Media regulation and Democracy - 2
by B R Haran on 29 Nov 2009 3 Comments

Alien influence and media’s objective

The call for “regulating” the media has been there for quite sometime; every time the government raises its voice, the media comes out with a false promise of “self-regulation.” Media-watchers and a considerable section of elite readers and viewers are of the opinion that the mainstream media in general and electronic (24X7) in particular are irresponsible to the core. The recent case in point was the live coverage of 26/11 Mumbai attack which came in for severe criticism from all quarters. As the first anniversary of the horror is upon us, the government has issued an advisory to all television channels urging balanced reporting in programs on the incident, as the trial relating to it is still on in court.


But government cannot be selective, and issuing incident-based advisories is of no use. The need of the hour is a constructive regulatory framework, which must be handled by a powerful external body. In order to understand why such external regulation is needed, we must introspect and analyse media’s behavioural attitude and beguiling executions.


The principles of truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, public accountability and limitation of harm have become passé in media’s functioning at present. Space is ‘sold’ and news is ‘marketed’ and ‘profit’ is the only objective. Foreign influence and money power has captured a huge space in our media, with the collusion of leftists and pseudo-secularists, leading to devaluation of nationalistic principles. Many media houses allegedly owe allegiance to foreign masters, whose objective is to de-Hinduise this nation. Media being a pillar of democracy, capturing media space is helpful in influencing the minds of the masses. The alien influence in politics has led to their capturing considerable space in the other three pillars of democracy namely, legislature, executive and judiciary.


Strategies adopted for de-Hinduisation


This alien controlled media operates with different strategies such as attacking religious tradition, demeaning cultural heritage, assaulting nationalistic principles and influencing the psyche. The onslaught on religious tradition includes scandalous reporting against Swamis, Gurus and their institutions. Media reports and debates on Sabarimala, Guruvayur, Amarnath, Kanchi Mutt, Puri Jagannath Temple, etc, speak volumes of its motivated attacks.


Debating Hindu festivals, concepts and traditional practices with the aim of belittling them and destroying cultural organizations by presenting concocted stories to project them in bad light are part of a strategy to de-Hinduise society.


Questioning the sanctity of national song Vande Mataram, encouraging abuse of the tricolour in the name of sports, supporting habitual offenders like M F Hussain in the name of creativity and freedom of art, and joining hands with so-called human rights organizations to insult the Armed Forces and Police Forces by presenting hostile reports on them, are some of instances of media acting against national interests.


NDTV stands in the forefront of supporting secessionism in Kashmir and sometimes crosses limits in airing pro-Pakistan views. Small wonder it is described as “Nation Damaging Television”! Similarly, The Hindu blatantly favours Chinese interests more than Indian interests. On one side it supports Maoists in the name of freedom and human rights, on the other it is against the Tibetan refugees’ struggle.


The way the media influences the psyche of the youth and student community is dangerous. Talk shows and so-called reality shows make an undesirable impact on young and innocent minds. The recent exposure of Star-Vijay TV in these columns was a classic example of such threats. It is shocking to see even primary school children singing third rate film songs and dancing to vulgar cine songs in such shows, and idiot parents smiling proudly as if the children have ‘achieved’ something, without realizing that the future of their wards is at stake. The way the print and electronic media go about promoting ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ activities in the name of liberalism casts an evil spell on the youth, leading them to indulge in unhealthy behaviour. Advertisements have become so sleazy that watching TV as a family is impossible.


All TV Channels including the state owned Doordarshan promote Christianity by giving space to evangelists of different denominations. Propagation of Islam is also on the rise.


Regulation - Need of the hour


In this kind scenario, it is imperative that media be regulated and government come out with a framework of stringent rules to regulate media in general and television in particular. But “will the government do it” is a million dollar question; the answer is most likely “no”! Most political parties have their own newspapers, magazines and television channels, and a few who do not keep existing media houses in good humour and get their coverage done, as they have common interests.


If government is to bring regulations, the ruling party and its allies must first regulate their own channels, which may not be in their interests. That is why the government dodges the issue and plays the tune of ‘self-regulation’ with the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). 


While issuing advisory to television channels on the eve of the first anniversary of 26/11 Mumbai attack, Raghu Menon, Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, said, “Unlike print, there is no independent regulator for electronic media. The government is implementing the regulatory framework, and tabling a Broadcast Regulation Bill”. The question now is, what will the NBA do?


NBA against government regulation


The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) is a body representing private television news & current affairs broadcasters; its membership is 14 broadcasters comprising 31 channels. It was formed to present a unified and credible voice before government on matters affecting the growing television industry. The NBA’s mission is, “To serve as the eyes and ears of the private news & current affairs broadcasters, to lobby on its behalf and to act as a central point of joint action on matters of interest.”

( and


Presenting the “background” against which the “Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards” was framed, NBA says, “It is the duty of media to keep the citizenry informed of the state of governance, which mostly puts it at odds with the establishment. A media that is meant to expose the lapses in government and in public life cannot obviously be regulated by government – it would lack credibility. It is a fundamental paradigm of freedom of speech that media must be free from governmental control in the matter of “content” – censorship and free speech are sworn enemies. It therefore falls upon the journalist profession to evolve institutional checks and safeguards, specific to the electronic media that can define the path that would conform to the highest standards of rectitude and journalistic ethics and guide the media in the discharge of its solemn constitutional duty.”


NBA members share common interests being ‘anti-Hindu’, but wax eloquent about democracy and diversity, “India is the world’s largest democracy, demographically marked by diversity in religion, language and caste, and undoubtedly has problems that are significantly peculiar to it. Yet at the same time, it shares certain common values with other vibrant democracies, and one of them is balancing the freedom of the press with putting in place checks and balances that seek to instill a sense of responsibility and to prevent abuse of this freedom, without the ‘chilling effect’ that would impair journalistic freedom.”


Fine, but what about the ‘chilling effect’ created by these channels impairing religious tradition, cultural heritage and national integration?


Justifying self-regulation and taking refuge in foreign countries’ models, NBA says, “There are models of self governance evolved in other countries who have seen an evolution of the electronic media including the news media much before it developed in India. The remarkable feature of all these models is self governance, and a monitoring by a ‘jury of its peers’.”


Again justifying the model monitored by ‘jury of its peers’ and its investigations at the time of need (complaints, etc), NBA makes its intention clear, “The interference by the government, however well intentioned, would imperil not just this method of independent journalism, but the very process of investigation itself. It therefore has become imperative that the news channels lay down guidelines, procedural safeguards and establish a body that would act as a watchdog and a grievance redressal forum.”





In the backdrop of the government’s advisory to TV Channels, ‘The New Indian Express’ (22 November 2009) quoted Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, “Sensationalist, TRP-driven and totally irresponsible media have these embedded journalists creating a whole atmosphere of siege and terror where innocent people are often named and victimized”.


Unable to digest criticism, NDTV’s Barkha Dutt who earned the nation’s wrath for her antics in Kargil, Gujarat and Mumbai (26/11) said, “The media has to draw the distinction between valid feedback and motivated venom”. Journalists who present poisonous reports treat valid feedback as motivated venom!!! No wonder Prashant Bhushan felt: “Self-regulation is nonsense! If you need reasonable regulation, it has to be through an external body”. 



The author is a senior journalist; he lives in Chennai 

User Comments Post a Comment
Comments are free. However, comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate material will be removed from the site. Readers may report abuse at
Post a Comment

Back to Top