In this age of aggressive consumerism a section of the fourth estate of India is out for sale, having transformed itself into a mart of cheap sleaze and thrills, glamour, manufactured reality and superstitions.
The standard of the Indian media especially the Hindi and vernacular media is nose-diving at an alarming speed. Just a few years back, the Indian media was considered as one of the most intelligent and honest media in the world but in the aftermath of the information boom, its credibility stands thoroughly shaken. Manufacturing sensational news items through sting operations, manipulation and even through exaggeration are now passé for the Indian media, the emerging trend in news coverage in India, especially the Hindi media is one of exploiting and cultivating the regressive mindset of a large section of the population.
In the war of TRPs these news channels are more than willing to descend to the basest level of journalism as long as it helps them attract more viewers. Tune into a Hindi news channel any time of the day, you will be at the receiving end of the cheapest and sleaziest news reports that could be conceived of. Gone are the days when Hindi news bulletins consisted of impassionate and almost mundane news content with morbid apathy towards controversies. The new age media loves controversies and serenades voyeurism. Even if one were to overlook the quality of the news contents, the manner of presentation is usually too gross to be overlooked. The formula that most of these news networks rely on is pretty simple, any event or information that promises to break the monotony of real life can be considered a "breaking news" as long as it can be presented with a dash of sensationalism. But then again an oft-occurring incidence can also be presented as breaking news if it can be repackaged with lavish use of adjectives and superlatives, ghastly video, sound bytes from known personalities and everything that have the potential to create sensation around it. It doesn't really matter if the story is that of paramount national interest or of a little known wrestler, Khali, winning a well scripted and well rehearsed wrestling match in WWE, the media would simply opt for the story that can be sensationalized more. Media's penchant for sensationalism is a global phenomenon but Indian vernacular media's glamorization of regressive temperament along with its obsession for sensationalism, makes it singularly perverse.
Even if India's stories of success in the fields of science and technology are being talked world over, our own media prefers programs based on occult (astrology, numerology and tarot card reading) to stories on specific scientific achievements. But even these seem scientific and rational when compared to the "horror shows" that the news channels pass of as regular news programs. If it is unnatural for a news channel to regularly feature content on supernatural events, what the Hindi news channels indulge in is sheer travesty and intellectual blasphemy. Dramatization of unsubstantiated claims and reports with sub-standard audio and visual effects seem more like Bollywood's C-grade horror movies than news content. Vernacular news channels' obsession with the supernatural is not limited to horror shows only, reports on religious mythologies and prevalent superstitious beliefs find equal time slot on the prime time.
It can be argued that as business organizations these news agencies are justified in taking the approach that is likely to yield more profit. But it should also be borne in mind that as an industry that exists and thrives on the basis of social interaction, it cannot wash its hand off its social responsibility. The civil society grants the press freedom to publish reports, views and opinions independently and without any interference of the State with the belief that the press would publish/broadcast material beneficial to the society. There is an unsaid agreement between the two, the media is under the obligation to abide by it. Then again there can be no question on freedom of the press or censorship, no functional democracy can afford to question it. It is the duty of the media bosses to self-censor and ensure that news contents originating from their concerns are not harmful to the society.