“India is the cradle of human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, grandmother of legend, and great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only”
Yes, indeed the most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are in India. We are the world’s largest democracy and an emerging force in the field of communication, science and technology. After combating recession, India is back on the path of growth and development but with challenges ahead like Carbon Emission reduction, Reforms in Judiciary, Progress of the Industrial sector etc… In this scenario an analysis of the towers of strength of India will provide a strong basis for realizing our opportunities and threats in the future. Mass Media has always played a vital role in the functioning of democracy in India and exploring into these avenues will definitely play a major role in solving the problems pondered upon India.
On 26th January 1950 when the Constitution proclaimed India as a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”, the word democracy became a part of us. From then on Religion, Caste, Population, Development, International issues, Education, Poverty, Corruption, Economy, Politics…anything happening in our nation was linked with Democracy. A vibrant democracy attracts and filters-in the most competent ones in our country to govern and eliminates the not- so -competent. Truly, democracy in India is wider than the beautiful description of Abraham Lincoln-It is lot more than a form of government of the people, for the people and by the people. The role of democracy in India is to fulfill the dream of every true patriot in India i.e. to live in a “Great India”, a strong and prosperous one.
On the other hand portraying the life of Indian people the media won the hearts of millions in India. Enjoying complete freedom the media took up the responsibility to make people aware of everything going around them whether it is good or bad. It is not amusing that the only thing in India which is trusted by everyone is Media. Even Mass Media has travelled a long way from the late 1700’s and far beyond the era of Radio Broadcasting. Mass Media in India had to resist immense pressure from the government to be what it is today. The press had to face oppression during the freedom struggle as it was being successful in carrying out its duty to create a feeling of nationalism among the people during that time.
Today in terms of Media, India is the second largest market in the world for newspapers, 18th largest country in broadband Internet users and 8th in the list of countries by number of television broadcast stations. All of this achieved when Media has been free and independent with only few regulatory bodies at the realm.
THE ROLE OF MASS MEDIA IN INDIAN DEMOCRACY
Every man needs food, clothing, healthcare and shelter for his physical survival. Similarly communication is regarded as an indispensible factor for the social welfare of people. In this 21st century every individual is keen to be updated with the latest developments in all walks of life. It is here where the mass media comes into the picture which aims to reach out to a very large audience. It carries out its functions through advertising, marketing, propaganda, public relations and political communication. Mass media is now considered as an effective tool for advocating business and social concerns. But what role does media and information play in a democratic society need to be examined as there is still a dispute regarding the significance and magnitude of mass media in Indian society.
EXPLORING THE LINK
Access to information is essential to the health of democracy for at least two reasons. They can be summarised as follows:
1.) Media ensures that citizens make responsible, informed choices rather than acting out of ignorance or misinformation.
2.) Information serves as a checking function by ensuring that elected representatives uphold their oaths of office and carry out the wishes of those who elected them.
Every citizen is entitled to have free access to the knowledge and information they require. The democratic political system depends on the efficient, accurate, and complete transmission of social, political, and cultural information in society People should be able to discuss matters of public interest with their equals in order to influence the actions taken in our nation. This ensures genuine participation of individuals in matters of public interest which is in fact the essence of democracy. Thus mass media forms an integral part of democracy as it contributes to those factors that are intrinsic to genuine democracy. Democracy believes in the empowerment of individual and media facilitates it through communication and ensures freedom of expression and freedom of conscience.
Democracy and mass media are the two essential components of Indian life. It has accomplished the task of transforming the lives of the people. But to what extent has Indian lives progressed and what advancement has the nation achieved is a matter of concern. Like every coin which has two sides the effects of mass media in Indian democracy has brought in serious advantages as well as disadvantages. We need to understand the role and functions of media in our nation and the significance of media in democracy. There is a need to analyse mass media and democracy in relation with each other to comprehend the impact of these core aspects.
AN OPTIMISTIC APPROACH
A democratic society permits freedom of speech and expression. We Indians have the freedom to think, freedom to write, freedom to discuss with others, freedom to explain, freedom to criticize and freedom to dissent. Democracy demands the fulfilment of every citizen’s right to expression. Media facilitates the process of empowerment of individual by providing an arena for public debate and by reconstituting private citizens as a public body in the form of public opinion. Nowadays, media provides a platform for every individual to exercise his right of being heard. Innovative talk shows and public discussions organised by the media is now playing a major role in the enforcement of the right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(a) of the constitution. Media in India has tried every possible means to satisfy the democratic ideals. For example, during elections voters are educated and informed to the point where they are able to understand the most important political issues.
