Time to take the government head on

11 Oct,2011

Ranjona Banerji

Much as it was interesting to watch members of Team Anna squirming and dissembling to explain their foray into electoral politics on an anti-Congress campaign or hearing the speculation about whether LK Advani’s yatra is about him trying to become PM again, more attention needs to be paid to the government’s attempts to control the electronic media.
Much as TV news channels can be annoying, irresponsible, depth-less and sometimes sense-less, they are an integral and important part of the media and have to be protected against government interference. The government would not dare to cancel newspaper registrations for five transgressions of some standards law; there is no reason why TV should be subjected to such harsh and illogical treatment.
Both the print and broadcast media need to take the government head on. Since so much media dirty linen, soul-searching and hand-wringing is now done in public there is no reason why the public should be left out of this discussion. Do we need the government to control the media and decide on transgressions? Do we need better or more stringent internal control? How far does freedom of expression go (as far, it must be said, as various Indian laws allow)? Why aren’t FM radio channels allowed to carry news broadcasts? Do we want to go back to the days of an exclusive government-controlled broadcast media?  The media may be a pillar of democracy but it is not an organ of the government. It has to be independent and critical.
It is imperative that these issues be discussed. The Times of India carries an edit on the subject but that is insufficient. There needs to be a larger debate.

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The death of ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh – who had been in a critical state for two weeks – was covered comprehensively by both TV and print. Attempts were made to make the obits objective rather than merely hagiographic, which is amazing when you consider the completely adulatory writings which followed the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs, a man, it appears, who could do no wrong or at least be held accountable.

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The Champions League came and went and almost passed under the radar. This is a new for cricket in India and it is probably down to fan fatigue, overkill and India’s miserable performance in the UK tour. At any rate, it proves that hype can only take you so far and sometimes, somewhere, reality sinks in. And apparently, no one cares.

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