Prof Pradeep Mathur
A few years ago when private channels had not become part of the ruling establishment a media savvy friend told me that some TV channels were showing stuff which was frivolous, cheap and objectionable.
I said I do not know.
“What you are a media teacher and you say you do not know this ? I cannot believe it,” said my friend.
” I really do not know this but how come you know this “? , I asked him.
“Well it is there for all to see. I see it there ,” he said still a little surprised that I do not know this.
” I do not know because I do not see this. Why do you see this bad stuff ? If you do not see you will have nothing to complain, ” I told him. Our conversion ended on this note.
I was trying to convey a simple fact to my friend. The fact is that media survives on audience which is oxygen to it. If audience ignores a particular channel, journal or brand of journalism it will die a natural death.
At present media is the favourite whipping boy of all educated and semi educated people in our urban society. Media has more spin doctors than qualified doctors in our entire health care system.. However, media literacy of these media lovers is unabashedly poor .
Many of these spin doctors and warriors for good media are on social media sites.They strive to seek limelight and besides projecting themselves and their families they also express their views which are often half baked , ill informed and partisan on issues of polity and economy.
Though reasons are many the fact remains that our mainline media is in a total mess. Something has to be urgently done to save it from a slow death in the interest of democratic aspirations of our people in general and protection of constitutional norms in particular. What is needed is a massive campaign to rejuvenate media– print, broadcast and digital. And for this campaign we need a a strong and enduring platform.
Can social media sites — WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and others provide that platform ? They have massive reach, high networking ability, easy operational mobility and zero cost input.
Unfortunately 90 + per cent posts on social media sites are plain bull shit — marriage and birth anniversaries, promotion of children from class 3 to class 4, expeession of thanks to some one , forwards of political propaganda and good morning mantras A big majority of those who write/forward such posts are those who criticize mainline media day in and day out and rightly so.
Even if 10 per cent of those who write frivolous posts on social media sites involve thenselves in an intelligent debate on problems confronting mainline media it will make a sea change in the scenario.
About two years ago I was external examiner for a group of post graduate students in CCS University, Meerut. A student told me that he was intern at a TV news production house where he was forced to give fake news in the TV clips and asked me what could he do about such things. I asked him to set up a WhatsApp group by the name Fight Against Fake News and involve some people to examine news items of doubtful credentials. The experiment has been successful.
Little do we realise that media is always in the hands of audience — readers of newspapers and periodicals, viewers of TV channels and videos and listners of radio broadcasts . If even 10 per cent of those who are on social media sites decide that they want good TV channels, good journals and good radio programmes those controlling these media organs will have to fall in line.
The time has come to shun cynicism and rise above petty political concerns to demand a good media that caters to the need of our society. Social media no doubt has many shortcomings but still it can be used as a platform for an effective campaign to stop the decline in mainline media traditions, culture and standards.
Professor Pradeep Mathur is a senior journalist and former faculty at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication , Delhi