Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Media on trial

It was not for the first time that the Supreme Court of India had made a hard hitting observations on quality of debates and the role of anchors in television channels across India. On September 21, a Bench of bench of Justices K M Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy lashed out at TV channels over unregulated hate speeches and also the dubious role played by TV anchors. The justices noted that “Hate speech is layered… Like killing someone, you can do it in multiple ways, slowly or otherwise. They keep us hooked based on certain conviction”. It may be recalled that the Supreme Court had also expressed its observations in similar tones while hearing a batch of petitions in October and December 2021.On September 21, the Supreme Court bench directed the Union of India to make clear its stand as to whether it intends to enact a law on the Law Commission’s recommendations for prohibiting incitement of hate speech. The apex court expressed dissatisfaction over steps taken by the government and orally and asked – “Why is the government remaining a mute spectator?” There are approximately around 900 working TV channels of which 388 are news channels and their reach and influence cannot be under estimated. Many of the News channels in India have become a shouting box that shows every news with the tag of breaking news and to get TRP increased. This is done by creating sensational content on their prime time shows rather than dissemination of credible and useful information that actually affects people’s life. Most of the TV channels think nothing about the harmful impact of the hate content broadcast. Anchor persons on TVs shout down any panellist who differ with the agenda that is sought to be promoted. Many anchors think nothing to shout with toxic words as the news debate turns out into a super thrilling drama where the participants lose their dignity of language while debating with each other. Several anchorpersons have earned notoriety for habitually interrupting while some panellist, who may belong to a different ideology is speaking. At times, some anchorpersons themselves get into verbal duel with some panel members if they happen to attack the government. Media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy but today it has become merely a tool of political parties to lay out their propaganda and form a public opinion as most of the biggest news channels are directly or indirectly influenced by a particular political party in our country. That is why now media is divided into two parts -pro-govt. and anti-govt. Political influence on the news channels is also one of the factors of increasing toxic debates because hate speeches made by a politician becomes news for these news channels and when channels start making prime time show on it just makes it more noxious. In the name of freedom of speech, many news channels blatantly invade the privacy of people, openly defame them, and start making judgments about them in their newsrooms even prior to the court of India. The apex court’s valued observations need to be acted upon and it is also for political parties and civil society groups to highlight it across the nation.