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Indian Media, Democracy and the Role of Media as a Watchdog under the Influence of New Digital Media

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The essay intends to analyse the relationship between democracy (freedom and security) and media while simultaneously commenting on the increasing capitalistic attitude, the advent of digital media and its influence. Social Media often acts as a catalyst to bring out reformations through intuitive communication and spread of information which at a plain hindsight seems to challenge traditional journalism that in countries like India fall at hands of Neo – liberal, capitalist bodies. India has a list of mainstream News Channels such as Sun Tv, Times, NDTV, Republic TV, ……that are either co-owned by legislative members of a certain political party or have proclivity to them in terms of sales of propaganda or the theatrics of agenda setting.

Academician like Manoj Kumar from Delhi University, Senior Journalist and Editor such as Rahul Dev from CNEB and UrmileshSingh Senior Journalist from Rajya Sabha Tv and Author of “Kashmir Virasat se Siyasat “had addressed in 2016 on a panel discussion on the news channel Rajya Sabha about the necessity of democratization of news media for unbiased coverage and dispersion of information. The restrictive coverage of issues and the overt sensationalism and trending consumerism have often lead a mass to substitute social media as their first-hand resources whereby they could not only acquire information but also what allows them to hold discourses was further challenged and contested.

Inidi has law and China has order but a successful nation needs both” writes Das Gurcharan (2012 India Grows at Night, New York.Penguin Books). Das in his book inspects whether the neoliberal economic and media Model can truly help India to remain one of the powerful democracies of the world. He tends to compare the countries and its steady growth and further asserts that the only thing that could either succor or demolish either of their growth is the government.

The emergence of Media Corporation, through growing cross media ownership is having their impact on media’s public service commitment. ″Paid news is run to pass off an advertisement, apiece of propaganda and advertisement…pass that as news, pretend that it is news that is “paid news” – P. Sainath. Editorial columns are bid among corporates or members of legislative and other political identities. A trust Barometer Survey was run by Edelman, an independent public relations firm in the year 2010 that credibility in media seems quiet tentative resulting into loss of faith among people. “Over the past two years, trust on television news dropped sharply from 61 percent to just 36 percent that of business magazines have gone down from 72 percent to 47 percent, and that of newspaper gone down from 61 percent to 40 percent. Trust in the media in India declined by 7 percent (from 65 percent in 2009 to 58 percent in 2010) “- “media paid news India”

In Democracy, Inc.: the press and law in the corporate rationalization of the public sphere by David S Allen the chapter Corporate Ownership and the Press: Collapsing Distinctions, he unearthed the whole conflict and history of stance from the U.S. Supreme Court about how free press in a democratic society identified with for-profit organization. Ignorance of this among the commonalities and corporates is what is called as corporate rationalization. This effect the process of inclusion whereby the citizens are now paranoid and thus affecting their relationship with media. The increasing segregation between the public sphere and its institution per say leaves the fight for democracy among the elite making the sphere passive.

Newspapers in India have have investigated political figures and businessman and often have succumbed to pressure to change headlines and withhold stories. A report by Press Council of India stated that paid news coverage during 2009 general elections had instances of paid coverage due to elections. The most recent 2014 election saw an unprecedented $100 million spent on advertorials. The results are not only tampered reportage available to the highest bidder but also owners who are willing to self-sensor for a better under the table payee

Coming to the normative role which is the role of media as what they are supposed to do in society rather than what they are doing. Based on the present scenario, the normative media theory fails to be heuristic in the new digital media landscape with it initiating medialization of the everyday life, society and the world. The reason being that the theory focuses on fundamentals of media ethics which are related to journalism while in the new media sphere, it includes; just more than journalism a cognitive model for current retrospection about media.

There is a synergized relationship between media and democracy and neither can survive without the other and if media must play a vital role here then it must adapt to the needs of late modern society and the new digitized media landscape. The new digital media came along with information communication technology, convergence and digitization shifting from public to network communication, so it can be taken as hypothesis that a shift is necessary from media ethics to ethical communication. Th emphasis should now lay on respect, caring, responsibility for the speaking, listening, reading, viewing and media producing subject. Based on the reading from (Fourie Peter J Normative Media Theory in Digital Media Landscape) ‘ethical communication is more human oriented whereas media ethics is more career and profession oriented; ethical communication asks questions about ethical sustainability of a media practice and performance. ‘The new digital media as argued earlier comes with contention in regards to the blurring lines between information and entertainment, rise of market driven journalism, the distinction between public and private media and between mainstream community and personal media., rise of niche markets choice and abundance, increased ability of the media content the increased ability of media makers and media users to access and store media content in different forms and formats and to use it where and when they prefer; new regulatory frameworks moving in the direction of a synthesis between telecommunications, broadcasting, narrowcasting and print regulatory models.’(Normative Media Theory in Digital Media Landscape A-114)

The society lays its prominence in adapting a role of civic political and cultural minorities and minority rights; blurring the segmentation of public and private; within which exists communities with shared value system; again, where a single glorified structure of Habermas in public sphere no longer exists. Several public sphere claim to be legitimate in ideas centric to democracy dialogue and debate. To all this media must respond by creating diverse platforms and channel.

