An excellent analytical article about the recent NOTW fiasco and its analogy with the Indian media. A must read for all.. Please find the article appended for your reference.
Why smirk at Murdoch when our media has much to hide?
Few people love Rupert Murdoch, boss of News Corp. Old-time journalists dislike him for throwing the old rules on how to run newspapers into the dustbin. Politicians and celebs detest him for what his tabloids do to their reputations. The Brits hate him for being an Aussie who took over their newspapers but still stayed out of reach by becoming an American citizen. Above all, he was heartily envied even by the power elite because he was seen as too powerful even by their standards.
He ranked 13th in the Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people. Put another way, only 12 people in the world had no reason to envy his power.
This is why the proceedings of British parliamentary committee to probe the News of The World (NOTW) hacking scandal had everyone salivating at the prospect of tearing into him. In the event, the grilling failed to give anyone much pleasure, for Murdoch stuck to his guns and stoutly denied any knowledge of the illegalities happening at NOTW.
The MPs had to be content with an apology, and promises of compensating the victims of the hacking done by NOTW journos. Unless someone high up in the NOTW hierarchy rats on Murdoch, he is safe. The only bit of excitement came when a comic protestor smeared Murdoch with shave foam, and Murdoch’s Chinese spouse clouted him on the head with much gusto.
The Indian media watched the fun on their TV screens, but missed the irony that the joke was really on them. If any media fraternity needs to be sorry and self-introspective, it is India’s. I heard few mea culpas during a Times Now debate on the subject on Tuesday, where everything from paid-news to sting operations was mentioned but glossed over.
What is clear is that the Indian media – despite some obvious strengths and pockets of ethical behaviour – has become complacent and superficial. It can also be easily manipulated by vested interests.
The paradox is this: the media still breaks the big stories, but most of it is the result not of hard investigation, but political leaks generated to damage others. This is fine, upto a point, for media should go for a story and not worry too much about the motivations behind the leaks. But here’s the problem: it never gets to the root of anything.
The 2G scam was visible in early 2008 to all telecom reporters. But they did little. The Radia tapes suddenly found mention in parliament early last year, but nobody followed it up. It took the CAG report in the second half of 2010 to really give it traction. In short, the media did almost nothing to unearth the scam; an arm of parliament did the real work for it.
Worse, the media never tried to figure out who could have wanted to trap Niira Radia. It fell silent when another leak – this time targeting some media personalities themselves – was unleashed as a warning signal from the political establishment. The media clearly has too much to hide to really go after the crooked and the corrupt. This is also obvious from the ease with which the media first lionised, and then quickly turned against, Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption crusaders. Granted, Anna has a few bizarre demands, but would we rather believe him or government spokespersons?
The fundamental reason for this media failure is simple: large parts of it are simply unviable. Normally, this should see the weaker players being sold or merged, but they are still run because they serve collateral, often political, purposes. Almost every regional media group is politically aligned, and this makes media the key focus of political investment.
When Jaganmohan Reddy, YSR’s son, wanted to launch Sakshi, he could shake several hundred crores out of many businessmen with ease. If media is fundamentally unviable, why would businessmen give money unless they are armtwisted or given special favours by politicians in power? Quite obviously, there is a quid pro quo, and journalism is hostage to this incestuous relationship between politicians and vested interests, not to speak of criminals.
Many people blame the internet, which gives everything for free, for the print media’s predicament, but this is not quite true. The fact is even newspapers are effectively free. Consider the economics: A newspaper priced at Rs 2-3 a copy actually costs Rs 12-14 just for the printing and the paper. Since most of the cover price is handed out to hawkers, the reader is essentially paying the hawker for home delivery. It is the advertiser who pays for all the content. Is it any surprise the most of the content is tailored for corporate needs?
The situation is not any better with TV channels. Most news channels are free-to-air, but it costs huge amounts of money to run the operation, with high-priced anchors, news reporters, camera crews and outdoor broadcasting vans that can reach anywhere. Businessmen think this is all we need for a good TV show – cameras, presentable newscasters, and OB vans and equipment. But good journalism does not flow from investment alone, it flows from commitment and ethics. This cannot be guaranteed when TV news channels are as dependent on advertising to survive as newspapers. The money needed to invest in good journalism is simply not enough or not there.
Continued on the next page..
Please find appended the link to the complete article for your reference.
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