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Media: Commerce, ethics and responsibilities
Who will appreciate a TV channel that airs 10 minute-long commercial breaks and two minute-long slapstick comedy? Will there be readers for a daily of 30-page, with 27 pages of discontent? Is common man a byproduct of the media?
A CABLE TV subscriber pays some Rs.150 or Rs 200 for keeping his telly beaming with views, news, reviews and entertainments for a month. And a few rupees get a reader a copy of the daily running into minimum 10 pages, to say the least. FM radio stations are absolutely free, and their down to earth audio dishes are available at fingertips on mobile phones too. And the Internet is a virtual market place where everything is free, both wanted and unwanted, from across the world.  
 
Among these media, the TV channels and newspapers are the ones that have greater sway over the public than the rest of the media. So it is natural that these media are taken a little more seriously. When it comes to the ownership of these media, apart from state owned TV and radio stations, all other media are owned by private individuals and their revenue to run this colossus business gets generated by selling column centimeters and commercial seconds.
 
However, whether it is owned by media houses or the state, these media have a general role to play when it comes to meeting the challenges of the nation, especially when the nation goes through dire straits with bomb blasts and terrorists threats. So it is quite common that the public look at these media with great expectations and they give great value to the words, pictures, voices and footages put across up-to-date.
 
But it is saddening to see the way they manage these private-owned public platforms. Media, barring their individual press policy parameters, fight one another to sabotage the will of the common man by incorporating stories that are twisted and turned beyond recognition, and the public, who takes these platforms seriously, go with the impression manipulated by these vested media houses. 
 
The driving forces behind this media rush are their patrons who feed their pages and commercial breaks with ads. It is the way it works. So the public has no say in demanding something that suits their taste or likes. However, when the public happens to have much more sensitive nose for news than the paid news mongers of these media, especially when any information or a tip off could be of great significance for the cause of the nation, there needs to be a common no-partisan platform so that the public could be real watchdogs of the nation.
 
But, what happens at times of distress is this; these media hog around a set of stereotypical people, whom the public tend to, take seriously, and vaporise their irresponsible words into the air, and the same, with a little embellishment and inputs, go to prints the following day. And the public is made to be satisfied with what is dished into their interiors via DTH and cables, or dished out to them on a daily basis in the early morning dailies.
 
This is dangerous. Our media should try to mould genuine public opinion on an issue of national or local importance, instead what they do is feeding them with fabricated and twisted news and views so as to influence their opinions in favour of all and sundry that contribute a few column centimeters or help fill a commercial break. Of course, they have to have allegiance to their business partners and their political patrons. They cannot run the show without it. But, will it be worth it if it is at the cost of national interest?
 
Our public today is much more informed and intelligent than many of our so-called social and political reformists. And these political reformists know the same very well too. Here lies the fix. These two cannot co-exist in a platform like press. This dichotomy has been claiming India much dearly whenever this nation had gone through times of challenge and threats. Our media, time to time, have ignored the inputs of the people and gone with the winds of politics, power and profit.
 
That you get a media free of cost does not make you devour whatever the media stuffs up in their platforms. The common man has to have a say in the content of the press. Ultimately, it is the common man who feeds all the media. The monthly subscriptions, the column millimeters booked by business houses spending media budgets in tunes of millions, and the air times that get filled between programme breaks etc are financed by the consumers. Here people respond by way of spending, and it is this spending that make businesses flourish. Its sheer callousness to feed a consumer with 10 minute-long commercial break for giving him two-minute-long slapstick comedy.  
 
Still, common man’s voice is hardly heard. Barring a few human-interest local stories, no media worth the salt show any kind of ethics in this connection. When it comes to airing concerns, it is the concerns of the parties and patrons, corporate houses and community voices that get heard, not their real patrons’, the public’s.
 
Take a cursory look at the pages of the daily you read, or scan the TV channel you watch, and see for yourself how scant the voice and concerns of the common man is. It could be fine even if it is scant, but these media create an impression that everything is hoary here and what is printed or aired out is what is left worth motioning, and the way it gets mentioned is the best of all media ways.
 
The irony is that the public is very much conscious of this ploy, and they value the pages and broadcasts with enough disregards. But the disadvantage the public face is that they are unable to tell these media people the same. Even if they voice their concerns, these media have a mechanism to upset the apple cart of all the citizens of a nation.
 
For example: Ask any ordinary Indian what the reasons for terrorist attacks are. He will have a much better answer than any so-called informed men of power. Ask any media person the same question; he will give you a comfortable and euphemistic version of the reasons, not the reasons.
 
Why is this colossus democracy suffering from inequality, poverty, unemployment and corruption even after 60 years of independence? An ordinary Indian will tell you exactly what the reasons are. Shoot the same question at any political think tank or any press baron, he or she will get you intelligent reasons, but they will be strictly conforming to their party and the media they patronise.
 
Ironically, the media, along with the vested political and business classes, has been trying to eradicate these social evils for the last 60 plus years. Eradicating one is almost like eradicating the other. Inequality, poverty, unemployment and corruption need to stay institutionalized if these forces have to thrive here.
 
So here media responsibility is decided more by column centimeters, corporate and political stories (story in the real sense of the term), prime air times and programme and event sponsorships than by anything else. Free press, freedom of expression, citizens’ right to be heard and informed are paper tigers known much more to the ruling than the ruled.
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