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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