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Random Forays: We have to compel the media to change

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 12-09-2020 Vivek Atray
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“Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end!" Thus go the lines of the immortal Mary Hopkin song. And they convey a truism which is applicable to many aspects of our lives: Changing times usually lead old timers to bemoan the passing of their halcyon days.

But in this write up I will focus on the turbulent times that the media has manufactured, much of it the result of its shenanigans and lopsided priorities. Gone are those golden days when upright and diligent media persons would earnestly go about their business of reporting fairly and objectively. Gone also are the days when the very dull but usually correct Doordarshan news bulletins would inform us without ever even pretending to entertain us.

There are many media professionals even today who proudly hold aloft the torch of propriety, professionalism and probity. But it is a well-known fact that a large section of the mass media, particularly the electronic media, has gone berserk in seeking narrow gains, thereby forsaking larger objectives that should otherwise be its focus.

Enough has been written and said about the abominable levels of debate which a few television channels dish out ad nauseam. They seem truly hell-bent upon adding venom to our minds and lives, come what may. Never is the tone of their so-called discussions even passable, as the French would put it. They are always loud, boorish, detestable and pathetic.

But why should the nation watch them for so many collective hours? Why are their TRPs so high? Do we as a people take pleasure in the voyeuristic process of tearing down people’s reputations? Is there no responsibility that the viewer has? How will such channels sell their shoddy wares if the people at large shun them for being intolerable?

Those media houses, particularly of the print media domain, which have avoided the temptation to profit by churning out utter trash, need to be recognised for their sense of rectitude. By calling a spade a spade and by focussing on the real issues of the day, of which there is no dearth, these valiant lighthouses are helping us stay afloat.

It is no secret that large business houses directly control media channels these days. And they clearly have their own agendas. By not reining them in, the establishment is causing grave harm to the society at large. If controls are not implemented or strengthened, the levels of mass discourse in this country will plummet to unfathomable lows. And they are already well-nigh on the way towards those hellish destinations.

A society which habitually focusses upon the real problems of the day, along with music, sports, the arts and creativity, would naturally be superior to one which zooms in on people’s dirty linen and criminal acts. The names of some fallen stars are being bandied about these days as if they have been a part of our folklore forever. Each sentence that people utter seems to contain their names, to the extent that one wants to avoid even mentioning them in this piece.

We the people are ultimately responsible for the leaders we throw up, for the type of mass media we consume and for the atmosphere that we continue to create for ourselves. Our focus as responsible citizens has to be on constructive dialogue instead of derisive bombardment of other people.

“Dearest TV media and vans outside my home. Please do not stress and work so hard!", advised Amitabh Bachchan recently. All of us should actually make it clear to TV channels that they are overdoing their act by far. If they would suddenly do the unthinkable and practise calmness, the mood of the nation would improve drastically.

As for me. I stopped watching the TV news long ago, much to the amusement of some friends. Why should I spend my evenings with channels whose despicable existence depends on how many people are watching them? I think my vote against them counts!

“Whoever controls the media controls the mind," Jim Robinson, American songwriter, said ominously. Let us make efforts to control our own minds, ladies and gentlemen, no matter who controls the media.

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