Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Indian media

For over half a decade now we are used to the rhetoric about the emerging superpowers India and China and how India, though much smaller and slower than China, has the democratic setup and independent journalism to its advantage.

While hypocrisy rules in the name of democracy, the so-called independent media is too weak and naive to be the watchdog that guards or restores the democratic values. The role of the media is all the more crucial when the masses are not enlightened enough to understand the complexities of the issues that will end up affecting their everyday life (eg. the union budget). But the Indian media has proven to be immature and incompetent so far. The article in India Together by Ramachandra Guha highlights the current status very well. But it doesn't really take Ramachandra Guha to point all this out. All we have to do is to watch the news channels and the writing is on the wall - big, bold, underlined and in uppercase.

For example, take the Indo-US nuclear deal. Now what would be the questions you and I want answered by the proponents if we are to decide for or against the deal? I thought about it for a few minutes, prepared a list of questions and tried to find some answers. Ideally these are the questions that the so-called distinguished media-men like Karan Thapar, Rajdeep Sardesai are supposed to ask the politicians when they manage to get them to the hot seat.
  1. Reports suggest that the most nuclear power would do Rediff: 8% TOI: 7%. Given that how can you justify the nuclear deal to be crucial?
  2. What would be costs in terms of natural resources used? Water, electricity etc..
  3. How will the consequent increase in the requirement of technical workforce (nuclear scientists, technicians etc) be addressed?
  4. Each nuclear plant is estimated to cost a lot and takes a long time to complete. What is the expenditure? How many nuclear plants will be constructed? How are the expenditure justified provided the return is insignificant and unguaranteed?
  5. What is the plan to dispose the nuclear waste safely?
  6. What is the estimated price of electricity when the nuclear power becomes operational? Will it increase, decrease, stay the same?
In other words, how will the deal help people?

Now when I searched for relevant interviews and articles to find out if any of them addresses the above questions, I found that most revolve around the political angle and focused on "how do you address what XYZ party's accusation" and "how do you react to abc minister's comments?". For example,

Rediff.com: An interview with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherji
CNN-IBN: Devil's Advocate - Pranab Mukherjee (pdf)

CNN-IBN's Indepth section on Indo-US Nuclear deal provides for the best example of the Indian journalism's lack of a sense of purpose. It is nothing but a collection of "Breaking news" that talks about a politician or a party . A few articles from the section..

Left accuses PM of telling 'blatant lies' in Parliament
Advani put personal gain above N-deal: Kapil Sibal

Not a single article really goes "in depth" into the deal, analyzes the 123 agreement or any other related document, interprets it and comes out with answering the question a common man would have.

The print media seems to do a better job than the television. Few artciles like this one in Times of India and this on in Hindu Business Line bother to expose people to some analysis. However, the larger fact still remains. The politicians get away with what they want to do and are not subjected to answering the questions that they are supposed to answer.

How exactly do we consider the Indian media to be an advantage?


Goli said...

Yesterday when I was seeing CNN IBN, there was this huge hue and cry over ministers who had cross voted. Some BJP leaders supporting the deal, as opposed to their party, and it was all projected as "supporting congress" and "not supporting BJP" rather then "supporting deal" and "not supporting deal". I found it very strange.

And you are so correct, even I have been trying to find out all the answers to the questions you have posted :).

Badhri said...

I was watching CNN-IBN too.. Its such a shame..the parliament, the MPs, Rajdeep Sardesai and the worst of them all Sagarika Ghose. She looked so naive and stupid when she went..."In 21st century India we have a lot of MPs who don't know how to press the button..."

That basically started the thought process that lead to this blogpost!