Media under scanner for Telangana coverage

18 Oct,2011

By Viru Desai

The coverage of the unrest in the Telangana region in Andhra Pradesh by the print and audio visual media, the vernacular media in particular, has come under the scanner for a number of reasons. Being an emotive issue, Telangana has become an explosive subject for the media in AP since the time the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the regional outfit headed by headed by K.Chandrasekhar Rao, came into being and is currently leading the movement for gaining statehood for the region. The oft-repeated complaint of Telangana activists, including the TRS, is that the statehood movement is not getting the due it deserves in the Telugu media because it is owned by media barons from Coastal Andhra. However, the perceived bias of these media organisations needs to be debated in detail.

Just as every section of society in Andhra Pradesh is currently divided on regional lines — from the polity to the most mundane of organisations — so also is the media in Andhra Pradesh. With the vibrant media scene in Andhra Pradesh commanding an approximate readership (Telugu) of between seven and eight million, the Telangana issue has taken centrestage. The issue has also generated a lot of interest in TV channels. It can be said that the media too has not been untouched by the vitiated atmosphere of uncertainty and mistrust sweeping the state.

The ownership and staffing pattern in the Telugu media is a mixed bag. Of late, a lot of professionals hailing from Telangana have joined Telugu media organisations, while the proprietors mainly belong to Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. This has, however, not clouded the news selection and editorial coverage of the contentious Telangana issue in the Telugu media.

To make a dispassionate observation, right from the largest selling Telugu daily, Eenadu, to Andhra Jyothi, Sakshi, (all owned by Seemandhra media houses), Vaartha and Surya, every Telugu publication is giving wide coverage to the Telangana movement. Day after day sees the ‘Sakala Janula Samme’ (general strike) which has continued for over 23 days and the RTC strike, getting wide coverage in the pages of these dailies. The myriad bandhs, rasta rokos and other forms of protest too have cornered a lot of space in these dailies.

On the audio visual media front, the most popular TV channels, TV9, ETV (owned by the Eenadu group), Sakshi channel (owned by the Sakshi group), ABN Andhra Jyothi, NTV and TV5 are devoting a lot of prime time in the news section to the Telangana stir. On the other side of the line, the channels identified with the pro-statehood movement such as Zee 24, HMTV and T News are going overboard by highlighting the event.

One interesting sidelight, though, is that the print media is refraining from examining the issue critically. Normal life has been affected substantially with public transport totally paralysed since the launch of the RTC bus strike, schools and colleges shut down since a month, medical services hit, increasing power cuts due to the coal miners joining the strike and so on. There is no sphere of public life that has not been affected adversely. Yet there are hardly any sharp reports that are bringing the agony of the common man to the fore. It is the poor and the lower middle classes who are at the receiving end. Whether it is the aggressive postures or even threats of the T-activists to some media houses, for this stance is the question.

The writer is a media practitioner and commentator based in Hyderabad.

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One response to “Media under scanner for Telangana coverage”

  1. ravi says:

    Yes telangana is an emotional issue but the govt is not able to understand our emotions
    jai telangana