Friday, 22 August 2008

SC's observations: A warning singal for Media

The supreme court's comments on the media's overreaching itself seem to have not got the attention they deserve, but they need to be studied carefully by practitioners in the media business. the court was referring to the coverage of the aarushi-hemraj double murders, where the media played the "other" investigating agency, taking it upon itself to cast aspersions on the characters of the accused and of family members, to speculate wildly about what could have happened and to then set itself up as an alternative court of law. most of this, of course, happened on the plethora of news channels which disport themselves on our television screens but the print media is also guilty of sensationalising the case.
the media has already been under the scanner, with the information and broadcasting minister ready with his b! roadcast bill which aims to set some limits for tv news channels. this is something to be avoided. as has been discussed, the government should be kept out of getting involved in trying to "regulate" the media. however, the manner in which news channels have been conducting themselves is laying them open to more and more official scrutiny. they must now take action themselves or find themselves being acted against.
the apex court has castigated the media for behaving like a "super super investigative agency" and super is used in the latin sense of "over" rather than the colloquial sense of "wonderful". that is, the media is being seen guilty of extending its own brief and falling on the wrong side of the law. the result is the apex court sending notices to the union and uttar pradesh governments asking if there was any mechanism to restrain the media from reporting sub-judice cases. there is a certain vibrancy in the media which has a positive side too. it can be argued that had it not been for journalistic enterprise and aggression, instan! ces like reopening the jessica lall case would not have happened. this is true enough. but this has another side too, which is often seen in sting operations gone wrong and over-enthusiasm in covering stories that affect real people who may be innocent.
the supreme court's observations should be seen as a warning signal which, if not taken seriously, will affect the media as a whole, not just a few news channels hungry for higher television rating points. tv news has become a business desperate for consumers and all rules are being broken as a result. errant tv channels have to be made to realise that their actions are detrimental to the public interest. some amount of maturity in the tv media will have to emerge and the ethics of the news profession must be inculcated.

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