Drawing back to the concept of Journalism and it personified as a watchdog of society in context to India the discussion made above plays a cardinal role. The ethical communication is an essential element which is to contest the overt sensationalism of news in India. Where does the conventional boundaries end when it comes to extracting information is a crucial thought to ponder upon? Who makes these distinction and boundaries, what are the consequences.

To look at boundaries in an organized fashion, we begin with Thomas Gieryn’s pioneering work in sociology of science. To him the boundaries of science are born from issues that he calls credibility contest in which the establishment of borders relates a core, to the question of legitimacy. Boundary work is quiet challenging. In his book Cultural Boundaries of Science. He breaks it down in three categories, that is expansion, expulsion, protection of autonomy, to build power, to control the world -be intruders.

While we discuss media and its ethics it’s also important to understand and question regarding the safety of these journalists and further analyze as to does the ethical communication have any relevance to the government. Gauri Lankesh an activist and journalist was assassinated on 5th September 2017, right outside her house in Bangalore.

India currently holds the 136th position in the world freedom index (Reporters without borders,2017). Around 11 journalists had been killed, 46 were attacked and 27 had cases lodged against them, further India never responded to UNESCO’S request for the judicial status of journalist killings in the country. “Fatal attacks by no means are the sole measure of safety- which is also severely compromised in the form of non-fatal attacks, imprisonment, threats online bullying and lawsuits. The reports also noted that “Journalists are increasingly targeting of online smear campaigns by the most radical nationalists, who vilify them and even threaten physical reprisals” no journalist so far has been slapped with section 124(A) better known as sedition clause, the threat has been palpable enough for a while to influence conduct.” – (Indian Express) Lankesh was a vociferous critic of the Bharatiya Janta Party and right-wing Hindutva group. Her assasination raises potent questions regarding India free press.

“In 2016 Global Impunity Index.the committee to protect journalists observed that India hadn’t solved a single murder over the past decade. Most of these journalists were independent reporters in a small town and have been shot dead near their home. The murder of Jagendra Singh 2015 had been especiallly brutal he had been set on fire, by the local police next to his home.

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“I had been keeping track of these murders, perhaps because I am an independent reporter myself. Earlier this year, I spent several months investigating the collapse of a bridge that killed 26 people in Kolkata. The state administration shut down channels of communication. It took weeks of waiting and some sheer luck to access some materials via the Right to Information Act. When the story was published, I felt relieved for the delay. I was leaving for Germany within a few days for a fellowship. I was wary of every phone call from an unknown number. Earlier this year, a journalist called Sandhya Ravishankar, also independent, had received threats for her superb investigation on illegal sand mining.”- (C Sohini Inconvenient Truths: Murder of journalism in India.)

In a democratic political system, it is more likely to perceive that it should be able to provide a safer working environment to journalists, but it’s quite the opposite way around where the likelihood of a journalist being killed is higher whereas in less democratic countries its quite the opposite. (Victor et al. 2016)

“Democracy allows for and encourages increased investigative reporting, which, in turn, can get journalists killed. Alternatively, journalists are not at as great a risk for murder in autocracies not because autocracies make them “safer” but because there are fewer incentives or opportunities for them to pursue stories that would put them in mortal danger” (Victor et al. 2016)

Post 2014 general elections the state has often tried to muzzle the rights and voice of media. Followed by the global rise in the narrative of hyper-nationalism and politics committed to populist ideas. While all governments aim to manage and massage the fourth estate, there is a rhetorical difference in the relationship between the State and the news media before the 2014 elections and afterwards,” – (Mukul Kesavan) “I can’t remember a time when there was as strong a rightward tilt in television news as we have now and the worrying thing is that it makes sound business sense, not just in terms of political access, but in terms of advertising, revenue and profit.”(A delicate balance: The state of the fourth estate | The Telegraph.) (2017, February 12) After 2014 elections there was a shift in a paradigm of people who folllow the leader and those who criticize his populist policies. As Kesavan suggests the change in media was always upfront its either with the institution or against it. The neutral media discontinued to persist in a popular narrative. After Narendra Modi led BJP ( Bharatiya Janata Party) took over ( May 2014) attempts have been made to polarize media. “In this kind of structure, the media is forced not to debate but disemminaate news” (Ketkar Kumar, PM forces Government into a silent zone. In the past media has terrorized the UPA government under the leadership of Manmohan Singh and have challenged and critic them but on the contrary, there is a drift in the attitude now.

