wise Indians.
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Over to you.
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