DURGA ‘SHAKTI’ OR MEDIA ‘SHAKTI’?

The first week of August 2013 in India saw a heated reporting on the IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal’s suspension. The suspension was ordered by the UP government. Narendra Bhati, SP leader was caught saying, that he will suspend Durga Shakti in a month’s time. And the result was same. I will be discussing about the media’s approach toward this whole story and how theories are used while doing this by media houses.

Well, any news, which puts a state government in question, is bound to get coverage. Same happened in the case of UP government. Media picked up the line where the UP minister made a claim that he will anyhow suspend the lady IAS, which finally he achieved, and the media got a story. Media took a side, biased? It showed the politicians as villains and IAS Durga as the victim. No prior research was done by the media. The news became the most important issue. Hypodermic needle theory or magic bullet theory – the theory says that the news given by media is directly injected like a needle or shot like a bullet in our head. Thus, we see that the media projected this news as the most important ongoing issues of the nation and we accepted it directly.

The approach of media does have an impact on the government. The UP government ran out of answers and in terms of defending they even said that they would expose Durga and her family. The media reported this too and the centre had to come and intervene to stop this ongoing unhealthy war between Durga versus UP government.

Still, as the news progressed, there were stories which showed the both sides of the coin; the politicians versus the bureaucrat’s angle (a report by Economics Times), which puts the activities of IAS officers too in question. So we see that the approach of media was different at the start and later when the news was broken down into pieces. This helps us understand the theory mentioned above.

Also, theory agenda setting comes into play. The media set the agenda and moves around it. For example (hypothetical case), consider that media decides to show the story of Durga from the point of view such that- Narendra Bhati, SP leader’s statement looks legitimate and Durga’s suspension looks valid. This will be decided by media, that how to channelize the information and thus setting their agenda comes into play.

Thus, we can see that there are two angles to this story, from which media decided to pick one. The whole system of producing a content (about which I have written in my previous blogs vigorously) is to be understood clearly. So is it reporting or manufacturing news? Or it started with reporting and ended up being manufactured news? So, leave your comment and let’s discuss and try to understand this in more detail.

TELANGANA REPORTING – MEDIA PRIORITIES

Indians welcomed the news of forming its 29th state, Telangana, on 30th July 2013. The ruling party congress waved the green flag. The agitation to form Telangana was on extreme rise from 2009 and finally the order to make it a new state was approved. The whole move by congress was politically motivated, considering the 2014 elections. Well, to know the results, congress will have to wait for the next year elections. My concern, as always, is regarding the media coverage given to it. Well, I won’t be going into the politics of it in detail. I will just try to bring out the way it was reported by two different setups of broadcast media – Al Jazeera & Indian media.

The contrast between these two videos will make us understand the approach towards a single story by the media houses. I came across a video on youtube of Al Jazeera reporting on the Telangana issue. I was a little surprised to see the way the reporting was done. It was a feature story, where a citizen of the newly named state, Telanaga, was interviewed by the correspondent of Al Jazeera. The story was soft and rather than drifting towards political slant, it was totally directed towards the economical reforms of the new state. The questions raised were, how will the new state prosper? How will the industries grow? How the new government will tackle the old issues of unemployment and growth of the state at a faster economical rate? An example of an iron-ore industry was broadcasted. The questions were very valid and it interested me (the link of the video will be uploaded on this post).

Now, on the contrary I saw, not all but few (more than 12 approx.) videos of the way our Indian media reported the same Telangana issue. And it came to me as no surprise; the political coverage on the issue was very high. No coverage in top 10 videos was other than political news by all the big media houses of India (English & Hindi channels both). A very simple question is, if they (foreign media) can then why not we (Our media)? Of course the style of the journalism differs from channel to channel and nation to nation but framing news in particular windows affects it. For example, regular political coverage of the Telangana reporting made it repetitive. Were there any new packages (new formats, new feature reports, new special interest stories) reported by Indian media? Well, I didn’t saw many; most of the spaces on broadcast channels were covered by political leaders justifying or fighting against the decision of congress (form Telangana). Was it the only important thing about Telangana?

At a point of time, I felt that the people for whom the state was created were left behind the race of coverage. Well, this is one way of looking it. I know that there cannot be a comparison between the way a foreign channel reports and the way our channels do their reporting. The audience is different for both the channel. But my concern is only about proprieties. Are we paying to see the never ending discussion panels? Or story (human interest or economical) which really appeal to us?

Share your thoughts and write down your opine if you have a different thinking on the same.

ARE CELEBRITIES MY PRIORITY?

