Time for Modi Media to Worry About its Future

3 Min
Time for Modi Media to Worry About its Future

Atul Cowshish

What is believed to be one of the very few independent electronic media houses in India is about to fall. Gautam Adani, who ranks among the world’s richest businessmen, is all set to acquire majority shares in the New Delhi Television (NDTV).

Another crony of the ruling dispensation, Mukesh Ambani, who expanded a business empire he had inherited from his father and was richer before Adani popped him, already owns some of the big electronic media houses that are among the prominent parts of the Modi Media, more popularly known as Godi Media. Some media houses have volunteered their services to the ruling party by pursuing sycophantic journalism for not very altruistic reasons.   

This has created a situation where almost the entire phalanx of TV ‘news’ channels, a key segment in influencing public opinion, does nothing but blow the trumpet 24×7 of the ruling dispensation while relentlessly running down the Opposition and its leaders. For nearly eight years, taking up issues relevant to the public or deserving of serious media attention have been a strict no-no for these TV channels unless they can be twisted to eulogize the Great Leader.

But of late signs are emerging of growing disenchantment with the sycophantic media TV channels. The number may be small at present but everyday the digital media is attracting more and more viewers.

The public is becoming aware of the vast gap that separates the truth about ‘events’ shown on the small screen and the ground reality as depicted on the digital media that have been mushrooming on the YouTube.

The so-called mainstream media would have us believe, for instance, that all election rallies of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in their home state Gujarat have been drawing huge crowds while the social media has shown shots of the same meetings where rows upon rows of empty chairs and half-filled grounds are clearly visible. Interviews with ordinary Gujaratis speaking critically of Modi have also been aired by the digital media while the Godi Media shuns it like plague. 

The pro-government media creates the impression that the public—the voter—is very pleased and contended with the prevailing situation. Can it be believed, does it sound credible, that skyrocketing prices and large scale unemployment are of no concern to the average citizen, as is projected on the government’s pet media?

There is a disturbing aspect of the increasing disenchantment with the ‘mainstream’ media. Representatives of the Godi Media are being reviled and hooted by the public. At a rally in Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi, target number one of the Godi Media, made some sarcastic comments on the representatives of this media; the crowd shouted its “approval”.

There have been many instances when the ‘stars’ of the Godi Media were hackled by crowds during the more than a year-long farmers’ protest on the borders of Delhi. But it must be said to the credit of the crowd that they did not rough up the TV ’stars’ or used foul language.

The language spoken by anchors and most of the representatives of the ruling party borders on profanity and calumny. Perhaps the TV presenters of the Godi Media are becoming conscious of the unfavourable public reaction to their unpardonable conduct on the screen. They have been trying to deny that they present only the official or ruling party’s views and they direct their queries to the Opposition parties because asking questions is their ‘right’ and a basic duty of journalists!

Subterfuge of this nature only confirms the viewers’ negative opinion about them. Some anchors have tried another technique: They surprise the ruling party representative on their show by occasionally asking some ‘uncomfortable’ question. That could be applauded had they made that a regular practice.

It may be added that single-minded devotion to serving the interest of the ruling party is not confined to the electronic media. Print publications try to look as ‘balanced’ as possible though the tilt towards the ruling dispensation is easily recognizable.

There is no doubt that the print media continues to be seen in a better light and has retained some credibility compared to the army of TV ‘news’ channels which some, not willing to sound harsh in judgement, bracket with ‘entertainment’ channels. The ‘entertainment’ part comes from the nightly ‘debates’ which are nothing but fish market scenes with everyone trying to outshout everyone else while the anchor tries to muffle the contrary views.

Some of the Indian ‘news’ channels imagine that they have world-wide audience when the fact is that their overseas viewers are devotees of the ruling party and its Leader. In the journalistic circles abroad, Indian TV channels are rated low and rarely noticed.

If things are allowed to deteriorate further, time may not be far when TV audiences shrink considerably, affecting the very future of the ‘news’ channels. Their loss may well become the gain of the digital platforms. The government seems to worry about this possibility as it tries to think of ways to exercise control over the digital platforms.  (SAT)