Thursday, September 14, 2006

Transparency Begins at Home

So there are things worse than having pesticides. [Link via Kuffir] But more than this, it hurts to know that media has let off these guys easily.

Look at the way how they covered the reservation issue. They gave airtime to every remotely relevant point of view. Not that all of it was bad. While juvenile idiots were given opportunities to show off their pretensions of ‘saving the nation’, they also highlighted the status in media and various sociologists’ perspectives. There was an attempt, no matter how biased it was, to see issues other than what met the eye.

Or for that matter the rains in Mumbai. There was coverage even before the first cloud appeared. And then it was a deluge of reporting on the ill-preparedness of the Municipal Corporation. Views, suggestions, comments and alternatives followed.

But when it comes to Hero Honda's labour policy or Coca Cola's water policy, I wonder where is the "in-depth analysis brought by correspondents across the length and breadth of the nation"

No investigation, no follow-up stories, nothing. Mere mechanical reporting of what the CSE, Government and the suckers had to say.

It is not difficult to see the reason for the anomaly. Right in the midst of reporting on the suckers, we would find their advertisements during commercial breaks. Even respected newspapers seem to be succumbing to the lure of MNCs like never before. One such instance was highlighted some time back and the dialectics can be seen here.

Nearly after a month of the episode, the Apologist-in-Chief of Hindu presented the inside view of the journalism-advertising dynamics.

N. Ram spoke in detail about how he and the editorial team have been trying to keep intact the Lakshman Rekha between editorial and advertisement. It is only a conceptual line and no wall exists between the two areas of operation of the paper. There is continuous interaction between the two where the pressures and constraints are aired and discussed.

So it is just a conceptual line. That means it can be and will be subject to distortions due to the pull of advertising revenue.

Continuous interaction? Why should there be an interaction between the two at all? Why should the editorial department know who is funding their salaries and cost of operations? At the best, they might be informed of their budget to help them plan their operations. But why should they know the source of their revenues?

Mr. K. Narayanan’s views reflect the symptomatic malice that affects every media. Atleast he has been honest to admit it. If this is the status of a newspaper of Hindu’s stature, I dread to think the scenario in other media groups.

Would any media group bother to show the break up of their advertising revenues from different companies? Just as shareholders have the right to know the finances of their company, don’t the readers have the right to know the altruistic souls who are subsidizing their newspapers? Transparency and right to information, after all, should begin at home.