A ‘biggie’ of a national news channel called me with an unusual request last week. “Can you please carry details on what our channel is showcasing on Republic Day,” s/he pleaded. I didn’t take this request for the plug very seriously and got down to other polite conversation, but s/he persisted. And confessed that more than ever before, the media – specifically television news channels – needs to sport its patriotic colours. That they are pro-India, patriotic, etc. I am not going to tell you which channel s/he was from, but suffice it to say, that in my mind, it has never crossed my mind that the channel where the editor worked or, for that matter, any other Indian news channel is anti-national.
The media has played a crucial role in our independence. In fact, along with the on-the-ground struggle that our leaders – Mahatma Gandhi included – were engaged in, it was the print media that helped them mobilise the support of the masses. Since Independence, the media has forever backed successive governments whenever India has had troubles with its neighbours. Save the instances when there have been communal, caste or other social tensions, where our political leaders have played a dubious role, the media has always supported the Establishment.
Yes, there was no way in which the media could have backed a Lalu Prasad Yadav’s casteist politics, but we’ve made him into a hero for taking the Railways on the road to prosperity.
So, what do we in the media do as India celebrates her 60th Republic Day. Be thrilled that some from our tribe have been decorated with the Padmas. But, more importantly, resolve to continue doing our work as we always do and better than ever before. Perhaps there is need to reach out to our political and social leaders and educate them on how it was the government and the law-enforcers who messed up with the coverage of the Mumbai terror strike, and it wasn’t them.
There is also a belief that our media – and this also includes the entertainmentwallahs – doesn’t do enough for social issues. That we are more concerned about the Page 3 and profits than larger good. I agree that this exists to an extent, but frankly, there’s nothing anti-national about making monies. Yes, it’s vital to also look at ‘developmental’ and social malaises such as poverty, child labour and the like, but I would think the media is trying to be as responsible as it can be.
I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try and be up early on Republic Day and watch the parade. I did it last year, and can tell you, there’s nothing like watching all the floats and the defence might being showcased down Rajpath. There is no better social studies lesson than the R-Day parade. If only the commentary could be cooler, I’m sure even TAM would report healthy ratings for this reality show.