Media Sensationalism

Media Sensationalism

By, Pranav V Premanand

This July was an eventful month, and eventful here doesn’t mean that it was any different… but that the media took the meaning of ‘sensational news’ to a whole new level.  It’s not about the CM being in the news for all the wrong reasons or the pet-name for a notorious scam being coined out of a promising source of renewable energy (being an electrical engineer I honestly resent the word ‘Solar’ being drawn into the mess). Nor is it about the alternate ‘brand’ of politics and governance which is seeing a lot of hype referred to as ‘NaMo’. Talking about such heavyweights (or more aptly tweeting about them) usually lands oneself on the other end of one or the other political organizations’  ire. Let’s begin with the amusing ones which cropped up the past month.

Celebrities making a comeback, let’s face it is a potent enough news to interest us. We’ve seen it fairly recently with Madhuri Dixit and Sreedevi. Empathizing with the fraternity of film buffs, I’m willing to go as far as to say that these news are worth our acknowledgement if only that,  which is why it baffles me that leading newspapers of our state found Manju Warrier’s comeback so important as to give it lion’s share of their front page(with photographs as vivid as one could hope for in a daily). They didn’t stop at that. They had to record Amitabh Bachan shower praises on her while caught in a press ambush, and then show it repeatedly to everyone who owned a television. Media sensationalism at its best.

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‘Coming back from the dead’ is kind of a thing in popular literature and movies. Hence, who could be better than a yesteryear silverscreen beauty at the center of a plot involving this cliche. Actress Kanaka this July became one of history’s few unfortunate people who had to deal with their obituaries while still very much alive. TV channels reported her death and social networking sites were abuzz with mourners while she was resting in peace(pun intended) at her home in Tamil Nadu.

On a more serious note, highlighting non issues as real issues or reporting false news is only the tip of the iceberg. There are bigger problems such as paid news and defamation attacks rampant within the media circles. Take for instance the so called sting operation carried out by Asianet news, the fake call to Minister Anilkumar aimed at implicating him in the Solar scam, something which a Rupert Murdoch would have been proud of. Can their actions be justified by the novelty of their intentions, that being ‘to bring out the truth’. Then how come people the world over condemn similar acts of two Radio Jockeys which led to the suicide of the nurse Jacintha Zaldana?

The plain fact is that, the media in our country, has grown so powerful, that it dictates the terms in which the government runs and controls the manner in which we perceive things. A good and powerful media is an absolute necessity for any nation. However, the question is “how much is too much”! How is “Media Ethics” defined in this age? Isn’t it necessary for some sort of a regulatory mechanism, to control the media to keep incidents like the controversial Nira Radia incident, among others, from repeating?

It is here that the recent statements by the press council chairman Justice Markandey Katju gains relevance. He went vocal in his belief that self regulatory mechanisms are required to check and filter the content appearing in the media, whether it be print, visual or online. And, if the media houses fail to do so, government imposed restrictions would become necessary to ensure that the fourth estate sticks to its original objective.

Freedom always comes with strings attached. The only question is whether the strings are self imposed, or forced. One or the other is necessity. As the wise men say, fire is good, as long as it is harnessed!

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