Belting an insensitive media
Letter to the Hoot: Vilasrao Deshmukh's outburst against journalists is indicative of a loss of esteem for the profession.
Today a newspaper is read with a great deal of scepticism, says MAHESH VIJAPURKAR
Wednesday, Feb 23 15:55:15, 2011
Berating journalists for not understanding the travails of political life former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said that journalists just discuss national problems on TV channels and even brand the prime minister as a weak person. ``They don’t know how much one has to struggle in politics. They sit on the banks (of a river) and discuss the depth of the water without plunging into it,” he said at an event in Latur. ``Later they go and empty the glasses,” he added.
It is easy to interpret this as the rant of a man who interceded on behalf of a usurious money-lender relative of a legislator and then had the High Court fine him Rs 10 lakh which was paid by the Government of Maharashtra. A public interest litigation has been initiated to ask him to accept the punishment and pay the fine. Mr Deshmukh’s outburst against the media shows that despite his ability to laugh off such events in public, the treatment he is receiving from the media on this count has upset him.
Given the recent loss of credibility on innumerable counts, Deshmukh has a valid point here. Why should those being criticised by media take it seriously? Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had in fact spoken of the need to take a stick to the media and P Sainath has written extensively about the sale of space in media. Serious correctives are called for.
The issue is a serious one and yet few are reporting on the Press Council of India’s views on ‘paid news’, or on how the Council watered down the report on ‘paid news’ written by a two-man committee set up by the Council itself. Who is reporting the Election Commission’s hearings on Ashok Chavan and the allegations that he paid for favourable news? How many have even reported that the Centre is close to setting up a 13-member National Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (NBCCCC or NB&3C) to deal with unfair reporting by a media that has failed to activate its own self-regulatory body to full effect? And how many newspapers have responded to the Chief Election Commissioner’s fears that pre-election opinion polls could also be rigged like paid news?
Gone are the days when it was suicidal for a politician to criticise the media. These are the days of over-the-top and in-your face coverage, speculation and rashes of ‘breaking news’ when caution is cast to the winds. There was a time when the printed word was the gospel but today verifiable information is often missing. Newspapers have always been a habit and a trustworthy one. Today, the latter is ruefully missing. Today there are many who buy newspapers but don’t read them. Similarly there are many who switch the TV on for news but don’t care to listen to what is being said on it. The media has acquired gossip status in recent times.
February 21, 2011