Archive for June 1st, 2009

Free, frank, fearless? No. Grubby, greedy, gutless.

1 June 2009

A significant outcome of the 2009 general elections has been the “outing” of the corruption in the Indian news media. What was earlier, usually, seen as an individual transgression has grown and morphed into an institutional malaise with long-term implications for our democracy which the aam admi is still to recognise.

Most cases of corruption in the media have so far involved the South Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Enter, Karnataka.

M.V. Rajeev Gowda, son of former assembly speaker M.V. Venkatappa and a Wharton PhD who teaches at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, writes of the “perversion of the media’s role in a democracy” while campaigning for a friend (presumably a Congressman) during the recent polls.

“Instead of being a neutral, dispassionate observer of what’s going on, media houses milked the election to make big bucks. Representatives of media houses approached candidates promising them coverage in exchange for money.

“Of course, I advised my friend not to succumb because I was confident that we could get substantial coverage just by coming out with different media-oriented events and activities. And we did manage to do that. For free!

“But overall, other candidates jumped on the opportunity to get coverage. And there lies the problem. If coverage just involved reporting on the candidate’s vision, track record and activities, it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. It becomes a challenge when readers cannot differentiate between unbiased reportage and paid advertorials.

“This time, the difference between the two was very difficult to discern. One had to carefully look for “Special Feature” or some other tell-tale sign, which is generally not prominent enough for readers to separate fact and opinion from mercenary fiction.

“I remember the time Ramnath Goenka used to boldly declare that the Indian Express was Free, Frank and Fearless. I don’t know about that newspaper, but many others during this election were just Grubby, Greedy, and Gutless.”

Read the entire article: Notes from the Campaign Trail-III

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