There's trouble on Page 3!


Our media show- case an interesting democracy from all over � niche TV, page 3 and such other dodgy corners.A The head of a religious peetam who...

Our media show- case an interesting democracy from all over � niche TV, page 3 and such other dodgy corners.A The head of a religious peetam who is battling murder charges in courts of law and is out on bail was being worshipped in person by his followers. Basketfuls of flowers, petals, and other sundry items were being dumped physically on him, even as he seemed to enjoy the whole experience thoroughly. The 'seer', by his own admission in better times, was much sought after for fixing anything from governorships to real estate problems through his divine intervention. A niche devotional channel was obligingly providing extensive real time coverage. For money or for love, one does not know. To my eyes, however, nothing remotely divine was coming across from the exercise. It was clearly a lot of expensive airtime, but quite unclear what kind of programme it is supposed to be. Information? Entertainment? Education? Sales? Next morning, one picks up the major national newspaper to bump into two full pages of pictorial coverage of those who attended the "annaprasana" ceremony of the scion of a major 'entrepreneur' of brave new India. One of the papers carried celebrities in individual images on two pages with a breathless, newsy, write-up to go with it. Another paper carried a full page of images of each celebrity with at least one of the family members showing various degrees of familiarity. The power money in substantial quantities can provide, and the access to the presidents, ministers, film stars, politicians cutting across all party lines, sports persons, industrialists, former judges, current regulators � the list goes on ... is clear from this display. The images present an unfortunate metaphor for 'annaprasana', where the who's who of the country is 'eating out of the hands' of the charming hosts. The in-your-face coverage of the 'first solid feed' of the blessed baby and the innumerable influential faces it launched also exposes the underbelly of our great democracy. However, one does wonder if the extensive coverage in page 3 style is for love or for other substantial material considerations. Since it is not clearly stated, the man on the street may take it as an important event where a lot of important people were in attendance. The 'entrepreneur' has been battling with the regulators on a variety of issues. There seems to be a lot of smoke without any fire, if one chooses to believe the full-page defence put up on national media the day before the 'party'. This time, not for love on news columns but on clearly paid for advertising space. Then, later in the week, we have the Supreme Court suddenly announcing its judgment on the Mumbai blasts case. Hundreds of people died and nearly a thousand injured, some maimed for life, in the 13 blasts across the city. Sanjay Dutt who was hobnobbing with the gangsters and procuring weapons for an unknown purpose, and fortunately was caught in time, got tried under the Arms Act and got a lighter sentence. From former chief justices to senior politicians, an impressive chorus is building up to let him off altogether. Some film industry representatives like Mahesh Bhatt are saying that personal fondness apart, Sanjay Dutt must respect the law and accept the punishment.
But behind the scenes, the early reports suggest that he is a part of film projects worth several crore rupees. Given the 'losses' involved, one can predict a soft landing, if the matter is out of the courts and with the clemency process. Another case is that of a sports administrator facing serious accusations of sexual harassment who frequently shows up at celebrity events and is on page three in the company of top sports people in India. Media is much sought after by this class. Media coverage is the oxygen and a power booster, a sort of celebrity endorsement. There is however, a more important face of our democracy, which does not jog the middle class conscience of media easily. There is the case of Dr Binayak Sen, a paediatrician practicing in Chhattisgarh for decades in the hardest of terrains and serving the poor, who spent two years in jail on charges of sedition before he was allowed bail by the Supreme Court. There is the case of Soni Sori who was arrested, tortured and in police custody for years now. There is the tenacious case of Irom Sharmila who has been on hunger strike for years and is being force fed through nasogastric intubation to keep her alive. She is being tried for attempted suicide, while the demand for repeal of AFSPA continues to be non-negotiable and the worst perpetrators of violence among the security establishment are regularly rewarded with cash awards and President's medals for distinguished service. Much of what happens to such people actually is debated a lot on social media. The campaign for Dr Sen's freedom and cases like that of Dayamani Barla are debated more on websites. Only when the situation escalates and there is momentum in the story does the mainstream media begin to give space to them. The activists cannot afford to advertise. They cannot afford to hire expensive public relations agencies. They have no insider access to the power structure. They are already struggling to meet crippling legal costs and a hostile power structure that has everything to lose and nothing to gain from their success. In the case of the rich and the powerful, media coverage is easier to mobilize through networks of power in their cancerous coexistence with the power brokers. If that does not work, there's always the option of buying expensive advertising space. But, do we then say that media should not cover the rich and the powerful? May be not. The more of this kind of misuse of media happens the wiser the public will get, one hopes. When an embattled 'entrepreneur' places a full-page ad in major newspapers, that is an education in itself, as it puts all the pressure points together in one place for the public to know. One would have to follow the story for long for so many dimensions to be red flagged. The display of powerful connections is also unlikely to do any good for the hosts or the guests in public perception. There are only two things about the media coverage, though. One, the paid for matter appearing on news pages should be identified as such. Two, those working for people's causes must be given more coverage, precisely because of that � in public interest � without having to pay for it.
Show Full Article
Print Article

Download The Hans India Android App or iOS App for the Latest update on your phone.
Subscribed Failed...
Subscribed Successfully...
Next Story
More Stories