Growing disconnect between mass media and mass reality: Sainath

Media most exclusionist socially, says award winning journalist

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Sonal Matharu | September 25, 2010



Senior journalist and Magsaysay award winner P Sainath shone the torch on Indian media's shame here on Friday at a talk on paid news saying that the media in the country are "imprisoned by profit".

“The instructions and memos by newspapers to their employees say clearly who their target reader is. Media houses do not have a full time labour and agriculture correspondents. To say you are not going to have these correspondents, you are saying, you are not going to talk to 75 percent of the Indian population,” said Sainath.

He quoted Prabhat Patnaik who had said that the “moral universe of the media has shifted”. "Giant processes of our time like growing hunger and inequalities get no attention from the media," he noted. Instead, media houses are now signing private treaties with corporate houses under which they have to guarantee advertisements and no negative publicity of the private entity.

“The structures of ownership, the output in content, the levers of control and the linkages between different sectors of industry in the dominant media tell very clearly that the media are not pro-establishment or pro-corporate. They are the establishment. They are the corporate world.  They are far more aggressive than the government as a whole or the corporate as a whole,” he said. He was speaking on the topic, ‘A structural compulsion to lie: Media and paid news in the age of inequality’, organised by the Delhi Union of Journalists, Delhi Media Research Centre and Popular Education and Action Centre.

He added that the Indian media is in sectors like aviation, agriculture, cement, hotels, advertising agencies, real estate and education to name a few. They have shares in the market and have no choice but to tell the readers that the market is booming.

“There is a structural compulsion to lie in the media so heavily integrated in the working of the stock market, so heavily integrated in the workings of the neo-liberal policies, they cannot afford to tell you the truth about the market,” Sainath added.

Paid news, he said, is not an aberration; it is a perfectly logical outcome of what has been done with the media. As every other aspect of the society is hyper-commercialised, how can news stand somewhere alone, untouched and regal above the fray? “When you sell everything else, then you are going to sell news as well,” he said.

He added that the blame for paid news cannot be put on the journalists as they have very little to do with it. Paid news is structured corruption by media companies. The media are now too embedded in other sectors to be treated as an exclusive entity. They have to be treated as any other corporate entity and have to follow the laws that apply to other corporate business entities.
 

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