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Dangerous media trial

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By: Amit Singh Kushwaha

The suicide case of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput is now converted into a media event by television news channels. Every day, 24X7 channels telecast the updates and organize TV debates on this matter. Without any judicial trial and decision, these channels have declared Rhea Chakraborty and her family as convicts. This is not a new trend in India. Mysterious and high-profile cases provide an opportunity for electronic media to turn it into an event.

The accessibility of fast internet connections, digital signals, technical devices, and computer software have enabled TV media for immediate coverage. At the same time, Television Rating Point (TRP) is generating competition between news channels. The news channels are covering sensationalism. The TV debates have turned into a place of hate politics where speakers are fighting themselves, indulge in abuse, and violate decorum.

Most of the news channels are not briefing public concerns and voices which are linked to the actual status of the country. The incidents that happen in small villages and towns do not attract them for coverage because rural areas are considered low TRP places. Serious issues that are faced by farmers, scholars, women, and youths are widely overlooked by electronic media.

During TV debates, anchors play biased roles. We have seen that TV channels promote the government and their ideology and interrogate accordingly. Actually, the presenter does not give enough time to reply and continually accuses the opposition spokesperson and his party. In one case, the Congress and the Samajwadi Party had stopped sending their spokespersons to the TV debates for some time. The political backing of news channels is highly evident.

In March 2020, At the beginning of a countrywide lockdown, news channels started the debates on Markaz and accused them of spreading of coronavirus in the country. Government spokespersons specially mentioned the number of coronaviruses cases related to Markaz. Some elements tried to introduce a villain of coronavirus to them. But after some time the news trends have changed because the news channels found a different topic for reporting. The impact of negative news on society remains for a long period and many times, people are moved by these steps towards criminal offense.

The sensitive issues are treated lightly by the news channels. The news, which relates to rape victims, capital punishments, and high profile deaths is gaining the attraction of everyone. At this time, news channels are not covering this responsibly. Live coverage of the news is also sensational. They are not following the guidelines issued by the government and honorable courts.

The News Broadcasting Standards Authority is an autonomous body set up by the News Broadcasters Association. Its aim is to consider and adjudicate complaints about the broadcasts. The functioning of this authority is bringing up many questions because the status of the news channels is not controllable at present. Every news channel is free to produce and broadcast programs on its terms. The complaints against news channels are never heard. It is indicated that viewers do not forward their complaints.

Media is considered as a fourth pillar of the democracy and it is a mediator between common people and the government, but this pillar is now collapsing. News channels are not questioning the government. They have stopped to listen to the voices of the common people and concerns brought up by the opposition. Nowadays, the media need to be more alert and responsible. The positive news of the media serves to pass on a new direction to the society. Therefore, by avoiding the blind race of competition, the fourth pillar of democracy can try to restore itself.

(The author is a rehabilitation professional and a freelance writer based in M.P. He can be reached at [email protected])

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