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NEWS MEDIA RUCKUS IN INDIA

Author: Yashaswi Kumar, I year of Pursuing B.A.,LL.B. from NLU, Jodhpur


News channels are like the lifeline of a civilised country. It gives a plethora of data regarding a political system's degrees of freedom, tolerance, social fairness, and pluralism. People may keep informed about what is going on around the globe by watching news programmes.News outlets help to improve democracy by promoting openness in governance.


Unfortunately, nowadays, our news media is degraded to an unacceptable level. Now,many of us have a conception that watching news channels is just a waste of time and print media or reliable internet sites are better sources of news due to some major contemporary problems with Indian news channels. According to me, one of the central reasons behind this mortification is as news companies these days focus solely on generating profit and not on unveiling the truth or objectively reporting the facts, it was going to happen sooner or later.If a news channel is entirely focussing on a single issue or so-called ‘muhim’,another news channel company ideally focus on other important issues ongoing in the country but what is happening is multiple news channels are showing the same issues most of the time of a day and unnecessarily exaggerate each and every news and project them as breaking news. This is creating unnecessary panic among people.They sensationalise everything just for TRP rating.Some channels show ads for about 40 percent of their total running time that indeed brought more revenue to the news channels, but at a cost to viewers.[i] Even TRAI said that it had received numerous complaints from consumers stating that their TV viewing is being marred by excessive ads on TV channels.[ii] They are also news channels that claim that they won't be showing any bad news in a day which is not only fundamentally wrong but almost impossible to achieve and if possible then at a great cost. The news should be shown as it was reported i.e. in objective form.


The Trp game

TRP, or "television rating point," is a statistic used by marketing and advertising firms to assess viewership. It is a method for determining which programmes are most popular and indexing viewer preferences.[iii] Now, Trp has become the most prominent driving force behind any operation of the news media outlets, which has eventually converted it into a pure business. Due to this level of commercialization, a recent incidence of trp fraud also appeared in 2020. These days, Trp ratings decide the topic of editorial programmes.

The TRP scam,[iv]which Mumbai Police claims to have uncovered amid controversy, has emphasized the activities of television news channels. Channels have been accused of manipulating their TRPs by paying some households to watch them. Because of this fraud, BARC decided to halt ratings for all news stations in October 2020 to "enhance their statistical robustness," an activity that was estimated to take 8-12 weeks. The battle to get higher ratings is on display today, with some even prepared to resort to deception to get them. TRP is important for television stations since it determines their earnings. The greater a channel's TRP, the more commercials it will receive, resulting in a larger income scale. The rise or reduction in the TRP of any show has a direct impact on the income of the TV station from which the programme is broadcast.


News channels are spreading hate

The menace of fake news and disinformation campaigns arealreadya global issue and it is out there for quite a long time,its Indian variant was recently visible during the 2019 Indian general election. Even in this time of the pandemic, it is no surprise to find the most absurd claims of all time. But recently there are also complaints of news channels spreading hate especially communal in nature.The CAA protests resulted in a torrent of fake news and distorted information on social and mainstream news channels, attacking both demonstrators and Delhi police. Misinformation and deception about Kashmir are common. There have been several instances of images from the Syrian and Iraqi civil conflicts being incorrectly labelled as Kashmir conflict images to incite unrest and support insurgencies. Even Dubai-based Gulf News, a leading daily newspaper, printed an editorial sometimes back,saying that "toxic" Indian TV news channels should not be allowed to "spread Islamophobia and vitiate atmosphere".[v] Recently Asianet Suvarna News aired four programmes that alleged that Christians carry out conversions using money and fraudulent means.[vi] The channel claimed that a sting operation would demonstrate how the Christian missionaries converted Hindus in Hosadurga and other parts of Karnataka. The supposed basis of this programme was the alleged conversion of MLA GoolihattiShekhar’s mother Puttamma. The fresh and intriguing case of the bullibai app is another example. Bulli Bai is an app malignant and hateful in nature, which has been created with the purpose to harass Muslim women in India, developed by a group of people from across the country to trick people and make financial gains. Photos of prominent Muslim journalists and activists were uploaded on the Bulli Bai app without their permission where they were auctioned virtually.DasaranthBishnoi, father of 20-year-old NeerajBishnoiwho is believed to be the creator of the Bulli Bai app has revealed that his son used to watch a particular news channel which might have had an impact on him.[vii]


Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto, and Avay Shukla, a former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer have proposed a strategy for dealing with news outlets that purposefully incite prejudice and hatred to increase viewership.[viii] Rajiv Bajaj has stated that his business would not show any advertisements on hatemongering "toxic" television stations. Following Bajaj's decision, Parle decided to boycott similar television stations. Many people applauded Bajaj and Parle's boycott of poisonous news networks. The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has praised the advertisers like Bajaj, Parle, Dollar and Amul for their decision of boycotting news channels spreading 'toxicity, abuse and fake news. Rajat Sharma, president of NBA and chairman of India TV, said in a statement that such a decision by the advertisers will contribute greatly to NBA’s fight against this menace.[ix]


Some problemsthatare specifically facedby Indian news media

Less freedom- Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a French NGO, has ranked India 142nd out of 180 nations in its 2021 World Press Freedom Index.[x]This happened despite the fact that an Index Monitoring Cell worked for a year under the direction of the Cabinet Secretary to improve the international rankings, including a meeting between the Ambassador to France and RSF officials to argue for a change in the ranking in the index prepared by them. According to the RSF research, India is one of the most hazardous nations in the world for journalists attempting to do their jobs effectively. They are vulnerable to all types of attacks, including police assault against reporters, ambushes by political activists, and retaliation by criminal organisations or corrupt local politicians.


