There are some serious issues here, but the CPM's advocacy of these issues is a great pity in a double sense. For one thing, many of the CPM's regulatory proposals on issues like foreign ownership of the media are more about control than about creating a healthy media. But more importantly, the CPM has very little locus standi on the issue. After the Nandigram episode, its mouthpieces and intellectuals were in full swing, denouncing anyone who dared criticise it as acting at the behest of imperial powers to delegitimise the Left. A party that is more concerned with protecting its own rather than respecting the truth, a party that is prone to interpret all genuine ideological difference as a conspiratorial plot, is unlikely to be a credible spokesman on media issues.
The CPM is vulnerable on these issues and the media will predictably, jump all over it, obscuring some real issues, like the ways in which cross-ownership promotes unhealthy concentration in the media. But this would be a shame. For the blunt truth is that there is a quiet crisis of credibility facing the Indian media. And the media is living in a fool's paradise if it mistakes resisting the Left with putting its own house in order.
‘Indian media in deeply murky ethical territory’The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has, in a party resolution, decried cross-media ownership and warned of the growth of monopolies in the Indian media. It has also slammed the corporatisation of the media, and demanded that the brakes be applied on foreign direct investment in the media which “has made a section of the media pro-western, anti-political and anti-communist”.
“The purveying of mindless violence, sex and obscurantism has grown exponentially with the proliferation of the electronic media,” the resolution said, adding that in the name of the freedom of media, “naked commercialisation” had become rampant, while “unethical practices” were being overlooked.
Serious charges, whichever way you look at them, and you would have expected newspapers and TV channels and websites, and journalism schools and University departments, to be jumping over each other to counter them instead of casting aspersions on the messenger or doubting his motives. Well, keep expecting, for all that has come by way of a response from the media has been silence—deafening and unanimous.
The former Harvard don, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, who heads the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, alone among the intellectuals has offered a response in the Indian Express:
“The blunt truth is that there is a quiet crisis of credibility facing the Indian media…. On the surface, there is a simple story about accountability in Indian media. On this view, there is competition; and competition, we assume, produces accountability. But competition alone does not work on many dimensions.Read the full article here: People’s media
“Although related, competition for advertising revenues is not the same thing as competition for the needs of readers. Both have different logics. There is a sense in which intellectual ambition is a genuinely public good, but is under-supplied by the market.
“The Indian media cannot be accused of a lack of diversity of opinion; equally it cannot be accused of having high intellectual, professional or aesthetic ambition for its outputs….
“It is a measure of the declining credibility of the media that almost no paper is widely regarded as a journal of record. As someone once put it, there are often more subtexts than texts….
“The Indian media has crossed into deeply murky ethical territory without even minimal public debate, self-reflection and media outrage. How deep conflicts of interest run in the Indian media, who is involved, what forms of advocacy or self-censorship these impose, ought to be a matter of grave concern. But what is astonishing is how little space there is in the media to acknowledge that there are serious issues here.”
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