During all these years the Indian mass media has successfully performed the following functions:
· Supporting objective news and informative programs so that people can make quick decisions.
· Cultivating alternative media, so that multiple voices and opinions will be heard.
· Mobilizing popular participation in the transition process.
· Multiplying the impact of transition activities by disseminating information on successful local peace and participatory efforts.
Let it be any natural calamity or any other disaster we find our reporters there risking their lives to give us information regarding the events taking place in every nook and corner of the world. There are many instances of Media turning out to be real investigators in cases like the murder of Jessica Lal, Priyadarshini Matoo case, Best Bakery scandal etc. If the media didn’t take the initiative to bring out the truth before the public then justice wouldn’t have prevailed. The efforts of the media are always concentrated towards lifting the veil to ensure righteousness in society. It uses effective techniques like sting operations, opinion polls etc to portray the reality. Whether it be newspaper, television or internet the objective of every media is to collect, analyse, verify and present information regarding current events, trends, and various other issues of this democratic nation.
Democracy believes in protecting the rights of the citizens and limiting the powers of the government. It intends that no one should be discriminatedon the basis of their race, religion, ethnic group, or gender. It directs that no one should be arrested, imprisoned or exiled arbitrarily. No one in a democratic society should be denied their freedom without a fair and public hearing by an impartial court.No one may be taxed or prosecuted except by a law established in advance.The idea of democracy lays in the fact that no one is above the law, not even a king or an elected president. Above all the law is fairly, impartially, and consistently enforced, by courts that are independent of the other branches of government. The contribution by mass media for upholding the above principles of democracy in our society is remarkable.
WHEN MONEY RULES OVER MORALS........
“Tell me, why is the media here so negative. Why are we in India so embarrassed to recognise our own strengths, our achievements? We are such a great nation. We have so many amazing success stories but we refuse to acknowledge them. Why?”
-Dr. Abdul Kalam
This observation made by our former President is very true. It is a very sad fact that every morning we have to begin our day with negative news. Indian mass media often has a tendency to exhibit gossip, scandal and violence. The aim of mass media is to sensationalise every piece of information rather than sensitising them. The Media is usually focussed on the lives of celebrities and reality shows instead of concentrating on events of national importance. The lack of media literacy among the pubic also makes matters worse.
With the increase in the number of competitors in mass media nowadays we find that a wide range of topics are being discussed among the public. The common man and the celebrities express their opinion, but usually there is no measure taken after that. The issues discussed become stale and after a week a new storyline creeps in bringing in hope and opening up a new avenue. Gone are those days when preferences were given to the selection of news. Media does not believe in newsworthiness anymore.
There is a wide opinion among people that media is no more interested in creating citizenship. At times media fails in its duty to provide public sphere for dialogue and interaction among the citizens. Political parties started their own channels to highlight their achievements and political news were more about personalities than about their ideologies. In the absence of serious debate, voters are left with paid political propaganda containing only meaningless slogans making them disinterested and cynical about politics and losing faith in democracy. Forgetting its responsibility to educate the masses media is busy transforming citizens into spectators by offering them pure entertainment.
What happened in most of the cases is that Global Competition and profit motive made media forget about democracy. The interests of the advertisers did not coincide with readers, listeners and viewers. Advertisements occupied the pages in newspapers. Media was concentrated on promoting an event or a latest movie which is yet to be released so as to increase its box-office collection. If media was left with the option of choosing between either its functions or its survival it would have chosen the latter. Democratic values and principles were to be buried if advertisement rules media Money ruled over morals and media was no more interested in veracity.
After analysing the role of media in our democratic society I have come to the conclusion that all these years since its establishment the mass media has worked for the progress and development of our country. All its activities were concentrated to see a fully fledged democratic Indian society. But observations also prove the fact that mass media nowadays prefer to sensationalise news. Media is losing interest in promoting democratic values and principles. Mass media corporations are now concerned about improving the financial position of their organisations. If this continues India can never fulfil its dream to be a developed nation by 2020.
So the question arises: What next? Well first we need to realize the fact that the problem is neither with the media nor the democratic principles. Media gives us entertainment because we demand it. Media cannot be blamed alone for its depicting people’s preferences. So first the attitude of the public should be changed. We should not be bothered about timely pleasure instead our focus should be on long term projects which would take our country to new heights. If you are given the opportunity to express what you want from the media...just think for a while and then decide what you really want. If the media also tries to sensitise news and takes initiative to accomplish its social responsibilities then no one can stop our country from being a strong powerful democratic nation.
Parvathy Tharamel (ILS Law College)