Ownership and Bias-For the past few years, Indian news media has been continually stirred by political leaders. Some journalists on these renowned news networks exclusively present news that does not include any bad aspects of political leaders. Many news media outlets are directly or indirectly owned by politicians or their hardcore supporters. They are preoccupied with depicting other unimportant happenings that are not even obliged to be broadcast. The COVID-19 epidemic has intensified media prejudice in India, but this is not a new occurrence. A survey of 30 Indian newspapers and 41 Indian TV stations with the highest audience rates in the country from 2017 to 2018 proves the prevalence of endemic media bias. This implies that either bias in the media impact viewer sentiments or that peopleare seeing it as an outlet that agrees with their pre-existing beliefs.Meanwhile, political parties use this prejudice to sway public opinion and expand their own authority. Government advertising is used as a financial tool to influence media content and public opinion. For example, in the year preceding the 2019 elections, publications that got more BJP ad income were more likely to profess more conservative philosophy and have more conservative readers.[xi]Godi media is a new pejorative term coined and popularized by NDTV journalist Ravish Kumar, for the sensationalist and biased Indian print and TV news media, which supports the ruling NDA government. The term has become a common way to refer to television and other media that are perceived as mouthpieces of the ruling party in India.[xii]


Important issues not being covered properly – One of the very pertinent and underestimated issues of Indian news media is the important and key issue for society and country doesn’t get the limelight and coverage they deserve. Recent and important issues like Medical student protests, Houthi drone attacks in UAE[xiii] where evenTwo Indians among 3 killed in a suspected drone attack in Abu Dhabi and even important world political issues like of Ukraine crisis.[xiv] News channels are anyway filled with unimportant events, happening in neighbouring countries, they even show the most preposterous news which is not relevant at all for instance about the personal conduct or belief of any political leader present in that country.


Among these, the medical student protest[xv]was quite critical especially due to the present ongoing times of covid 19 as hospital and medical services got affected. Doctors who have finished their MBBS degree and internship have to take the National Eligibility-cum-Entry Test for Postgraduate Courses (NEET-PG) to study for a specific specialism such as medicine or surgery. This test is normally held in January, but because of the Covid-19 crisis, the National Board of Examination that administers it postponed it until further notice in November last year. It was originally scheduled for April but was moved back to September when it was eventually held. However, the counselling and admission procedure for PG students, who serve as junior residents alongside their training, was halted due to a slew of litigation pending in the Supreme Court over the newly implemented quota for economically disadvantaged groups. Junior residents, together with those who have finished their PG course and have been assigned as senior residents, constitute the backbone of the services provided at large medical college-affiliated hospitals across the country. Because individuals who have finished their three years of PG training have moved on to careers as senior residents at the same or other hospitals, the lack of an incoming batch has resulted in a one-third personnel shortage across such facilities.


Some suggestive remedies

News channels should reconsider the objective and process of conducting their prime time debates which don’t show the views of people, add little knowledge and awareness and in return spread bitterness in society.Telecom regulators should quickly and firstly act on any complaints filed against news channels. Immediate action should be taken against those news channels that are not following ethics and are discrediting the good work of the fourth pillar ofdemocracy, which is media.The effect of particular shows and channels on the common masses of the country shouldbe monitored on regular basis,especially at times of insurgency and protests. Funding received by Media companies especially news media companies must be monitored.News media companies should take initiative to run their business in a transparentmodel. Community media ownership should be encouraged and non-commercial media outlets should be praised.Although eventually, the onus will be on people to understand and be aware! that some channels and media forums will always be there to spread bitterness and hate, and it is upon them to see things objectively and form rational views.

[i]https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/jqj52rmzXWyh4pf3SmrR5M/Too-many-ads-not-just-irritating-but-unlawful.html [ii]https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/trai-moves-delhi-high-court-claiming-excessive-advertisements-on-tv-affecting-viewing-experience [iii]https://www.indiatoday.in/information/story/what-is-trp-and-how-it-is-calculated-check-here-1729909-2020-10-09 [iv]https://www.thequint.com/news/india/mumbai-police-names-arnab-goswami-as-accused-in-trp-scam-case#:~:text=WHAT%20IS%20THE%20TRP%20SCAM,in%20India%2C%20were%20being%20manipulated. [v]https://www.newslaundry.com/2020/05/07/take-action-against-preachers-of-hate-in-the-indian-media-gulf-news-editorial [vi]https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/no-accountability-kannada-news-channels-get-away-hate-speech-activists-say-159799#:~:text=That%20same%20month%2C%20Asianet%20Suvarna,and%20other%20parts%20of%20Karnataka. [vii]https://www.sentinelassam.com/north-east-india-news/assam-news/father-of-bulli-bai-app-creator-makes-shocking-revelation-says-news-channel-influenced-him-572050 [viii]https://peoplesreview.in/media/2020/10/bajaj-and-parles-boycott-of-toxic-news-channels-cant-stop-hate-mongering/ [ix]Id. [x]https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-again-placed-at-142nd-rank-in-press-freedom/article34377079.ece [xi]https://www.stimson.org/2021/media-bias-and-democracy-in-india/ [xii]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godi_media [xiii]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/18/houthi-drone-attack-exposes-uae-vulnerabilities-in-region [xiv]https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/conflict-ukraine [xv]https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/resident-doctors-protest-neet-pg-769438