This topic is debated over and over. And many professionals who understand media in and out have concluded in both directions- in favor of reporting such news and the others against it. Well, the principle of journalism say that celebrity reporting on particular topic comes under yellow journalism when certain limits are crossed. What are those limits? We shall see in this blog and try to understand how media reports it.

I will take the recent reporting of the Khan’s hug, Shahrukh-Salman, at the ‘iftar’ party of the MLA Baba Siddiqui. It created fantastic news. And in no time all the channels were flooded with the images of the khan’s hugging each other. The news was shown in such a fashion that it appeared as if India won a medal in Olympics. Was it necessary to show the news in larger than life space? Or is it us who wants it like the way it is? So the question arises, whether we are ascending in terms of receiving news or descending?

I personally feel that it is pure commercialization. Look at it from the economics point of view, to run the business the media needs content. And the biggest problem which media faces is to get the content to run a channel and fill the space for 24*7. Hence, they give what is catchy and thus keep on repeating it for a couple of hours or even days depending on the gravity of the issue. So, as audience or viewers what is our job? Just to perceive what the media is giving or to put forward our views through social networking sites or any other platform. Well, it all depends on us.

Celebrity news has always created ripples amongst the news channels and us. Whether it be the infamous Rakhi-Mika controversy or the recent patch up of Karan-Arjun (The Khan’s). Who decides what is more important? The issues on which I have addressed about in my previous blogs or the patch up of some two Khan’s who we have never met personally nor they have influenced our lives in any way other than entertaining us, largely. It all depends on that meter which everyone has to measure their own important issues. For some it may be war, for some the economics, for some the politics and for some entertainment. It all depends on our knowledge and how we choose our content (Knowledge gap theory; for details refer to my previous blog).

Media has a very simple role to play here. It plays the content according to everyone’s taste. Hence, maintaining the viewership or the readership in case of TV and newspapers respectively. I have been raising this question from my very first blog; does the media gives us what we want or should it provide us with what we need? Media plays safe by following their own principles- setting agendas, framing news and gatekeeping in terms of selecting the content, which is delivered to us.

Well, such kind of reporting, celebrity oriented, has taken a leap in the past couple of years. Whether it may be the wedding of a star or a birthday occasion or catching the glimpse of a celebrity’s new born baby, all type of reporting has raised questions in the mind of media professionals and ours too sometimes.

So, I ask your opinion on such reporting. Feel free to comment and write down your thoughts about such reporting. You may be pro or anti of such kind of reporting but no problem, this platform is to discuss. So go ahead and drop your comments!

(NOTE: If any of the Khan’s is your favorite, please forge me. I just took them for my explanation, nothing personal).

NUCLEAR POWER & THE INDIAN MEDIA

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(Image courtesy: google images, edited by Izaz Ansari)

Well, whenever one uses the term ‘nuclear’ or ‘nuke’, you certainly would have some curious ears and eyes listening & gazing to that particular individual. Such sensitive is the issue of nuclear activity. Indians and the Indian media, whether it be the 123 agreement between India–U.S or the establishment of Kundankulum nuclear plant with the support of Russian scientists, has mostly been anti in their thinking and projection of the nuclear power. 

We shall now get into the details of the above statement and start analyzing, why is it such? So, as Indians we believe because the media tells us to? Is that so? And it also depends on whom we follow (Two step flow theory; for details refer my previous blogs). Okay, now I am saying all this because I myself visited TAPS (Tarapur Atomic Power Station) and some of my myths were busted. 

Now, the media’s projection of the nuclear power in India has been largely anti. Maybe because the media professionals are not so well versed with the technical functioning of the nuclear plant. The basic functioning is very simple – the Uranium is used to generate heat, the heat is used to boil the water, which releases the steam and the steam is used to rotate the turbines which is connected to the generator that finally produces electricity. See, I said it’s very simple! The main understanding gap of the media personal may be the structure of the plant building. Trust me, it is well planned and constructed, it is safe. Visit NPCIL’s official website and you will get a good in depth detail. 

I found some media reports, which were deviating from the truth. A fire in some industry near a plant was reported as – Tarapur station on fire. This is one aspect. On the other side, the media has always reported about the insecurity of the nuclear plants. Debates have been conducted by many news channels on nuclear safety programs in India but it hardly comes to any conclusion rather than the end product being too noisy and going in many directions. 

The nuclear power is the future fuel, there is no denying. Coal is about to deplete in 35-40 years and by the consumption rate of electricity going too high, it’s not at all possible to depend on solar energy (too costly) and wind energy (too much geographical area required) only. There’s hydel electricity, which can be used, but it too cannot wholly fulfill the complete requirements. This is the part the media has seldom touched. Why is that? Again Knowledge gap theory. The media gives us what we want and not what we need. 

