‘Trivialisation is the leit motif of Indian media’

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Trivialisation and dumbing down of news with the lowest common denominator in mind are becoming the order of the day in Indian media in the name of giving audiences what they like.

Given the ferocious competition for eyeballs, newspapers and TV stations seem bent upon extracting “tactile responses” by increasingly (endlessly and disturbingly) focusing on celebrities and their frivolous acts, actions and activities.

On the other hand, what can relatively be considered far more serious news—developments which could have a long-term impact on our democracy—are barely being given the same kind of push.

To understand, all we need to do is look at how differently the following two sets of events have been covered in recent weeks.

Set A

1. Actor Sanjay Dutt sent to jail for possessing an AK-56.

2. Actor Salman Khan likely to go to jail for killing black bucks.

3. Actor Amitabh Bachchan forced to return land since he is not a “farmer”.

In all three cases, the reactions from the media has been to overreact and go overboard. There has been 24×7 coverage in front of their homes, at workspots, courts, and outside jails. There have been interviews with their friends and relatives. Media barons and shark-like editors have been yelling: get the story, the scoop and the shots.

Set B

1. Former Union minister Shibhu Soren released for lack of evidence of murdering an assistant.

2. Italian business Ottavio Quatrocchi slips out yet again in the Bofors case because the wrong papers were filed by the CBI, because of lack of incriminating evidence.

3. Sonia Gandhi‘s daughter PriyankaVadra is to buy ‘farm land’ in Shimla next to the mansion of a former President Of India after the Himachal Pradesh government bent all the rules.

In Set B, the media response has been low key. Sure, they have covered the news, but where are the reactions from media stalwarts such as Vinod Mehta, Shekar Gupta and M.J. Akbar? Where is the analysis? Where are the biting editorials? Where is the blanket coverage of what these issues mean? Why the ‘studied’ silence?

It may well be that audiences relate well to news about people they “know” than those they don’t. It may also be that audiences are more interested in knowing what happens to them. But it’s a chicken-and-egg syndrome. Would audiences have known as much about their travails if the media hadn’t covered them the same way in the first place?

What are we coming to as a media democracy?

Cross-posted on sans serif