Let us make no mistake, the Big Media in India does not merely report; it is a player in Indian politics in general and elections in particular.
Now that the debate is out in public it is time to insist on a code of conduct for the media as well. After Arvind Kejriwal’s recent allegations against four television channels that have been blown out of proportion and misrepresented, there has been an uproar. A burst of righteous anger, not only from those accused by Kejriwal of having been bought out by a particular party, but also by professional bodies like the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), the Editor’s Guild, the Broadcast Editors Association (BEA) and other senior journalists.
The NBA, which is a private association, threatened to black out Kejriwal and AAP news and then went on to assert its objectivity and fairness against the “unsubstantiated and unverified allegations” against the news channels.
The BEA said in its statement:
“BEA condemns Arvind Kejriwal’s irresponsible statement on media. BEA believes that electronic media is discharging its responsibility in a fair and objective manner. It is wrong to say that TV channels are pursuing a biased agenda in favour of any person or party. BEA believes that such statements are a conspiracy to dilute the credibility of media. We have strong faith in the self regulatory institutions that electronic media has developed…”
Let us concede for the sake of argument that Arvind Kejriwal went overboard and his statement about ‘jailing mediapersons’ was uncalled for. But does the claim of the BEA, NBA and other bodies really stand up to scrutiny? Is the electronic media really dïscharging its responsibility in a fair and objective manner”? What precisely, may we ask, are the “self regulatory institutions that electronic media has developed” and what have they done by way of reigning in the Indian media that have sunk to new lows in recent years with “paid news”and “advertorials” – not to mention private treaties with big corporations ? We ask the BEA and the NBA and 0ther defenders of the media, is this the ethical behavior they talk of? Is this self-regulation? Maybe Kejriwal’s allegations are “unsubstantiated” in the sense that there is no “proof”, but there is little doubt from the instructions that journalists have been receiving from their bosses, that a lot more than mere reporting is at stake. And just for the record, the the Chairman of one of media houses accused by Kejriwal, Subhash Chandra of Zee News, is currently facing a case of extortion – using his channel’s news-gathering for blackmail. We would love to hear how this qualifies as ‘fair and objective’in the eyes of the BEA and other luminaries. Continue reading Time For a Code of Conduct for Media