Viewers smart to figure out if a media house is agenda-driven: Smita Prakash

ANI Editor says credible news organisations have maximum firewalls

GN Bureau | December 14, 2020


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The media in our country is largely owned by industrialists and is used as a tool to wield power to further their business interests, says Smita Prakash, editor of the news agency ANI, adding that viewers are smart to figure out if a media house is agenda-driven. “If it is only a tool, it is temporary phenomenon.”

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Prakash was in a freewheeling online conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, on Saturday, as part of the Visionary Talks series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.   

“Media is a service. Why are industrialists interested in media if not to wield power and furthering their business interests,” she asked as she added that if a media organisation becomes a tool to wield power it loses its viewership. “Viewers are smart to figure out that the media house is agenda-driven and it doesn’t work and last long. If it is only a tool, it is temporary phenomenon.”

Prakash said that even in the US media is owned by big league businesses and not NGOs as they do not have the financial strength to own them. “You need the money of the industry to sustain media. There are very few self-sufficient houses which are totally run by media,” she said.

“Unfortunately, media is used as a tool by politicians, businessmen, fixers… Should there be a cleanup? I think it should be self …regulated.. It is there in every industry.”

Prakash said that through the years media has been manipulated by all governments, there have been watershed moments across generations when media has been crushed whether it was during the emergency, the Tahelka tapes or the Radia tapes.

“Every time media learns from its experience it pushes back… this has been done by every government. Every political party in opposition talks about media freedom and when it comes to power, also points fingers at the media and try to manipulate the media. If a political party has been in power for a long time there is a sophistication in the way it does as it has already built an ecosystem around it, whereas smaller parties that have not been in power for long are in a hurry to cultivate media and push media much more.”

While speaking on the recent arrest of an editor-in chief of a news channel she said despite the odds he has huge fan following. She added that journalists in tier I, II and III cities as also in smaller cities and villages of Maharashtra also are under tremendous pressure. “Those who cover the Naxal belt and sand mafia, their stories never make it to newspapers.”

Responding to question on how the power of social media can be maximised without crossing the line, she said it can be harnessed only though laws. “Facebook and Twitter are news organisations without reporters. Social media has shaved off the arrogance of traditional media and humanised those demigods. It has removed the aura of big-shot journalists as any fake or plagiarised news gets huge trolling. Though it is very difficult to handle but this was necessary,” she said and added that laws to regulate social media are very much needed and still falling in place. “We are in a flux stage right now.”

She also observed that as media evolves with technology, only those who keep innovating will survive. “If you resist it, you will get swallowed. Journalists must adapt to evolving technology and not time code their work,” Prakash said.

Asked if news television channels are telling the truth, Prakash said people have to figure out which news organisation has maximum firewalls before they put out content and which paper is true to its word to get different viewpoints and not merely give a single point of view.

 

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