24/7 News Channels and Opinion Polls in India – do we want this ?

With cable television these days, in India we have 11 English (excluding the international news channels),  45 Hindi, 7 Assamese,  21 Bengali, 7 Gujarati, 10 Kannada, 8 Malayalam, 8 Marathi, 5 Odia, 12 Tamil, 31 Telugu and 27 other regional news channels running 24/7 and these numbers are increasing day by day. Surprising, isn’t it ?

Just wondering whether these many 24/7 News Channels in India are really serving and creating an awareness or adding salt to our ever increasing list of wounds. Let’s dissect this further…

With the changes in life style, requirements and tastes, both the number of news and the news makers are increasing day by day. This has increased the competition for audience which brings the advertiser’s attention. With money and virtual power flowing and the ever increasing number of news channels, the competition increases and in the process, the channels attempt to deliver the latest news in the most compelling manner, such that they remain ahead of their competitors. In simple terms- increase the Target Rating Point (TRP) by any means.

Further, to rise up the ladder, every channel wants to show sensational news and to show them first; sometime no-news becomes sensational news and a minor incident becomes a national talking-point. For every small or big news item, there are interviews, live debates, public opinions, etc. It does not end there. Most of the debates and opinions go to the extent of media trials and passing of judgements, without verifying all the facts and figures or fairly hearing witnesses, and sometimes even before the matter is taken to the Courts.

The journalistic standards have also gone down. Instead of the ideal reporting, which looks for relevance of the news, verification of the facts, depth of the facts, quality of interpretation (in both language and material), these days we see mostly opinion-based news, which mainly sensationalize the facts. The quality of interpretation is also very poor (in print media – grammar mistakes are common, language and writing style is some time derogatory and pathetic; so also is in the electronic media including TV). Some channels always show the negative side of the society or country or put us in bad light all the time. It is like showing the poverty and backwardness of India through movies and winning international acclaims; showing poverty and not helping to eradicate poverty cannot be treated as an art !!

Coming to live-telecast of news…This type of news has many faces – in some channels it is ‘Breaking News’, wherein somewhere it is ‘News Just Came In’ and so on. To make the ‘live-news’ more masaladar (spicy), reporters sometimes mislead and give importance to the non-important part because in their opinion that small episode can bring TRP – as the first channel to show such news. To an extent, sometimes these kind of news along with repeated clips put our safety at stake as in 26/11 – Mumbai !!

Then there are several recorded versions of the same news that are repeatedly shown like the molestation incident in Guwahati, the lured tribal dance in Andaman and Nicobar Is., clips of indecent behaviours, suicidal deaths, murder scenes, accidents, etc. Such  visuals can so much hamper our social security. Very specifically, I would say that repeated narration of certain crimes and mindless telecast of crime scenes (even if partially blurred) can impair human psychology and derail our general peace in terrible ways ! As we know, there has been so many incidents where after watching uncensored news, juveniles and children have tried to callously imitate certain acts, particularly suicides and many had tragic ends. And especially in families where there is already some sort of disengagement among the members or like in a nuclear family where both parents are working, children imbibe such negative content in an awful manner; it would in all probability remain with them life-long or worse still, may find their yet violent vent in some anonymous, untraceable form at a later stage !!! Repeated telecast of gruesome accident scenes can even make otherwise healthy adults nauseate and heart-patients fatally ill !!

Moreover, the ‘breaking news’ is mostly an old news and is of little importance. It not only is irritating but also creates a confusion as the scrolling headlines do not carry detailed information; rather are catchy masaladar news headings. Broadcasting the same news, same discussions and same interviews throughout the day and night ridicule the significance of the news.

On a technological note,  repeated telecast of makes-no-sense news is also a complete misuse of bandwidth !!

There are many instances of collusion by the channel, reporters, news readers and other influential people of the society which brings forth wrong, negative and paid news. Sometimes even due to pressure or money or some other deal, actual news which could have changed the fate of the nation or the society never gets broadcast; both the news and the news reporters are protected under the carpet as a fallout of the deal. This kind of news ‘making, breaking and stopping’ should be dealt with heavy hands as the self-restrain advocated by media house does not work all the time. Appropriate legal proceedings should also be taken against them !!

I am not saying all news items are wrong or bad and every channel is bad. And I am not asking to stay away from your fundamental right – ‘free speech’. What I as an aamjunta want is very simple: show us truth and balanced news – present both positive and negative aspects of the news along with the supporting reasons and necessary censorship, keeping in view the general human psychology. Instead of making us a passive news audience, make us an active one and help us to increase our creativity.  Help us in improving our country’s security, political stability, development and preserving its cultural heritage and integrity by showing some good documentaries, short-films, depicting both basic and innovative ideas regarding every possible sphere including education and health care, etc. And of course, certain telecasts must be suitably scheduled when children and youth could watch it best to widen their knowledge and concepts- so make it inspirational too !

The other is the Opinion Polls.

These could be also so misleading, especially for election analysis and predictions ! Let’s take a look at the following facts associated with it-

Firstly, it is opined by people having knowledge of and access to the click-and-mouse technology; are all of our rural or sub-urban folks able to use it ? No. Then how is the average figures, charts and the opinion sample itself being read ? If one says there has been door-to-door surveys, I think even then the counts are very limited and not well distributed !

