There are serious issues regarding the value of content and the increasing concentration of media ownership in the hands of large corporate groups. There is now the culture of non-stop breaking news, screens filled with exclusive news and unnecessarily fixating on the news which generates ratings and, some worry, the transformation of news into a product to sell.
The Indian media industry has massively expanded since the 1990s. But such robust growth may have come at the cost of accuracy, truth, and the work ethic required for this job.
There are now more than 100,000 registered newspapers, magazines, and as over 500 satellite channels in several languages. Indians are seemingly spoilt for choice and diversity.
The thing is these large numbers of media outlets have not guaranteed more freedom of the press in the country instead it has had a negative impact.
Criticism makes democracy strong. Democracy cannot succeed without constructive criticism.
While it was not uncommon for the various regional language channels to display a level of consent to the government’s communal narrative, But now even the English-language media has also followed this path filled with money and ratings. India’s media has always allowed money to dictate what gets printed or broadcasted. It was clearly observed when Jason Jones of “The Daily Show” when he literally bought an article in the Mumbai Mirror claiming he was the world’s best journalist. Another big worry is how the public relations industry has influenced a lot of journalism, mostly because journalists have been happy to play along because they are not working for the people anymore nor are they the 4th estate of power they were supposed to be.
Every night after 7, on India’s news TV, top journalists, conduct interviews and talk shows. It all sounds very noisy and rather contrived. These media elites claim every other story as an exclusive, even when it isn’t, most of the times it is not even worth the national airtime. Plagiarised content has increased and biased content is not going to stop now because money can buy everything, this is quite clear as the Bollywood publicity machine has effectively given the most trusted film critics India has had.
The government has not created an official state-run news service but instead relies on independent news organizations to run its economic narrative, reprimand a Muslim minority, and prey on Hindu anxieties in the country.
The BJP’s social media online troll army remains notorious. As Bloomberg noted, the troll farm, referred to as the BJP’s IT Cell regularly sends out death and rape threats to female journalists. A notable case is Barkha Dutt, who is not only viewed as being against Modi’s agenda but is one of India’s only journalists who provide alternate perspectives on hotbed issues. The social media army is also used to spread communal hatred, fake news, and intimidate those who would take a stand against Modi. Especially for those who belong to some of India’s most marginalized communities, the IT Cell has introduced online toxicity which was never seen before, often with the encouragement of BJP leaders and the pro-Hindutva media sphere. A sting by the media house Cobrapost revealed that nearly two dozen media houses were willing to promote a Hindutva agenda and influence coverage for the 2019 elections. Simply put, media channels that are willing to play along with a government that refuses to hold press conferences.
India has become a breeding ground for a biased, stifled media, one that is increasingly being hijacked by vested interests, and for a hostile environment of abuse and violence against journalists who oppose their propaganda and vision of power and money.
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