With all the industry conversations, closed-door broadcaster meetings with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Minister and the constant talk of self-regulation, industry regulation and the latest, co-regulation, one wonders whether news channels in India have matured. Whether the treatment of disgrace that news content was meted out with at any industry forum is no longer valid and whether we are finally at a place that Indian media is not taking its independence and freedom for granted.
10 minutes into any news channel over the last weekend, and the question mark is back again.
All one heard was about tennis player Sania Mirza and cricketer Shoaib Malik’s decision to marry. Every single aspect of this was discussed – right from whether Sania would now play for India or Pakistan to whether this marriage can be allowed since Shoaib Malik has been reportedly married once. The news channels even took it upon themselves to scrutinise the details of Malik’s past life on the matter. Is this news? Definitely. But is this non-stop commentary news -- one wonders -- is there nothing else happening in India?
I am not a sports buff so I follow neither tennis nor cricket with the passion that some of the other people I know do. But even for those avid fans, this kind of coverage was insensitive, and after a while, plain irritating. Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik are public figures, but shouldn’t somewhere the line between personal and professional life be drawn? And there comes the uncomfortable question – who draws that line if news channels conveniently ignore it when it suits them.
Not that nothing was happening in the last few days - External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, who had met his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Bangalore during the latter's visit to India in October 2009, was set for another visit to Beijing on April 5, 2010. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would be visiting Washington this week to attend US President Barack Obama's initiative for an international summit on nuclear security. Newspapers have been covering news of Maoist attacks, alerts in Srinagar and a lot more, but suddenly none of these were important for news channels.
The critics of the entire nation don’t take it too well when there are criticisms sent in their direction, but instances like these question self-regulation of news channels. Somewhere, perhaps news channels know this as well. If they don’t, one must worry some more. Do we want media that lacks such judgment? One just hopes that news channels remember that news, while reality, is different from reality TV. Any truth without compassion is only hostility. We tread that line, and then we blame TAM – not the way the Fourth Estate should behave.
(The views expressed above are my own. Please post your comments below or email me at NoorW@exchange4media.com.)