MEDIA AND SOCIETY
Reading or just going through the headlines of the one’s favourite newspaper is not only a habit but also second nature with most persons. Unlike the electronic media, especially the television that brings out news and views round the clock and yet half-succeeds to covert the viewers into its fans, the print media creates a rewarding relationship with its readers. From the individual reader to the society at large, print media performs multifaceted functions with remarkable reach and immense influence. If the television informs through the images, the newspaper enlighten through words. The print media enjoys a very special place in the collective consciousness of any civilized society.
In the making of public opinion, print media has always played a robust role, and more significantly in those times when electronic media was nowhere in the sight. Since the media and the society are intrinsically and inextricably inter-linked with each other, a healthy balance between the two pillars of society is imperative, lest the one should dictate the other for very untenable reasons. If too much domination of the media, both electronic and print, is undesirable and uncalled for, it is equally unethical if the media becomes the slave of the society and cotters to its transitory tastes rather than highlighting the real problems of the people. An increased interaction between both the media and the people can help enlarge their territories and thus keep at bay certain forces mat are out to malign and make a fool of both.
In some quarters there are apprehensions that today we are all being bombarded for twenty-four hours a day by television programmes and the daily newspaper too are touching every aspects of our lives. They are giving information, influencing our impulses or inclinations and judgments, loudly and insistently propagating certain ideas, and offering solutions in the form of policies and programmes. They not only inform, influence, reason and argue with us but, wittingly or unwittingly overawe us. In their intense competition to be heard (read) and influence (impress), we are constantly bombarded with words and more words. Words are fast losing their luster and freshness and the capability to embody delicate and healthy individual meanings and experiences.
Lest the media should consider its liberty as license, the Press Council issued a set of guidelines a few years ago. Since ours is multi religious, multi communal, linguistic and cultural society, any provocative writing can lead to distrust and disaffection among the people. In view of the very sensitive composition of Indian social and communal set-up, it was enjoined upon the press that provocative and sensational headlines be avoided; the headlines must reflect and justify the matter printed under them; news report should be devoid of comments and value judgments; and the language used in the writing the news should be temperate as such as may foster feelings of amity among communities and groups.
Old values are under tremendous scrutiny and stress, and time tested relations between individuals and institutions have come under close observation. Consumerism and ostentatious life styles have affected our physic-mental set-up. No pursuit and profession is free from the compulsive control of commercialization of attitude and approach. Even the media has not remained unaffected by this virus of money power over moral power.
Every time the social ethos and its harmonious canvas come under threat due to excessive zeal or greed, the effectiveness of the media in making people aware of their rights and duties is reduced. If an obsessive craze for pelf and power is deplorable, commercialization of media leading to negation of its social objectives and obligations is equally fraught with dangerous dimensions. In some cases, professionalism in journalism leads to sensationalism those results in improvement in packaging of news and features, leading to superficial presentation. This change from social service to commercialization has led to deterioration in public life.
If at one end of the socio-political spectrum, the print media acts as the bridge between the people and the government, at the other end, it should conduct itself as the watch-dog, without being judgmental in news reporting. Having emerged as the strongest pillar of the democracy the world over, media enjoys a unique place and privilege in society. Both the national and regional newspapers can help restore confidence in the rural folk by ensuring the flow of desirable information to them. Without being the mouth -piece or His Master’s Voice, the journalists ought to be free to express themselves within the parameters and paradigms of their professional training and ethics. They cannot perform their best if the sword of Damocles—the threat of being hired and fired—is constantly hanging over their heads. The media cannot develop or grow in stature in an atmosphere of restraints and constraints and the society cannot remain a silent spectator if it crosses the bar of self-imposed decency and discipline.