While the rising brigade of “corporate media” is more than just visible, especially in the campaign of Modi-fied BJP, the subtle, but overwhelming need to do what the management likes is apparent in most media coverage. This was the bone of contention at a panel discussion on “Media and the Political Process: Impact and Influence.” Moderated by Barkha Dutt, this discussion turned out to be a heated debate on media ethics and credibility.
“Everyone (TV/newspapers) wants to be popular. Is it a trap? Are journalists weakening their own credibility?” Swapan Dasgupta, senior journalist and political commentator questioned. “The need to do what the editor likes or wants has rendered journalists powerless,” he added.
To this, Siddharth Varadarajan responded by stating that “Most media houses are not run by professional editors. It is the individual personality of the editor that makes the difference. In most cases, reporting decisions are not taken by journalists. There is a lot of external bias involved.”
In the present state of things, when the media management rarely ignores the power of money and politics, maintaining of impartiality and objectivity has become a very difficult task and the need of the hour is to safeguard the sacred divide between propaganda and journalism.
Shiv Visvanathan, Professor, School of Government and Public Policy, Jindal University, stated that media, at present, is extremely vulnerable. News, as it gets instrumental, becomes more vulnerable. “On one hand, you need an audience or a market that you can click with, and on the other you have to abide by internal rules,” he said.
“The fight here is between being relevant and being effective,” noted Mrinal Pande, senior journalist and former chairperson, Prasar Bharati, further adding, “Journalists are increasingly facing a choice between writing to please the readers, or to report what is relevant. They end up fighting competition—hence pleasing the readers.”
Looks like in this kind of a market, attempting to maintain impartiality and objectivity by a media outlet has become a difficult proposition.
The panel discussion took place at India International Centre in Delhi yesterday.