Medium Is Not The Message, After All
Is there something fundamentally wrong with the Modi regime, which the media world is wary of? Were the earlier regimes more accommodating?
Photo Credit : Reuters
In a recent column in Business Standard, T.N. Ninan raises a vital question — does the media have a political bias? The piece, in the context of the Gujarat elections coverage, points to the phenomenon where views / opinions often replace facts. Taking forward the argument, S. Gurumurthy asks – “News produces opinion, not the other way round. English media opinion that the Modi-Shah duo should be defeated will not produce the news of their defeat”.
In today’s age, we accuse many media outlets of being the government’s cheerleaders. We talk of a Hindi-English divide when it comes to facts, and their pursuit of truth. We also talk of some television news channels, including the English language ones, talking like Narendra Modi allies. Yet, the question that should be asked, as Ninan does in his piece, “Is the bulk of the media socialist in orientation?”
We know of embedded journalism the world over. We know how media empires are ideologically aligned to one principal camp or the other — be it in the UK or in the US. We also know the contempt which President Trump has for many of the mainstream media outlets. Critics compare if Prime Minister Narendra Modi has the same contempt for the media — after all, he doesn’t regularly engage with the media; he doesn’t take them to his overseas trips; he lets his Twitter account do all the talking.
Also, there is a class of journalists who talk of the Modi regime being the one of coercion and witch-hunt. Many of the old elites of the media world are not at all at ease with the Modi dispensation. Any talk of Modi’s second term gives them the jitters.
So, is there something fundamentally wrong with the Modi regime, which the media world is wary of? Were the earlier regimes more open, more accommodating, more democratic? Did Sonia Gandhi as the Congress president often engage with the media? Did Manmohan Singh face a hostile media as the Prime Minister? Were things really different in the Vajpayee era? What about the earlier regimes?
The fact is that while people at the top might have changed, the rules of the power games rarely change. Ideally, the relationship between the media and those in power should be adversarial. An adversarial relationship is what should guide the media’s ties with the government. The media shouldn’t really be doing the government’s bidding.
This is particularly true for the English media. The problem arises that for the entrenched media leaders, while Modi is an “adversary”, the rules are conveniently tweaked if there is a, say, Congress regime at the Centre.
The root of the problem, as Swapan Dasgupta has emphasised in the past, is that we, in the English media, are fed on an education system that is the product of a Left-Liberal worldview. The Congress has a cosy relationship with this club. The BJP, particularly Modi, doesn’t quite fit in here. He, then, will remain an outsider for them. Modi knows this. This is perhaps one of the reasons he has never cultivated the media. This disconnect is also why we must not rely on the English media to form an opinion on the Modi regime.
For the ever-expanding universe of news consumers, the medium must not become the message. When it comes to information, facts and opinions on Modi, however, this, unfortunately, is the truth.