It’s the National Press Day – a symbol of the free and responsible press in the country. On this day in 1966, the Press Council of India (PCI) assumed the role of being the fourth pillar of the country. A pillar that holds the truth and never gets crushed under those in power.

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But once you turn on the news channels on TV; this whole statement seems blurry. The pillar is now cracked. To hide this, it is being painted with a new color. Instead of the news; there are advertising flyers all over it.

The brouhaha of news debates is louder than the Bigg Boss episodes. Journalists have turned into teleshopping anchors thumping energetically to sell the news. Only a few are left who manage to save the dignity of journalism.

More is Bad

Just like IT companies, news channels are mushrooming all over the country. There are more than 400 news channels in various languages. The number of newspapers is also high. But the irony lies in the fact that the quality of journalism in India is quite poor.

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As per the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, India ranks 140 among 180 countries. While some of the pro-government channels witness huge profits; those who defy the current sycophantic approach often get threatened. Who can forget the horrific killing of Gauri Lankesh and how the culprits are still out there.

Instances That Speak A Lot

The most recent one was the epic interview of Ramdev Baba with none other than Republic TV’s ‘shouting star’ Arnab Goswami. The one-and-half hours episode was more of a ‘bharat milap’ of two old friends.

With lots of Yoga, namaskar, bitching about Owaisi, the exclusive interview was more of a drama show that aims to be a part of journalism. Newslaundary did a good job of offering the perfect sum-up of the entire show.

Over the past few months, there were so many buzzwords that provided fodder to Indian media channels. Be it the Pulwama attack, the Lok Sabha Elections, Scrapping of Article 370, NRC in Assam, Tripple Talaq and the most recently Ayodhya Case; Indian media channels had a lot on their platter. And all such things needed amazing graphics, sensational titles, bombarding voice-overs, suspense music, hot debates, controversial personalities, flying carpets, hawan, babaji ki booti and so on.

Take the Ayodhya Case for instance.

One of the longest and most controversial cases was in the final days of arguments. The News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) directed the news channels to strictly adhere to its guidelines to ensure peace in the country.

According to the advisory, “No broadcast should be made in any speculative manner in respect of the present proceedings before the Hon’ble Supreme Court nor of the judgment before it is pronounced; and of its likely consequence thereafter which may be sensational, inflammatory or provocative”.

It goes on to say “No footage of the demolition of the Babri Masjid is to be shown in any news item relating to the Ayodhya matter”.

So “following” the advisory, here is what the sabse best media channels did:

On October 15, around Aaj Tak broadcast a show with the headline, Janambhoomi hamari, Ram humare, namaz wale kaha se padhare’ (The birthplace is ours, Ram is ours, where did the Mosque-waalahs come from?).

For this controversial headline, an FIR was also filed against Aaj Tak by activist Saket Gokhale. The channel hasn’t deleted the tweet till now.

It wasn’t just Aaj Tak but many others covered the matter quite controversially.

And who can forget the Republic!

In short, the media channels did almost all the things that were not to be followed before the verdict.

When you go on charting out the incidents that re-affirm the fact that Indian news channels are drifting away from journalism; you might end up with a bulky book that will definitely give you a headache. But since it’s the age of digital media; I’ll suggest you watch some of Official Peeing Human videos to get the gist of the current media channel scenario in India.

The Moulding Media

Now that was all about the instances; if you dig down and just watch the news channels for just a week; you will find how media moulds the mindset of the masses. In mass communication, there is an Agenda Setting Theory which talks about the influence of media on society. It says that media affects the presentation of the reports and issues made in the news that affects the public mind.

So if the media channels want to divert attention, they can talk a lot about topics that are not so important. (Hint: Watch News Nation every morning where most of the time the news is related to Pakistan, its nuclear weapons and how India is winning the battle and so on.) If this is not enough, why not watch the episodes of Zee News telling how to save yourself during a nuclear attack!

In times when we need the government to answer questions related to the country’s economy, we have “non-political interviews” given to handpicked journalists about how they eat mango or how they evolved from being a “fakeer” to country’s “chowkidaar“. Well, that’s justified too; after all, the ruling government spent almost a fortune to ensure agendas are set as per their ideologies.

Read More: The Modi and Media Connection: Govt Spent Around Rs 890 crore for Advertisements

What’s Ahead?

John Maxwelll Hamilton once said; “Journalism, like democracy, is not something that is achieved. It is a work in progress, not every day is as good as the last.”

So Hope – that’s what lies ahead as not all the Indian news channels have turned the mouthpieces of those in power. There are strong voices that have maintained the standards of journalism in the country by focusing on real issues like unemployment, dipping economy, farmer’s cry and education system’s failure. So with this hope, Happy National Press Day!

Read more: Indian Media Should Learn From International Media How Reporting Is Done

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