The event that led to violent scrutinization of media and some university teachers is in context to the demonstrations held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. A sedition case was filed against Kanhaiya Kumar from the Delhi University for protest and assimilating anti national values. And he was alleged “anti- national”

The event that led to the violent targeting of journalists and some university teachers was related to the demonstrations that took place at the Jawaharlal Nehru University few days earlier. The university’s student union president was being tried for sedition for the alleged “anti-national” protests that took place inside the university campus few days earlier20. The ‘patriotic’ lawyers, unhappy with the media’s coverage of the entire episode, decided to take matters into their hand.

Geeta Sheeshu a critic on this issue commented that “current political movement, irrespective of the party in power is responsible for the impunity with the attacks. The difference between he political party and are currently holding power makes it is that often, the vigilante groups that attack the journalist or awe alliance to the same power”

Coming back to does digital media, the new media compliments traditional journalism? Social media over the time has accelerated the changes in transformation in journalism. With the facilities of interactive dialogue and social interaction journalists can finally run an informal or formal set of discourse with people. Earlier the flow of message was one sided, and the audience were mere consumers but now they are active listeners who contribute and participate.

With the veracity of all kinds of news and information material, the authenticity of what one is reading is questionable. In aspects of social media news, it’s important to understand that individuals who pitch stories and articles aren’t trained and hence there are high chances to lead bias into the material. Irish Social Journalism Survey published the statistic that 64% of Irish journalists said that information on social media can’t be trusted. The question between who a journalist is now has been replaced by who a publisher is. There is a shift from quality journalism to quantity for mere TRP (Television Rating Point)

In Jodi Deans Communicative Capitalism, the idea of social media and selling of personal data to the advertisers was brought up. Communicative Capitalism is a material ideological formation in it the values held are central to democracy take practical material form in networked communication technology so ideals of access voice inclusion, discussion and participation are practically realized through global telecommunications. Changes in information and communication network associated with digitalization personalization, localization, speed and memory storage capacity impacts capitalism and democracy complimenting each as it forms a new combination. Our setting is that of a convergence of capitalism and communication that incites participation only to capture it I the effect of personalized media. On one hand this generates a common communicative mesh through which affects and idea, on the other hand it also promotes individualism. Communication today is captured in capitalist circuits it produces and amplifies. This entrapment in capitalist circuits is the condition of possibility for communication transfer and production. Now that democratic Rhetoric have access and transparency voice disunion reflection participation all of these strengthen

The strengthens hold of capitals in network societies. Thus, to sum up Dean stated that internet is good for democracy helps the neo liberalists aggressive distribution of wealth. Three features of communicative capitalism

  • Change in form of utterances from messages to contributions
  • The decline of symbolic efficiency
  • The reflexive trap of circuits and drives

Industrialization exploits labor while communicative capitalism adds in the exploitation of communication manipulating our responses and preferences She further argues that democracy is an egalitarian political ideal particularly those who can project the synergies that others have, and we seem to lack. Our participation is manipulated in such a way that Facebook or Instagram becomes a story and not the people who are suffering

When the unfolding events are condensed in too story about social media, we lose sight of the economic revolution, we contain a struggle against capitalism within a democratic script, leading on to believe that social media is a wholistic representative of us, they stand for our interest and they are egalitarian ends that revolutionary change is availed through quick fix, helping us believe that our communicative entertainment practices are the best political ones. Democracy is a powerful political idea one that is materialized in social media technologies that let us cover over our current political impedance and imagine our self as active political participants.

Reflecting on the advent of new media or per say digital media substantiating traditional journalism would be a myth. Social Medes is not the answer for egalitarian democratic societies that affirms peoples struggle these struggles unfold in a turbulent and information communication environment are weapons and forces as well as setting an environment. Hence digital media can also be portals of fake news and propagandas, leading us back to the beginning of our introduction whereby the panel debated on the same crisis.

Thus, again Media to efficiently function in India, it must be a democratic field rather than capitalistic or the progress will remain stunted forever. Democracy also comes with the idea of free speech and security. The agenda could be to retrace one’s step backwards to quality and not the number of newspapers sold that is to forfeit the quantitative approach.

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Indian Media, Democracy and the Role of Media as a Watchdog under the Influence of New Digital Media. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/indian-media-democracy-and-the-role-of-media-as-a-watchdog-under-the-influence-of-new-digital-media/
“Indian Media, Democracy and the Role of Media as a Watchdog under the Influence of New Digital Media.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/indian-media-democracy-and-the-role-of-media-as-a-watchdog-under-the-influence-of-new-digital-media/
Indian Media, Democracy and the Role of Media as a Watchdog under the Influence of New Digital Media. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/indian-media-democracy-and-the-role-of-media-as-a-watchdog-under-the-influence-of-new-digital-media/> [Accessed 14 Aug. 2022].
Indian Media, Democracy and the Role of Media as a Watchdog under the Influence of New Digital Media [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2022 Aug 14]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/indian-media-democracy-and-the-role-of-media-as-a-watchdog-under-the-influence-of-new-digital-media/
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