23 April 2008

Indian news channels need to rise above economics

The topic for today is "Why are Indian news broadcast channels not as mature as their International counterparts?" My first thought is are international counterparts mature? Are they responsible? Is news not leaked out for ulterior motives outside our borders? Princess Diana died as the couple tried to evade paparazzi. Is this mature journalism?

In India, journalism has played an important role in our freedom movement and the profession is not new though the new media definitely are. Lokmanya Tilak founded the paper 'Kesari' way back in 1880 to portray ground realities in the country. All India Radio (AIR) too has been around almost since the time we became independent. Television began in the form of 'Didi' Doordarshan around 1975. Being state run obviously meant there was some 'filtering' of news to suit the governing party. As economy opened up we got a taste of 'private' media and what was said to be 'unbiased' news. In reality market forces gradually took over and news could be 'sponsored' or used to influence stock markets.

Business news channels in India have recently asked begun asking their panelists for disclaimers. This clearly indicates some hidden interests existed earlier. This change is one for better.

Tragedy of any kind and our cameras are there like vultures to capture tears and grief. I can only compare our news channels to BBC or CNN that we can easily watch here. Compared to those channels our reporting is definitely mediocre and unnecessarily sensational. Body language and speech intonations of our news readers too are not up to these standards. More maturity is definitely required here.

Human minds and behavioural tendencies are the same globally. Just like westerners are fond of reading what celebrities do or eat or how and whom they live with, we too like that. That would explain increasing importance to Ash-Abhi or other similar invasions of celebrity lives or grief and tragedy.

As the number of players increase, money is pumped in and economics takes over, it is important for concerned news editors to remember what Lokmanya Tilak has reportedly said, "Be sure of your facts. Let your words be clear as day light." That should be our standard. If news channels continue to focus on gaining advertisements, eyeballs (viewers) and playing one up over rival channels then we cannot expect much progress. Viewers and readers will definitely separate wheat from chaff sooner or later. Those who can rise above this will certainly emerge better and more mature journalists.

Archana Pande

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