Yesterday, many of us especially my friends Parvinder and Xavier Dias were posting you tube uploads about how Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi were being paid to act in favour of some corporate entities in India and their politician agents. The transcripts of the conversations between the fixers and the culprits were already out in the websites of Outlook and Mail Today and the Youtube tapes firmed up evidence against these topmost and most admired journalists. As goes the Bengali saying that the ghost has come to reside within the mustard seed, an unfailing ghost busting ingredient, the watch dog is eating out of the hands of the intruder. This is a shame.
I think that the above expose should not shock us. One really does not need to know that news is all bought when television channels incessantly show the tribals who fight for their rights as enemies of the nation, or how anyone who feels uncomfortable with the military presence in Kashmir as being one with the terrorists. The India shining story that evades reportage on how India is slowly accumulating poverty and deprivation even below the levels of sub Saharan Africa, the bandwidths devoted to film stars attending parties thrown by Mumbai builders, the surfeit of reality shows with a total avoidance of facing the reality of India that consists of school drop outs, violence against women, farmer desperations and growing unemployment. These huge lies about India’s real situation and the showcasing of a make belief world where celebrities live with life styles, cuisines, homes and holidays that very few of us can ever hope to attain is a reason enough for us to believe that news is paid for. If television channels are not receiving money for such plastic news then the other possibility is that Indian journos are thick headed, which though fractionally right may not be entirely believable. Then this means that news is generally bought and sold and those with the power of money ride high on eye balls.
Television channels, newspapers and publishing houses have always been owned by moneyed people and in fact by industrialists who have fleeced consumers, evaded the fiscal departments, exploited labour, closed down factories and cheated intermediaries. Yet, the media did not appear to be so much in league with private interests before now. This is because never has the State in India been so closely in collusion with the corporate and so alienated from the people than it is at present. The media, because it is owned by the rich, instinctively aligns with powers that help sustain wealth accumulated by few through means that necessarily have deprived many and most. If newspapers have overwhelmingly supported the opposition party then it is when the latter has developed a chance of winning. If newspapers have leaned towards rebellion, it is because the rebel has a better prospect of winning. Media invariably has always supported the winning horse. In a democracy, winners are likely to circulate and this creates an illusion for us that the media is being democratic. Observed closely, media and power are invariably related and this emanates from the ownership structure of the media.
The problem with the media presently is that the power of the State has shifted from a socialist, nationalist and perhaps even a fascist to being corporatist. Market as the key player in the protection of entitlements and redistribution of wealth has replaced the state as the apolitical and logical infallible force. Media is only being true to its self when it supports the powerfuls in the market place. Where then is the shock factor in Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt being in a happy alliance with such interests?
The above situation could be salvaged if the consumer was economically more powerful than the capitalist where money power was concerned. In that case the consumer could have bought news rather than the capitalists buying media space. But for that to happen, we need a very different kind of economics in which the income redistribution is so effective that capitalists’ profits are scummed away by the workers who are the very consumers when they return home from and richer than their employers in being able to buy the news that they want. In such a scenario news will turn out in favour of the genuine consumer instead of being in the interests of the sponsors, most of who are the same corporations that provide for glossy ads and fancy images and help sustain lies about prosperity. Till then we will have to live with the fact that since the media aligns with the powers that be it will logically tilt towards the corporate entities constituting the most powerful bloc in a market driven State and society.