Gone are the days when one started the day with the crinkling of a fresh newspaper. The electronic media is in full bloom. From ‘The Morning Coffee’ to ‘The Evening Tea’, there are all sorts of news shows at different timings on numerous TV channels dedicated to journalism. These News Channels come in different languages and styles to aid the consumer’s convenience and preference. The basic aim of the media is to make the citizens aware of the various developments, government policies, useful and relevant public information, government notices, warnings, weather information and also what’s not going well in the country. Sadly, the cut-throat and meaningless competition for TRPs amidst these media houses has reduced this noble aim to just conveying the bad news and how!
Scroll through the different news channels on the television and you will find that the basic skeletal structure of news delivery is the same: Targeting a news-piece of considerable emotional influence over the audience, over-focusing on the same for too long, writing the catchiest phrases as the headline and flashing it every other minute in bold font all over the screen and impeccably dressed news reporters shouting the same headline repeatedly with only tit-bits of relevant information, in the most inventive manner in order to heighten the tone of the crime or scandal and present it in a way that makes it as offensive to the citizens and/or a particular sect or community as possible! Such targeted and suggestive journalism is called ‘Sensational Journalism’.
The concept of inflicting the audience with the worst version of the news, often changing and misinterpreting the original information, is as old as electronic media itself. The roots can be traced to western countries, especially USA with its popular chat shows churning out spicy gossips. No wonder hence, that when news channels started gaining a firm root in India, the concept was blindly implemented and to huge economic benefits. The emotionally-vulnerable Indian audience was easily lured by the show of humanity and the so-called ‘premium news reporting dedicated to the nation’ that such media boasts of. Consequently, the trend grew exponentially with the mushrooming of news channels in the Indian television scene and every significant television channel network had news channels in not just Hindi and English but as many local languages as they could get the journalists for.
Such news channels treat the viewers as cattle and the news is fed like fodder, same thing in abundance. The journalists seem more like actors, using dramatic facial expressions, a deeply emotional and influencing tone of voice and presenting personal opinions as news facts. All this reduces a one-hour news show to a cheap drama at the most! The audience polls meant to get the common opinion is also a clever strategy at earning more through SMS and the World Wide Web. The debates consisting of an “esteemed panel” is a ridicule of the parliamentary sessions where everyone is yelling at everyone and all the audience hears is a potpourri of loud angry voices forcing their opinions over one another with no conclusion whatsoever.
Sadly, this disease was diagnosed only after several wounds had been inflicted on various individuals, corporate houses, reputed organizations and public figures and irreparable damages had been done. When no news were spicy enough, the TRP-hungry media relied on the shameful practice of “creating news” or presenting rumors or gossip as facts to fill their bellies. It was then that sensational journalism was recognized to be a terrible negative influence and in 2005 the Delhi high court issued a warning to all media houses against this practice. Repeated warnings were issued by the Ministry of IT and Telecommunications to BCCI but to no avail. As always, laws were neither enacted nor enforced. The tragic trend still continues and in an unprecedented manner at that!
My question to all those associated with electronic media and indulging in sensational journalism: What next, news headlines flashed and spoken with emoticons and exclamation marks?