Secondly, it is a time-pass for many people (some may not be adults) like those not having even a brief idea about national policies, politics, history, consequences of winning or losing an election, probability of parties forming alliances and the consequences of it, etc.

Thirdly, among the eligible voters, are all of these click-and-mouse technology users going to vote ? I seriously doubt; many will prefer to idle away in the comfort of their homes by taking a leave on the polling day and watching election analysis on the 24/7 news channels on TV !! …But almost all of the rural and sub-urban folks who have not even participated in these opinion polls, will surely take the pain and ride all the way to the polling stations even in scorching heat and dust.

Therefore, I believe whatever be the context, opinion polls too must be very thoroughly regulated.

The scholastic and creative journalism, the sensitivity of reporting and thoughtful journalism are actually one of the greatest needs of this hour; not ‘raise-the-TRP’ type of journalism !!!

Aamjunta, what do you say?

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12 Responses

  1. I seriously think the age of DD was good. These days it is completely commercialised. Feel pity about this.

    By the way, you have chosen a very good topic and have covered major points. Great.

  2. @Aam Junta, All of us under democracy (citizens, judiciary, politicians, administrators, civil society, army, police et.al.) have the right of expression but there is an exercise of control. Media is the only monster which has no such limitations. By no-means I am invoking the emergency rule here, but they are not under the ambit of responsible journalism. I am not a law guy, so not even sure if there is any law that limits the blatant and brazen abuse this freedom of expression.
    The biggest example was sometime ago when Kejirwal alleged the media of something immoral. I am not campaigning for AAP, but in any civilized society, that can be challenged in the courts, but the media hammer and tongs in the most vociferous manner as if something uttered was blasphemy. In democracy everything is subject to accountability, even the media; it’s time to ring this in their ears as well.

  3. very well written. It is a known fact that news and the readers are corrupted. Even if they want to present some useful news, they are stopped from doing so by the big shots. For example, in Andhra, many news channels are owned by political parties. These channels are bought and run 24*7 their party news and the news of their caste related actors. They boast about them and belittle other parties. The good deeds of other parties are ridiculed. Keeping all these infringment to the ideology of news propagation, I second your idea on opinion polls. Again there are many problems with this. For example, if you are asking a query about politics. People tend to vote several times for the person they like. Also only the educated masses can access to this sytem, who have a say, but how many of them actually go out and vote or revolt for a change? This also shows, how people tend to post about a issue in social networking sites, but in reality they do nothing. They are surely showing their agression in the virtual world but in the real world it is shallow.

    I dont know how this situation will change in good journalism, but government has to regulate this.

  4. Power does corrupt. Now Journo joined politics and started eating Aamjanta.

  5. Very true. These days many journalists have joined politics; some in the name of clean politics and some in the search of power. If the media is to be blamed for the state of the nation, then the government and particularly the UPA-II governemnt has to be blamed fully.

    The second point you mentioned is the 24/7 news. Should be stopped at any cost. Most of the times the 24/7 news is exploiting the free speech and some how responsible for many socital problems. There are some channels famous for fake news and there are some channels famous for their high lobby and reach with the top officials. Lets stop all these.

    In my opinion, India deserves much better and there should be reforms in politics as well as in the media.

  6. Oh my god, so many news channels in India!!! This is the age of information, but the way information is being misused is making the information into in-for-my-mission – simple power and money.

  7. Media is very much influenced by the legendary Satyajit Ray and show Garibi only. Media is equally responsible for the sorry state of our nation. And on opinion poll – it is very much biased and most of the time paid by parties. Should be curbed. Agree.

    But how?

  8. Very good analysis done here. Very matured writing.
    Journalists have an important role to play in the society, and they are expected to be balanced.

  9. Cool. Media has become bullish. It has tasted the sweetness of power and money.Should be regulated, not in the present way.

  10. It is a business for them as well :-(. Sometime back I wrote a post on how pissed off I am on Media channels…. You sound the same :-).

  11. This is a very important issue, which should be debated, discussed in the parliament and court before taking a final decision.

    The media is more biased than un-biased. That is a point, and I am sure my friends will agree with me. Three points I will mention here on my defence.

    1. Secular face – media is always biased and never shows a true secular face here. In the name of secularism like political parties they are also pro-minorities and play an appeasing show.

    2. Sting operations – Interesting. If they are unbiased then why did the old cables are coming now? Both in 1962 and in 1992, if they were aware of the things, then they should have shown before. Why now? Any motive.

    3. Election forecasting – nonsense. Every channel claims they are 100% right and unbiased, but we all have seen in the past. They are paid by the parties.

    From my experience – in Tamil Nadu both the channels owned by Amma and KN are abusing. Very bad. So also in Kolkata. Didi does not want any other news channel.

  12. Rightly said. Most of the opinion polls or exit polls did notmatch to the result. Then why is this drama – exit poll, suvey, debate and many more. Simple non sense.

    Media seems to be biased with their agenda; the biasing factor some times very big – depends upon the channel’s integrity and popularity. Whatever it is, some responsibility and positive attitude is required from the media.

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