The Changing Dynamics of The Fouth Estate

It is said that rebelliousness is not a transferable epithet, discarding the adage, I and my enlightened friends set out to to be a part of a Trivandrum based youth conclave called ‘Creative Rebel’. Spanned over three sessions covering Media, Agriculture and Art, I was quite impressed by the idea in theory and am now looking forward to it for bringing about a transformation at the grassroots.1654016_407236392756338_151183928_n

The conference offered me the privilege of listening to Mr. Sashi Kumar, acclaimed journalist and prominent media personality. Through an inspired speech, he was able to give the audience, an overview of the dynamic world of media and journalism. I hope I’m making myself useful for those who missed the opportunity, by providing with my understanding of his ideas and vision.

Journalism – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

Since the advent of printing press till the major part of 20th century, press talked about something that is happening around us. It has served the interest of the ruling class and concerns of the elites and was rightly branded as a middle class preoccupation. The high cost of printing and distribution made it inaccessible for a large section of public. The idea of media as the fourth estate originated as an inspired consequence of the emergence of democracy in United Kingdom where elected representatives and electorate used media as a tool to communicate and address each other’s concerns. Then why is there a question of distinction of journalism before and now? The moral duty of a journalist was to give the society what it needs rather give it what it wants. Today the media houses are busy getting the scoops for their daily dose than making a significant change in someone’s life.

Somewhere the newspapers running during the freedom struggle had more vigor and commitment to serve the society and a single point of convergence FREEDOM for INDIA, and everyone joined along the boulevard. They had a sense of duty that helped them work day in day out. But today we have such sleepless nights to get better TRP ratings than other competitive channels on saas-bahu soap operas than real time problems and real-time issues.

What role should media play in the contemporary world?

Philosophical studies on media and journalism have always mooted the idea of media assuming the roles of a social agent, a representative and a bulwark of transformative ideas and practices. These multifarious roles has offered the public to view media as a dynamic entity with parallel and complimentary definitions with varied interests. It takes the shape of a mirror which reflects social realities or a window to the unexplored social and geographical realms or a crystal that refracts the contrasting perceptions of an issue, positioning the reader in distant vantage points.1920059_425936987552945_1462189520_n

What has been the dimensions of media cognition from an Indian context?

It has been a profound experience to know that there are references to media’s role in the vedic and later-vedic literature. It acknowledges the following dimensions to our home grown media:

1. Prathyaksham (Visible News)

2. Anumanam (Inference)

3. Aptavakyam (Reported Speech)

4. Smrithi (Memoirs and Experiences)

To read and understand these concepts in the backdrop of our contemporary societal customs is not as anachronistic as one perceives it to be as it has a lot to do with the world we live in, the language we speak and the heritage we inherit at an elementary level. This is to say, that media has become an all-encompassing entity, so powerful that it has taken over our physical and mental faculties that assist us in forming an opinion. We have nevertheless shamefully mortgaged our ability to think and formulate our own opinions to the multi-million media industry.

What drives media to do what it does today?

So, if media has taken up the role of vicariously creating opinions for us and we have willingly allowed for the outsourcing of that function, it is time for us to explore how media formulate their opinion and if possible do a close scrutiny of the veracity of their intentions and methods. Today, media follows anti-competitive tendency of setting the news agenda on a within the four walls of a studio or the same walls of a classroom with the same mentality of our hostel mess contractors*. The editors across borders, follow this universal custom of coming into a consensus with regard to the type, nature and rebellious nature of the news that is to be published. These actions are driven by their fear of missing out the news, which another market competitor would’ve covered otherwise. So, consensus to have no competition is better than opting for a dog fight. To draw a sheepish parallel, this is like deciding the result of a T20 cricket match by opting for coin toss.

What are the emerging trends in the media industry?

Undoubtedly, the progressive citizen journalism and the advent of a simmering social media have had the most staggering impact on the way business is done, today. The reach, affordability of technology has led to the a certain democratization of media which is visible in form of media coming back to the streets and focusing on the developmental issues, the domain they had long ignored since doordashan’s slow demise (or not!) Thankfully they showing signs of giving more priority to user-created and preferred news than the assembly chain ones. It also includes, working on how society should be and not being a court jester to the propagators of outdated social ethos of fundamentalism and intolerance.  This transformation would also mean that media cannot claim to be the sole guardian of social morality and take the moral high ground in sensitive issues. However this is not to say that journalism would be devoid of any incentives to function better nor they would be forced to shed the values that have evolved over the years.

Media of the Future!

Quoting the, Christopher Nolan’s legendary film ‘Inception’,

“An idea. Resilient… highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere.”

Information without transformation is as good as a gossip. We should be foresighted enough to identify the media legacy that we want to leave for the generations to follow. For long, it has evaded itself from reflecting the truth of the society and has provided fodder for those who get overjoyed by yellow journalist news culture. It’s time that we engage in active healthy discussions on what media can offer to our common future than what is in store for media in the future. It is natural for a free-maket sympathizer to emphasize with the investors, who have put in their hard earned money in these corporate houses in search of profits. However, the million dollar question is, can a responsible media house be complacent with steady flow of profits and thereby by turning themselves into an information supermarket than an altar of social justice? In this juncture, I’d like to conclude by quoting Finley Peter Dunne, American humorist and writer who when asked about media role, replied,

“Media should afflict the comforted and comfort the afflicted”

*Indian university campuses and it’s hostels have traditionally been serving hopelessly bad food since the first ever was established. I wish Aam Admi Party, took up the mission of saving these millions from wrath of those greedy mess contractors, who have been running these slaughter houses.

Created, Edited and Compiled by

Gautam Jayasurya, Lawyer,Student, Trivandrum ; Theertha Menon, Media Student, Trivandrum

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