The impact of earlier disastrous events like Nagasaki-Hiroshima, Chernobyl & Fukushima has made us think of nuclear energy as not safe. Thus, when the media tells us reports on anything related to nuclear we tend to think in an anti manner. Here come two more new theories; magic bullet theory & hypodermic needle theory, according to these theories, the information is injected or shot into our head with an immediate effect of it. So the media is capable of doing that. Setting agendas and telling us what is right and wrong. 

Like all my other blogs, this blog is a little different. Nuclear energy is still being developed in new forms and we keep getting updates about it now and then in media. Well hope this blog may have educated you and help you think about nuclear power in a different way.

Well, like always, do post your comments and queries if you have any? Be open and remember communicating does resolves confusion. Do share your opines!

WHY ALWAYS MODI?

He caught the eyeballs of the whole nation, when, for the first time he became the chief minister of Gujarat on 7th October 2001. It was after his swornship that Gujarat faced the worst hit of riots in 2002. Many accused him as the main reason for those riots. It is because this that he is always in media. He may like it or not, but the media would never leave his trail. In media terms, Narendra Modi is a ‘Newsmaker’.

Media knows the value of Modi. The weightage attributed to Modi is very high as compared to any other politician in India. His speeches are so carefully heard by the media personnel and only one casual word from his mouth can make a big front page story or breaking news on any television news channel. The end product is a fabricated, scripted and media manufactured word. My intension in writing so much before actually coming to my point is that, I want to make my point clear that how media not just reports but manufactures news at times.

Recently Modi was in news for his comments, which he made in his interview with the Reuters news agency. Now, whether the comment was controversial or did the media made it look such? Well, both the possibilities cannot be denied. Now let examine through the point of view of the media.

2014 elections are near, and media is on top again, chasing sensationalism. Media did a simple thing, played the only part, where Modi uses the word ‘puppy’ and ‘Hindu nationalist’, of the interview again and again. So, without telling us the whole scenario it is only reporting that which can spark a party against party war and media can get a full loaded content for telecasting 24*7. This is very clear on how media is setting its agenda (agenda setting theory, refer my first blog for more details on this theory). It is not giving us the false side of the story but also not delivering the whole truth. This is how media should perform its social responsibility?

Now, the reporter from Reuters who interviewed Modi made a clear statement that the context in which modi said these lines were not at all controversial. He was just explaining a situation but the media projected it otherwise. Is media setting their agenda for the 2014 election? Is the media giving us what we want and not actually what is required by us? Is just taking bytes of various leaders from various parties on a particular topic and filling up content slot is media’s main motto?

There are a lot of questions which go unanswered. And we are a part of this dumbing down of news. It at times also depends on our peers, on what opinion we form. There is always someone, to whom we look for guidance or in our opinion forming. What if the person we are counting on is biased? Two Step flow theory; which states that whatever information we acquire, comes two us in two stages. First from the media to the opinion leader and then from the opinion leader to us. Hence, we listen to what the opinion leader says. Also knowledge theory plays a vital role here (for further information about this theory refer to my first post).

This is how the news media works sometimes. Yes we cannot do much about it but we can make ourselves aware of the media business and thus can help ourselves in forming right decisions.

Well as always, you are free to drop your comments and yes I will answer your queries for sure. Also if you want to know more on media and contemporary reporting, be my guest and go through my earlier posts.

Food for everyone!

Food for everyone!

FOOD ORDINANCE BILL

Food ordinance bill is the most recent ordinance cleared by the Indian government. According to this, 70% of Indian population will be provided with food at 1-3rs per kg. One major thing is at stake, which concerns all Indians is the money which we pay in the form of tax. The money involved to fund this program is 125,000 crores ($22 billion). The UN (United Nations) has welcomed this and has considered it as one of the smartest decision by India. The UN said that- this bill will certainly lower the margin of hunger in India and with proper effect it may even erase hunger in coming years. This bill was in queue from past many years. On the contrary, many economic pundits, who understand the Indian economy better, feel that this was not the right time to bring this bill into affect.

Now, what I am concerned with is; the media’s response to this whole thing. When was the need of highlighting this issue? Did the media give us what we wanted? At the time when we wanted? Or was it shown when media wanted?

So, the media has reported about it lately. And I saw more coverage about this in print more than on electronic media. Now, does that convey something to us? Of course it does! Gatekeeping theory again (for details of this theory refer to my previous post), the owners and Editors of the channels have full authority of playing up or dumbing down a news. And that’s what happened with the reporting of this bill. The newspaper too started giving enough coverage only when the monsoon session is near. Both the media, television and newspaper, ran out of other more catchy content to publish or broadcast.

