Media, in literal terms, means a medium through which any sort of information can be transferred. Popularly known as the voice of the people, communication media is a platform through which people can access every piece of information, ranging from national news, international news, lifestyle, job options, intellectual articles and whatnot. It is the key driver in structuring public opinion and the sole agency for increasing transparency in the political system.
The question here is, are the media houses in the Indian scenario as transparent and unbiased as they should be or are they functioning under the influence of one or the other political party? If all political parties have control over showing its information, will there be any accountability in the system?
Media and politics go hand in hand; no political party can avoid it. Here, we should also acknowledge the fact that the media has immense power and an undisputed role in a democracy but the political influence is all about to use that power to their advantage. To quote an example, we all know how influential as a speaker or prime minister Mr. Narendra Modi is and caters to a large audience.
Due to this, electronic media blacked out Rahul Gandhi’s public addresses if they coincided with that of Narendra Modi’s keeping in mind market considerations such as TRP. A news organization named Cobrapost launched a sting operation in which it claims to have found partisanship on part of news channels, favoring the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as well as a willingness among some of the country’s most senior media executives and journalists to make money in return for pushing a political agenda.
It is not uncommon these days to see popular news channels taking different sides and supporting the ideology of different political parties. Not only do these channels highlight their image but they also condemn other political parties on the opposition. Where our media should show the actual truth it is enjoying this political game. One of the most famous news channel, Republic TV, began in 2017 and was anchored by one of Indian media’s most famous media personalities, Arnab Goswami.
In one of its segments, Arnab Goswami started openly criticizing Waris Pathan, a member of the legislative assembly for the All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (India’s only largescale Muslim political party) for he refused to stand for the national anthem. Bugging him with the same question that why can’t he stand for the national anthem, he proceeded to claim that he knows why Pathan does not stand. Goswami’s answer? Pathan is an “anti-national”. On the other side, there are other news channels such as India Today and Aaj Tak that strongly support left-wing politics and condemn BJP for their actions.
The idea of catering support from the population of India is taking new turns as now the political parties not only are highlighted on famous news platforms but they have started running their channels. The biggest controversy here is NaMo TV which appeared in many service ‘providers’ platforms right before the Lok Sabha elections 2019 and disappeared as soon as the election process came to an end. Funded by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, it raked up a controversy with the opposition crying foul. This channel only aired PM Modi’s interviews, rallies, and movies which showcased government schemes followed by interviews of other BJP leaders, thus, seen to be a ‘propaganda machine’ by many.
This trend is particularly famous in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where regional politicians and their family members have launched television channels that are used for political purposes. Since 2000, channels like Sun TV, Kalaignar TV, and Makkal TV, owned by local politicians or their families, have been airing favorable coverage to one party or another and preventing the party they have been affiliated to shine in a negative light. For example, before the elections in 2009, Sun and Kalaignar TV avoided coverage of alleged atrocities against Tamils in nearby Sri Lanka, to save the party they are associated with any kind of denouncement. This practice has spread to print media as well. In addition to its TV channels, the Sun Group owns two newspapers and a few magazines. News channels let alone, the cable distribution systems that telecast the channels are also coming under political control. According to a Business Standard report, nearly 60 percent of the cable distribution systems in India are owned by local politicians.
Now let us talk about recent times. We all know how India found herself in the middle of an ugly situation with so many states facing brutal atrocities. Communications were turned down. There were riots, protests, violence, speeches and whatnot. In the middle of all this, we should not fail to notice that most of the news channels did not even bother to cover these happenings and show what the actual situation was.
Media has the power to make or break a candidate, it should use it free from any influence and act as a watchdog to our political system. If this remains the fate of our media then we can’t say how well will be the fate of our nation. On the flip side, it is high time we realize that the effect of media bias depends on how we process the information presented by the media . It should be treated just like any other source of information and not like a holy bible that can be blindly trusted.