Why this stereotyping?

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During feudal ages a “man’s home was his castle”. He could do whatever he wished to anyone who might trespass on his property, as the belief was that property ownership accorded full and complete rights of possession. However, the industrial revolution brought about changes not only in the general behavioural patterns of people but the legal system also changed with change in societal behaviours. Today, with a person’s influence no longer remaining confined to his or her “home” but impacting the society as well in a marked way, legality of any action is viewed against the backdrop of its impact on the society. Thus a person is no longer entitled to do whatever one wants to do with the one trespassing on his or her property, but there is a well-defined legal system that governs how a trespasser is to be dealt with. No one, as such is entitled to take law in his or her own hands, but it is the legal system which is the ultimate decider to determine whether any act is liable to be penalized or not.

Living in a globalized world where “man’s home” has widened to encompass entire globe, there are obviously certain technologies whose influence is so widespread that impact is felt in other peoples’ homes as well. Media of course is one such sphere of activity that wields enormous influence and those running and controlling different formats and sectors of mass media are certainly the most powerful people around. Going by the above mentioned analogy, members of the Fourth Estate are certainly not and cannot be allowed to wield power without accountability. They cannot be given “complete rights of possession” over the people comprising their sphere of influence. However, despite there being certain written laws pertaining to the media, much of the control and accountability springs from and is controlled from the strict precincts of one’s personal morals and ethics. Therefore, where the legal system leaves a lot for askance, the media professionals can be questioned for their ‘wrongs’ on moral and ethical grounds.

It remains a well-established fact that toys, tools and technology shape people’s experiences and their symbols. Given the reach and influence of various mass media, television for instance, people today live and grow in an environment that is and perhaps will forever be controlled and conditioned by communication satellites revolving the earth, countless cables, hundreds of channels and a ‘box of lights and wires’ called a TV set. To quote Edward R. Murrow of ‘CBS News’, “This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise, it is merely lights and wires in a box.” So more than anyone else, it is the people who man our television networks, both in terms of hardware as well as the software, who have the power to regulate this technology. As for the common people, the viewers, they have never been and will never be independent and powerful enough to manage it for themselves. If at all they can do anything, it’s that they can press a button on their remote control devices to snap a particular programme or switch over to something else. But as for as bombarding them with the messages in light and sound is concerned, it is completely in the hands of the television professionals who have the control over the content and the way it is packaged for the people to see.

It is very insulting to see a visible pro-right bias in so many programmes that are aired by various television channels these days. Be it the news and current affairs channels or the ones revolving around the entertainment, this bias is dominant everywhere. This is why people are treated to untrue and mutilated versions of history through historical soaps. In these operas it is quite disconcerting to see certain historic characters, like the Emperor Akbar and his ministers and generals from a particular faith community are shown as either overly foolish or excessively tyrannical while as their contemporaries coming from other faith backgrounds are shown as wise, upright, and valorous people. Though the makers cannot be legally held for this biased depiction as every programme in the very onsets claims to be a work of fiction – but it is also true that in this “fiction” too, the popular yet very divisive prejudices and stereotypes are propagated and promoted without any checks whatsoever. Now this is anybody’s guess that it cannot mere coincidence. In fact there seems a well-thought of and concerted game-plan and policy at play wherein the members of a particular community are deliberately portrayed as villainous. What is really unfortunate is that this has been happening for years and all those official and voluntary watchdogs, who are supposed to be the arbiters and regulators of television software, have done nothing to check and arrest this visible bias against a particular community.


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