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MEDIA IN INDIA

MEDIA IN INDIA

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Published by satishq
Media control and indoctrination in India
Media control and indoctrination in India

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Published by: satishq on Aug 26, 2008
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05/06/2013

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MEDIA IN INDIA
By N Ananth PadmanabhaAMONG THE institutions that contribute to the make-up of a public sphere in society,the media perhaps perform the most critical function. In the transactions in the publicsphere, the media are not a neutral participant or an impassioned chronicler. Instead theyeither legitimize the status quo or innovator of the existing social equilibrium. Theconflict or collaboration of the media with forces that attempt to colonize the publicsphere materializes in this context. The mutual relationship between the state and themedia, either as oppositional or as complementary, is influenced, among others, by thenature of intervention of the state in the public sphere. The former goes back to the 18thcentury when the Bengal Gazette trained its guns on the British administration and wasmauled in the process. Since then, the endeavor of the press to imbue the public spacewith a critical culture has been consistently curtailed by the state, both by legislativeinterventions and by administrative interference.For liberal democratic practice such measures of the state have serious implications, asrestrictions on the media are bound to affect the ambience of the public sphere. TheIndian intelligentsia realized this as early as the beginning of the 19th century whenRammohan Roy, acclaimed as the father of modern India, publicly denounced theattempts of the British government to curb the freedom of the press. Following the leadset by Rammohan, freedom of expression and civil liberties became two key issues of theanti-colonial struggle. In fact, the history of both the national movement and of the presscan be read as the history of the struggle for these two rights. The legacy of this strugglehas great contemporary value, as the freedom of the press and civil liberties continue to be under strain due to the restrictions imposed by the state.Herbert Schiller, a theoretician of repute, has ascribed to the media the role of mindmanagers. Implicit in this description is the ideological function of the media in society.As such, multiple social consequences could ensue as a result of the intervention of themedia. For instance, it could generate a sense of fatalism. It could also create non-conformism. The first relegates the media to the status of an adjunct of the dominantinterests whereas the second provides them the possibility of influencing the course of history. There are several occasions in the life of a nation when the media are called uponto make a choice.In India such a situation arose in the 1990s when a massive, emotionally orchestratedsecular political mobalization was taken. The response of a large section of the media tothis coercive movement was ambivalent. Many chose to swim with the tide. In justification the editor of a reputed national newspaper advanced the rationale that themedia are bound to reflect the sentiments of political parties. By doing so he wasrenouncing the leadership role of the media — of that of an intellectual, if you like — which the nationalist press had so admirably performed. It also relegated the media to thestatus of a helpless victim. The consequences were grievous.
The intellectual
 
