PROTECTING PUBLIC INTEREST

The Media, popularly known as the fourth pillar of democracy, is expected to remain strictly committed to the duty of protecting public interest at all cost. Unfortunately it is an irony of this nation that today it seems the foremost ethical duty of media has taken the back-seat giving way to achieve highest TRPs, with media houses abdicating the main role least bothering about the serious repercussions it could have on the future of the society and the nation. It is pertinent to mention here that Indian Media developed in a very healthy manner during the post independence era and continued in the same way for a couple of decades after which it became much powerful. However, it is an irony that after attaining unprecedented heights, some black sheep tarnished the image of this strongest establishment so much that today it has been inviting ridicule for promoting the menace of paid news especially after the ingress of corporatization in this sector. Once fingers were raised against it even by the Parliamentarians alleging that awards instituted by the media houses nowadays to honour industrialists, professionals and different personalities were yet another form of paid news endeavour. This allegation came despite the fact that it is mainly the political class that has been overtly or covertly promoting paid news during the recent decades. It would not be wrong to state that all political parties unanimously engage in the trend of paid news and hence nobody wants to stop it. It can hardly be denied that despite multiple accusations against it, the Media continues to be the strongest and significant source to reach out to the people, thus making its credibility very high in the present day world. At the same time it needs to be acknowledged that paid news is a very complex problem with accusations against a section of the corporate media having created a structural imperative towards such corrupt practices in which promise potential and actual monetary gains are substantial and that too at negligible costs. Though profit-maximizing entities will act to increase returns rather than look at social externalities, mass media cannot be expected to adopt such corporate norms, as this clearly conveys a signal that it is willing to diminish or even abrogate its role as a protector of public interest and enforcer of accountability, thus showing a tendency most disastrous for democracy. The paid news problem, as it appears today, is the result of a strong nexus between the lawmakers and politicians cutting across party lines and in this context the accusations by the Parliamentarians on paid news against media houses assumes special significance as it could be a turning point as regards the movement to eliminate the menace of paid news, the result of a nexus that till yesterday seemed to be impossible to be weakened easily. While a group of Parliamentarians brought this vital issue in the public domain, sections of the country’s mass media have been already highlighting the issue for a long time now and will undoubtedly continue to highlight this corrupt phenomenon. Currently there is greater awareness among the nation’s citizenry too about the inherent dangers of paid news that pose greatest threat to Indian democracy. As such it is hoped that the government as well as other stakeholders, especially the media, pays serious heed to the issue and both jointly initiate proactive result-oriented measures to successfully combat this pernicious practice. After all the primary role and duty of the Media is to protect public interests at all cost.