I ask all of you- is food more important than entertainment? I am asking this because media kept on playing the cricket game, IPL, instead of discussing a bill, which is a key to remove hunger from the face of India. Hence, what media did is, they made their agenda (Agenda setting theory, for details of this theory refer to my previous post) very clear. They projected the IPL fiasco so much that we though it is the only humungous problem in India at that time. We were glued to our TV screens and papers and kept reading about Sreesanth and team who were involved in this scandal.

And now it’s too late as the bill is cleared. But yes the media is coming up with the story, from both angles. They are reporting about this bill and why Congress was in a hurry to clear it. Anyways, most of the economic pundits suggest that Congress should have slowed down and thought about it once before clearing it. Questions were raised, such as- why this hurry? Will the government be able to stand with it in years to come (due to the amount involved)? Or is it just for the 2014 elections? Well, we all have our opinions! But it is for sure framed in some or the other way by the media. Here comes framing theory, which states- the media houses frame a particular story and give a slight slant before producing it in front of their audiences. It completely depends on our knowledge that how we perceive the news (Knowledge gap theory, for details of this theory refer to my previous post).

There are other problems related to the bill too. The two main problems are; proper channelization of food grains through its centers to the needful people and the storage of the food grains. We have already seen reports in media about food grains wasted just because government has no proper storage basements. Hence, such factors too come into play while considering this bill.

This is an important issue. My blog deals with media more, hence it restricts me to go on to the political views. But still if you want more on this (political angle), let me know through your valuable comments. I will be happy to write on that for you.

(Photograph & graphics – Izaz Ansari)

UTTARA- “KHAND”!

It was 15th June 2013, where the ‘yatris’ who started off for a pious journey of the four sacred places called the ‘chaar dhaam’ witnessed their lives in utter darkness. The media reported- due to heavy raining and cloud bursting, places like Gauri Kund and Kedarnath in Uttarakhand got flooded and thousands of pilgrims got stuck in the flood. The media came up with heart breaking visuals of the scenario. All the media- Newspapers, Channels and the internet were flooded with the news of flood in Uttarakhand.

The next reporting; after the flood reports consisted of the destruction it caused. The media then went on explaining the cause behind it taking science and astrology into consideration. Agenda theory has a role to play here. The theory states that- The media houses set the agenda of the viewers/readers according to their interests by bombarding the viewers with the same content again and again, finally with no choice left; the audience has to come back to that particular news and consider it as the most important event. Although in this case, the event happened to set alarm for people across the nation, such kind of coverage was expected from the media houses. Most of the responsible channels have reported according to the disastrous situation and keeping the ethics of journalism in mind. But slowly most of the channels started shifting their domain towards political arena. They started chasing for the bytes and comments of politicians. All the cameras ran behind Shri Narendra Modi, who visited Uttarakhand to see how the conditions there were. When he landed in Uttarakhand suddenly the media went bonkers and went on reporting about Modiji. All wanted a byte of their visit to the affected place. So to say that was a publicity stunt could largely be connected to media chasing sensationalism. The media is not giving us what we want but what they want us to see or read is delivered to us.

Same happened with the visit of Rahul Gandhi. The media started chasing his vehicle and all the reporters were behind him to get a byte for their respective channels. We need to understand that this is all decided by the heads of the media groups, which news to cover and which to be left. The gatekeeping theory comes into play here. The theory says- There is a gatekeeper for every media house who decides which news to be carried and which to be left. Thus, it makes very clear that what we get is not the direct reporting but the filtered one, which may be adjusted according to the channels policies. Such news stories have a slant to it, favoring or anti to a particular party. This cannot be neglected because the current reporting style is such. Either you are flowing with the stream or you are flowing against it.

Followed by many reports later on, some channels reported that many people said this happened because a statue of a local goddess was removed a day before. This news was picked by few small channels and played up. Now here we can connect the knowledge gap theory to the kind of reporting that was done. A well read man would definitely not buy this news but a not so well read man would see this news with interest and would even consider it true. The theory says- the knowledge level of a person decides his or her perceiving of the news reporting. Hence, it also raises a question about the kind of news reported by the media houses during such sensitive times.

Thus, it is up to us to select the content which we are seeing. We should be well versed with the way how media treats news. And instead of following it blindly we should try to understand the layers hidden below it. If we have a sound understanding of these few basic theories then we can easily understand that how the media is not giving us news but selling just content.

If you have any views about this post, you may feel free to comment. You may also post your personal views if you disagree with the same. All comments appreciated.