atmosphere thus generated by the media considerably contributed to theundermining of the harmonious social order and legitimacy of the state.
During the last two decades, the Indian media have undergone a sea change, particularlyin their intellectual content and cultural ambience. There are two sources from which thetransformation draws sustenance and inspiration: one emanating from outside and theother internally generated. The first, which seeks to subordinate the media to globalcontrol, comes with a variety of promises — of development, technology andinternationalism — extremely appealing to the modernising quest of the middle class.The baggage also includes access to the advanced frontiers of knowledge and the culturalavant garde. The political and intellectual discourse, which it might generate, is likely toinfluence the nature and direction of social transformation. Whether it would lead to anintellectual climate in favour of a mode of development that may not address the problems of the nation is a fear entertained in many quarters. Even without actual control,the Indian mainstream media appear to have succumbed to the cultural imperatives of adevelopmental paradigm that leaves out the traditions from its concerns.Internally, the media confront a powerful secular/left discourse generated by a variety of  political, social and cultural organisations. Sociologists from JNU and other leftestablishment, leftist political parties over the decades have established links with foreignuniversities in UK/USA on social changes and social studies. The discussion on socialchanges using left/Marxist ideology has dominated the intellectual space. Marxist principles on social changes and social studies have dominated these subjects for manydecades. Foreign sociologists, indologists and political experts have dangerous influenceon the discourse of these Indian political and social organizations. The media, at least amajor section of them, have over the years internalised the logic to such an extent that ithas become the instrument of its reproduction. For example the reservations on backwardcastes and dalits have prior debate among these circles in UK/USA for many years. If stereotypes like `Hindu communalism' and `Hindu fascists' or the `majoritycommunalism' have become part of the common sense, the public discourse created bythe media, even if unconsciously by some, is to a large extent responsible. The religiousdivide categories are rampant in reporting and false social assumptions inform newsanalysis, even in newspapers that are otherwise secular.The colonial ideologue, JamesMill, who characterised Indian society in terms of religious communities in conflict stillappears to exert influence on our minds.Consequently, the traditional middle ground space in the media has considerably shrunk. Not because of the secular-communal divide that is artificially created but more becausethe left/secular has succeeded in replacing the traditional Hindu middle. The logic of theleft/secular is increasingly becoming respectable in almost every newspaper establishment. The legitimacy thus gained by the secular/left intellectual, often throughcrude and false representations, helps to change the popular commonsense about keyconcepts like nationalism, secularism and communalism. This tendency has considerablyimpaired the fundamental commitment of the media to truth. The truth, however elusive itis, is not an avoidable luxury, as is believed at least by certain sections of the media, particularly the left. Social engineers
 
Despite these developments, the media are privy to an intense ideological struggle thatIndian society is currently witnessing, between secularism on the one hand andcommunalism on the other. Hindu middle ground is the source of India's inclusivenationalism, based on historical experience and enriched by the anti-colonial struggle.Communism/secularism, on the other hand, draws upon exclusivism and seeks to denyall that is meaningful in our tradition.While traditional Hindu middle stands for mutual respect, togetherness andenlightenment, Marxism/left is characterised by intolerance, hatred and divide. Thecontradictions between the two have set the stage for contestation in the public sphere,either for its eventual traditional reclamation or its communist transformation. Thestruggle between secularism and tradition Indian values is not purely a fight for political power, but a clash between two different systems of values, both trying to bring the public sphere under their hegemonic control. The outcome to a large extent depends uponthe manner in which the media intervene in the public space and mould its character. Onit also depends whether the Republic will be able to preserve its foundational principles.Hence the importance of the media remaining neutral. Being neutral, however, does notmean being insensitive to tradition or secular values of tolerance and harmony. In the pastIndian intellectuals have invoked philosophical traditions like Vedanta to erase socialdivisions and appealed to universalism to bring about religious unity. Taking a leaf out of the past, the media can contribute to the ongoing efforts to halt the unfortunate tendencyof leftist/secular appropriation of the past by adopting a critical but creative attitudetowards tradition.Over the years, the character of the public sphere in India has undergone a qualitativechange. There is a discernible decline in the intellectual content of its transactions.Moreover, the culture of public discussion it promotes has lost much of its sanity andsocial purpose; the self rather than society seems to dominate in it. As a consequence,informed interventions by institutions like the media have become exceptions rather thanthe rule, in contrast to the era of the national movement when such interventionscontributed to the emergence, evolution and vitality of the public sphere. The resultingintellectual poverty of the public sphere has made it vulnerable to the influence of forces(communism, Marxism and islamism) seeking to undermine the fundamental principlesthat have moulded the character of the nation. Although the media currently functionunder severe compulsions, both ideological and financial, a critical introspection is inorder.
Target of Media
The media in India is one of the most powerful tools used by the major powers to controland change the Indian public perception about them selves and about the world. This pattern is also followed in the international scene with negation of Indic culture and biasagainst any revival of civilization ethos. The creeping news about any event in the worldincluding jihad/terrorism information is presented in such a way that the process of evolution and force of history is inevitable and forgone conclusion in favor of the Islamic parties.

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