Media, we must remember, plays an important role in setting the agenda that decides which news items are worthy of attention and which are not. They help in shaping our opinions and thoughts. It is the media that brings to light issues that require our attention. For example, the media very recently drew our attention towards the 2G scam in INDIA. Most of the newspapers and magazines carried reports
Containing the fraud in the 2G scam
This information has helped us in focusing on an issue that affects our lives. We may have failed to take notice of it had it not been for the media reporting it in a big way.
However, in a number of places, the media has failed to fulfill its responsibilities. They are increasingly reporting instances that are of trivial importance while ignoring the greater issues at hand. For example, many TV channels tend to focus on stories related to films, important celebrities, and their lives. Some even present great details of the fashion shows conducted in the cities. At the same time, the burning issue of farmers committing suicide goes unnoticed.
In the competition for breaking news, media has succumbed to the global trend of glorifying the news. This is especially the case in television, where reports on crime and entertainment drown out the more important news of the day. The stress on glitzy effects and bite-size news reports leaves no time for a serious and in-depth discussion of the issues that matter.
The result is that public discourse does not take place as both officials and citizens respond to the infotainment type of news they get. Hardly 25% of national news bulletins are about health, education, development, welfare, environment, etc. One-third of the news items of national channels continued to be on politicians and party politics last year.
Ideally in a democracy, the media should shoulder responsibility for three things:
• Investigate reporting: – The media acts as a watchdog reporting on corruption, human rights violations, and other forms of wrongdoing which would help build a culture of accountability in the government.
• Information tool and forum for discussion: – Newspapers and public affairs programs on radio and television inform, educate and engage the public and prompt them to take action.
• Media as peace and consensus builder: – at times the media helps in peace-building efforts.
The media is crucial for democracy. Hence, it becomes important that they remain financially independent and do not work under the censorship of government or under the dictates of big business houses. It is also important for the reader and viewers to understand and evaluate the news presented by the media neutrally.