THE Cobrapost sting investigation has graphically exposed the deep rot which has afflicted major sections of the media, both print and television.
The Cobrapost expose involves 25 media organisations, including major ones, such as the Times of India, Zee TV, India Today, Hindustan Times, ABP News, Jagran Group and others. This was the second installment of the revelations.
The sting operation involved a reporter of the Cobrapost posing as an `acharya’ belonging to a sangatan purportedly connected to the sangh. The `acharya’ approached the media owners and executives with an offer of hundreds of crores of rupees for an advertorial campaign to advance the Hindutva agenda and in the final stage to create a communal polarisation.
The alacrity with which many of the media houses accepted the deal and offered to carry it forward reveals the way corporate media has compromised all ethics and journalistic integrity to put out paid news and conduct a disinformation campaign. There is also the damning revelation from a top Paytm executive that the government had asked for data of its subscribers to be handed over.
Commenting on the state of affairs, a leading commentator, Bhanu Pratap Mehta, has accurately stated in The Indian Express: “...a number of prominent media institutions have over the years become a toxic amalgam of veniality, fanaticism, irresponsibility and subservience to power”. In the corporate media, the lines between the business and editorial interests have got blurred compromising editorial independence. The sole aim of the corporate media is the drive for profits and money-making becomes the criteria to decide content.
While this character of the corporate media in neo-liberal times has been evident, what the Cobrapost investigation reveals is the open allegiance declared by some top media executives and owners, to the BJP-RSS combine.
The CPI(M) had characterised the advent of the Modi regime as the fusion of big business and Hindutva. That is now reflected in the mainstream media.
It would be futile to expect that these media abuses can be rectified through State intervention, given the fact that the government of the day is fully supportive of corporate power and Hindutva.
There are media organisations which stand for independent journalism and media integrity. They must be supported and strengthened. Despite the corrupt and unethical practices of the media owners and corporates, there are a large number of journalists who are committed to uncovering the truth, reporting the facts and exercising independent judgment. Within the media, they have to struggle to ensure the integrity of journalism and providing fair coverage.
Public opinion must be created for the setting up of a Media Council which will have an independent and statutory basis that can oversee the functioning of all forms of media based on sound and transparent guidelines.
The Left and democratic agenda is for democratisation of the media and this requires an end to the grip of big business over the media. It also will entail the media being free of foreign capital and prohibition of cross-ownership of media. The public broadcasting service must become an important segment of the media.
The reform of the media is an important part of the Left and democratic alternative.
(May 31, 2018)