‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has, in a party resolution, decried cross-media ownership and warned of the growth of monopolies in the Indian media. It has also slammed the corporatisation of the media, and demanded that the brakes be applied on foreign direct investment in the media which “has made a section of the media pro-western, anti-political and anti-communist”.

“The purveying of mindless violence, sex and obscurantism has grown exponentially with the proliferation of the electronic media,” the resolution said, adding that in the name of the freedom of media, “naked commercialisation” had become rampant, while “unethical practices” were being overlooked.

Serious charges, whichever way you look at them, and you would have expected newspapers and TV channels and websites, and journalism schools and University departments, to be jumping over each other to counter them instead of casting aspersions on the messenger or doubting his motives. Well, keep expecting, for all that has come by way of a response from the media has been silence—deafening and unanimous.

The former Harvard don, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who heads the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, alone among the intellectuals has offered a response in the Indian Express:

“The blunt truth is that there is a quiet crisis of credibility facing the Indian media…. On the surface, there is a simple story about accountability in Indian media. On this view, there is competition; and competition, we assume, produces accountability. But competition alone does not work on many dimensions.

“Although related, competition for advertising revenues is not the same thing as competition for the needs of readers. Both have different logics. There is a sense in which intellectual ambition is a genuinely public good, but is under-supplied by the market.

“The Indian media cannot be accused of a lack of diversity of opinion; equally it cannot be accused of having high intellectual, professional or aesthetic ambition for its outputs….

“It is a measure of the declining credibility of the media that almost no paper is widely regarded as a journal of record. As someone once put it, there are often more subtexts than texts….

“The Indian media has crossed into deeply murky ethical territory without even minimal public debate, self-reflection and media outrage. How deep conflicts of interest run in the Indian media, who is involved, what forms of advocacy or self-censorship these impose, ought to be a matter of grave concern. But what is astonishing is how little space there is in the media to acknowledge that there are serious issues here.”

Read the full article here: People’s media

SUCHETA DALAL: Forget the news, you can’t trust the ads either

P. SAINATH: ‘Conventional journalism serves the powerful’

CHURUMURI POLL: No to cross-media ownership?

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4 Responses to “‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’”

  1. Not A Witty Nick Says:

    Conversely, as it been proven before, pro-communist — The Hindu too, is unethical.

  2. Aatmasakshi Says:

    @ Not a witty nick: Is this about ideology? Pratap Mehta is not making a distinction between Commutwits or the Hindutwits. He is saying all the media are in this together. Notice the careful barb aimed at The Hindu: “almost no paper is widely regarded as a journal of record.”

    Indian readers, viewers and listeners are too caught up in their own lives and careers to notice how they are being taken for a ride by the jute press which has now become the “jhoot” press, which not only sells its editorial space for a fee but also has strings attached to the advertising space.

    In India, it seems to be as if the Indian media consumer has given up on the media as a harbinger of credible news and views. And it seems to be as if the powerful corporate media is so happy making profits that it thinks it need not address these questions of credibility.

    The fact that there has been no debate on the CPM resolution demonstrates what Mehta is trying to prove. QED. But like in a democracy, when we cannot afford to not ask questions, we, as readers, viewers and listeners need to ask why we are not debating these issues.

    If we ignore these questions or if we seek cover under own ideological biases, we play right into the hands of the media barons.

  3. Not A Witty Nick Says:

    It is not about ideology, CPI(M) should consider that before damning only “capitalist” media barons.

  4. Alok Says:

    Reading Khushwant’s autobiography you get, among other things, a fair idea as to how the media was being controlled by the companies that owned them and the Government of the day.

    As long as there is no monopoly over information distribution and access, I think we have little to fear about who owns the media. Especially true in this age of the internet.

    Let us also not ignore the ideological standpoint of the critique’s of the media today. By “independent” they mean Left-leaning and Government funded. They can’t, in a democracy, come out and call for Government ownership of the media, but they will happily take the next best thing: Purse-control.

    By arrogating to themselves the title of the “People’s this” or the “Common Man’s that” their unstated assumption is that they know what the “people”or the “common man” want, and they are therefore the best persons to decide what the media should and should not cover.

    What TOI is doing is in fact in the realm of capital markets regulation and more deserving of note by SEBI than churumuri.

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