The other day a friend retwitted an article on how the English television media have a fetish for English-speaking and suave-looking Indians and seek their views on issues affecting a much larger section of India than suave and English-speaking represent.
This blogger, who was herself a TV reporter with NDTV, detailed how, when she was out to get reactions of people on a petrol price rise and collected reactions and visuals of truck drivers on the issue (since they are most likely to be affected by it) and sent them to her editorial team, they rejected them and asked her to get reactions of English speaking people instead since they would make better TV, although they, generally coming from richer sections of society, are less likely to be affected by petrol price rise.
However, based on this it would be wrong to conclude that English TV media don’t give representation to, let’s say, un-TV-friendly people at all, but neither can it be completely denied that the English media have an up-market inclination. And they can’t be fully blamed for this as up-market types, without doubt, make better TV and therefore help the image of an English channel and its viewership by extension.
Some would say Hindi TV media are much more representative but I think they are equally lop-sided: if the English TV media ignore the non-English speaking types, Hindi channels generally overlook the English-speaking ones.
The problem lies in the fact that TV media have become more about showmanship and less about news, which is why preferring convenience to fairness as long as it’s in interest of viewership is the accepted mode of operation. Many of the social movements of recent times would have hardly met with the kind of success thhey did had it not been for TV media – which gave them unbridled coverage not so much for their news value but because they had become spectacles. If you follow questions asked during TV discussions, you will see the larger intent is not to do justice to the topic in discussion but to be sensational.
Vernacular channels, I think, are more representative because they don’t need to have English speakers but they are also sensational and more than their English counterparts. Honestly speaking, even after the profusion of so many channels, newspapers continue to be the best mode of journalism. They are generally less sensational (expect the naughty photos in page-three supplementaries) and are far more analysis-driven. But this analytical approach towards news is a post-TV phenomenon for news papers.
There are many things you can blame on media, but there is no end to how self-righteous you can get on this. It’s difficult to survive in any show business given that the competition is immense and you constantly need to do new things to ensure viewership. We may talk about media ethics but how many of us will watch channels or read newspapers that passionately uphold them, like the BBC and Hindu for example? You can’t demand infotainment and expect high standards of journalism – it will be just like watching general Bollywood movies and getting sanctimonious about their low standard of cinematic aesthetics.