The Indian Media: Watchdog or Lapdog?

Abstract:

According to the Social Responsibility Theory of the Press, media is supposed to be a watchdog of all that goes on in society, especially the government. In a democracy this role gets amplified more than in other forms of government. For, press is the fourth pillar of democracy. In India during the pre-independence times and in the immediate decades post-independence media played a stellar role in being the watchdog. With industrialization and commercialization of the media driven mainly by profit motive, the role of the watchdog had begun to take a backseat. Besides, with economic liberalization and ending of the so-called “licence raj” in 1992 the Indian electronic media leapfrogged from one television channels to more than thousand channels. This resulted in cut throat competition for TRP (Television Rating Point) among television channels with 24/7 news, reality shows, and other programmes. From then on with exceptions the watch dog function was given a quiet burial and most media houses ran lapdog media in favour of the ruling party in power, the rich, the powerful, and the corporates. This trend got accentuated from 2013 when media houses, according to reliable reports, were explicitly told to pulled down the image of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government and promote the image of Narendra Modi as the new messiah of the Indian politics. From then on there hasn’t been a looking back as far as media coverage of events in India is concerned: most media houses have become the mouth-piece of the ruling party dishing out false propaganda, pseudo-nationalism, religious hatred, and fake news in favour of the ruling dispensation and sought to tarnish the image of the entire opposition, especially the Indian National Congress.

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