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Media in our times

Media now plays a more active role in shaping public opinion, influencing political debates, and holding politicians accountable for their actions
12:00 AM May 05, 2024 IST | BHARAT RAWAT
media in our times

Media, as they say, is the fourth pillar in the conception of the State, in fact one of the most functionally independent pillar of a democratic setup. Thus, for any functional democracy to thrive and improve, the media, as an institution, has to be unbiased and independent so as not only to ‘speak truth to power’ but also have the best interests of the nation in mind while performing such duties.


The role of Indian media in current politics is crucial in informing, educating, and engaging citizens in the democratic process. It is important for media organisations to uphold journalistic integrity and ethical standards while holding power to account and promoting transparency in governance. By doing so, the media can continue to play a positive role in shaping the political landscape of India.


The Indian media acts as a platform for diverse viewpoints and opinions, allowing for a healthy exchange of ideas and perspectives. This helps in fostering a democratic society where different voices are heard and debated. However, there are also challenges that the Indian media faces in its role in politics. Several key factors have contributed to the evolution of the Indian media landscape.


The liberalisation of the economy in the 1990s led to an influx of private media outlets and foreign investments, breaking the monopoly of state-owned media organisations. The rise of satellite television and the internet further expanded the reach and influence of the media, allowing for greater access to information and diverse viewpoints. There is often a lack of unbiased reporting, with some media outlets being influenced by political parties or corporate interests.


This can lead to misinformation and sensationalism, which can further polarise political debates and hinder constructive dialogues. Both print and digital, serve as watchdogs of government actions and policies. They play a critical role in informing the public about the decisions made by political leaders and the impact they have on society.


Through investigative journalism, the media can uncover scandals and wrongdoings by politicians, leading to accountability and potential policy changes. The Indian media landscape has undergone significant evolution over the years, transforming from a state-controlled and heavily regulated industry to a diverse and vibrant media ecosystem. This evolution has had a profound impact on current politics in India. Several key factors have contributed to the evolution of the Indian media landscape.


Diversification of media platforms, including print, television, radio, and digital media, has democratised the dissemination of news and information, empowering citizens to participate in political discourse and hold leaders accountable. Social media platforms have also emerged as powerful tools for political communication and mobilisation, enabling greater engagement between politicians and the public.


The impact of these changes on current politics in India is profound. The media now plays a more active role in shaping public opinion, influencing political debates, and holding politicians accountable for their actions. Media coverage of political events, scandals, and controversies can impact public perception and influence electoral outcomes.

However, the evolving media landscape has also raised concerns about sensationalism, bias, and the spread of misinformation. The rise of 24/7 news cycles and the pressure to attract viewership has led to a focus on sensationalism and entertainment rather than in-depth analysis and investigative reporting.

Since Indian independence a vibrant media has taken shape earlier in print, followed by broadcast and lately in digital channels. However, the emergence of open internet media, often unregulated, has created more challenges where it becomes hard to differentiate between fake news, propaganda and reality. The proliferation of fake news and propaganda on social media has also raised questions about the credibility and reliability of information alongside the risks such fake news propagation poses for the peaceful existence of our societies and to democracy in particular.

Challenges faced by media:

Fake news and issues legitimacy:

Media outlets or pages with a particular political, sectarian or commercial bias could in little time create risks of social, economic or political instability purely by resorting to sensationalism, peddling of lies for some particular political, economic or ethnic interest and thus attempt to create cracks in the society at large. Such cracks and divisions, often then become very difficult to bridge and till the fake news is busted a lot of damage may have already be done to our democratic and social fabric.

In case, where, even if, there is no apparent political bias, the lack of journalistic professionalism and the urge for sensationalism - ‘we brought you this news first’ - often misses the fact check prelude and sacrifices truth for TRP. It is this unregulated kind of ‘social media journalism’ that poses the greatest threat at the grassroots level of the newly morphing media Frankenstein.

Media Bias: With corporate and political interests intertwining in many media corporations, the news and information ‘sold’ by such media entities is often distorted to suit their personal goals thereby keeping public interest at the lowest priority. Such media bias results in a polarised mass opinion, distortion of truth (at times total obliteration of facts) and ruining of the democratic credentials of the republic. Such focus on commercial profit or political gain over public interest can lead to policy decisions that go against the interest of the country and society at large. While in the short term such media corporations may be achieving their set corporate and political goals, but in the long term they are doing irreparable damage to the very foundations of the nation.

Way forward:

Report the truth without fear and favor. While reporting facts, the element of prejudice, probability, sensationalism and personal or private interest should be eliminated beforehand. Instead of acting as cyclostyle machines for corporate sharks or political entries, journalistic ethics should be upheld by fact checking and verifying before putting in public domain. This famous aphorism on journalism should always be kept in mind “If someone says it’s raining, it is not your job to simply quote that. It’s your job to look out the window and find out if it is true”