Babu , Dipu Shaw , Sumiran Preet Kaur
It was an interesting occasion where esteemed journalists and aspiring journalists gathered to discuss and criticize the medium which they represent. The seminar on “Does the Media Care” was organized by AJK Mass Communication Research Centre of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and BBC World Service Trust. The esteemed panelists included the likes of Tarun Tejpal, Ziya us Salam and Prem Shanka Jha. All in the room, including the panelists and the audience agreed on one thing - media is becoming less concerned about important issues like development, environment and health. The first half of the session tried to answer the question “Is Indian media obsessed with celebrities and crime?
The key note address of Mr.Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka sent instant energy waves. The applauses in the room proved that his speech was received with full enthusiasm. He pointed out that the stories in media are corporate centric and there is a paucity of social coverage. “We don’t pay for the media, it is the advertisers who pay, what we see is what the advertisers wants us to see”, he pointed out.
Equally candid but more optimistic about the contemporary media scenario was P.N.Vasanti, Director of CMS (Centre for Media studies). She pointed out how the new trends in news coverage was all about crime and politics. She reminded the audience about the coverage of Sanjay Dutt’s trial and Bacchan wedding. Her references could strike a chord with the audiences as they were still fresh in their minds.
But the picture is not all dark. Pamela Philipose, director of Women’s Features Service admits that the phenomenon of marketisation and globalization is unavoidable but she feels that the new generation who will be entering the profession can reverse the negative trends in media. She referred to the audience, many of whom were students of mass communication and journalism and put the onus of responsibility on them. Senior journalist Usha Rai also agreed with Ms.Philipose and pointed out that there were spaces in the media that addressed developmental issues.
Interestingly Nilanjana Bose of CNN IBN considers that the media cannot be blamed completely. “We have crime all around us and there is nothing wrong in covering crime and celebrities. People want to see it”,she added. Rohit Gandhi, a TV journalist with Canadian Broadcasting opined that media organizations should be blamed for bringing up a system where viewers are mere passive consumers. Thomas Chandy, CEO of “Save the Children in India”, world’s largest independent Child Rights Organization said that the apathy among Indian middle class should be addressed.
The lunch in between the two sessions was not devoid of discussions on media. For Saira, a student of English (Hons) Jamia Millia Islamia, it was nice to see journalists as journalists and not as someone representing and defending their media houses. The audience was all pepped up to attend the second session. The second half of the session tried to answer the question “Why aren’t there more stories about health, science and environment?”
Prem Shankar Jha clearly stated that media being the fourth estate must act as an apparatus of nation building. Zia-us-Salam, senior assistant editor of The Hindu spoke about the divide between rural Bharat and urban India.
At one point of the discussion all the attacks were aimed at television. Amit Sen Gupta, Editor-in-Charge of Hard News, was critical of television journalism. “They neither investigate nor do they follow-up stories”, he alleged. But all the criticism was taken in a healthy manner. Navika Kumar fromTimes Now tried her best to put forward the other side of the story.
Ravi Agarwal, an environmentalist and founder of Toxics Link opined that “Media has certain responsibilities of nation building, shaping public opinion and awakening the mass.” In his view, environmental issues cannot be gazed in isolation, it has to be multi-linked with politics, society and economics.
Prananjoy Guha Thakurata, commentator and editor of “Real politic” ended the symposium with a positive note urging the young generation to celebrate heterogeneity in news. The applause from the audience showed that the young listeners were ready to take the responsibility.