Commercialization of News Media in India

January 31, 2009

Much has been said about the stumbling state response to the terror attacks in Mumbai, yet we also need to question the role news media, and its commercialization has played in the run up to the status quo. Our government has yet again proved incompetent, but the media is equally culpable because of its fitful coverage (typically post-fact) of systemic lapses, and growing shift to mercenary reporting. Our news media has become irrelevant, derelict in its obligation to the society to serve as a platform to voice citizen concerns and shape public opinion, and has lost its moral authority as a watchdog of the administration and establishment.

In India, the media careens between froth, marketing, reporting, opinion, and reacting. Seriousness is often dislodged by commercialism: editor of leading national daily turned gourmand and celebrity interviewer; front page coverage of celebrity weddings, gastric troubles; fatter "lifestyle" supplements; hour long adulatory shows on news channels about an Indian superstar who frankly claims to have no ambitions other to have fun and entertain the masses etc. Predictably, the preponderance of coverage of the attacks and its aftermath is superficial too: trending to human interest, pandering to mass emotional outrage, instead of focusing on systemic problems. "Serious" reporters are doing talk shows of sorts, calling on their guest panel former soap stars, actors, and socialites. Reports are rife with accusations of the administration's callousness, dropped balls, and self-righteous calls for more heads to roll. Journalism in the face of a real crisis is laced with passionate rhetoric, not real questions and solutions.

We are a democracy of a billion plus people with the largest youth population in the world, large sections poor and uneducated, inadequate social services, and a country in transition. It is imperative that our influential intelligentsia focus unfailingly on meaningful issues since the opportunity cost is enormous. The government is increasingly sidelined by private enterprise; unprepared peasants are migrating to straining cities; and the nouveau riche anxious to express their nascent individuality is turning to incongruous consumption. Our academia is intently focused on the graduate's financial remuneration, and naturally, commercial interests don't provide any discipline. Entertainment czars consume our attention, shape public opinion, and increasingly control our daily life by forming a nexus with private industry, and entering the administration. We have mall adjacent to mall adjacent to mall, and almost no democratic recreational space. Mostly the middle-class Indian comes in contact with one another to consume, an individualistic pursuit, thus developing no collective voice or opinion. Further, democracy in India has many pitfalls: the educated vote counts as much (or as little) as the uneducated. Nepotistic, political power is concentrated; political will is weak, and further emasculated by our coalition government structure. Any one can start a new political party, garner a few electoral votes, cobble together a patchwork government, and sporadically threaten to fell the government if their personal demands aren't met. As a country we can't afford to feed or educate our children. We use our poorest as cattle, carting heavy burden on their backs in crowded urban markets. Our farmers are committing mass suicide. Religion is a recurring flash point. There is so much going on in India that we can't afford to dilute our focus on the important issues with front page/prime time coverage of entertainment. Moreover, print media, especially national newspapers are newspapers of record, and the current news standards will leave many important events that shape our country undocumented for our future generations.

The state runs on taxes, and is liable to its citizenry, however the individual is unable to demand accountability. The Indian citizen has no serious platform to voice her concerns, of harnessing institutional power to fight systemic battles. Consequently, we now have a country where citizen activism is either all or nothing. It's an all out battle, which the common person struggling just to survive, exhausted amid the delays, chaos, chronic infrastructure shortfall/failure and pollution cannot wage. Activism cannot and should not be at the exclusionary cost of personal life, and livelihood. Media must provide serious relevant coverage, accurate information, and democratic access to voice public concerns. This is media's non-negotiable obligation to society, by virtue of preferential access, mass reach and the ability to shape public opinion. Yes, the Mumbai attacks are a wake up call to our government, but also to our media, one of the original and last bastions of democracy. India urgently needs renewed civic engagement, and it is the media's responsibility to create that platform, not as a temporary reaction to some outrage, but as a permanent social structure.

Ruchi has recently returned to India after seven years in the US. Wanting to fit, yet (unconsciously) judging at the same time, she sees not "India Shining", but an India going terribly awry: an inefficient and corrupt state, mind-numbing poverty, deficient public services, unprofessional and frivolous news media, and general political apathy amongst the Indian populace (in the world's largest democracy!). Ruchi is currently obsessed with mainstreaming civic engagement in the city/country to demand accountability from the administration. Blogging is but a fringe effort. She is working on an idea to organize the discrete dissenting voices into some kind of a critical mass to ensure that citizen voice/concerns are heard and addressed by our polity. Please email her or visit her blog (http://bourgeoisinspirations.wordpress.com) if you'd like to be kept informed, and/or to connect if you're part of an existing effort.
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Commercialization of News Media in India


Author: Ruchi


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Ravi Kulkarni
January 31, 2009
06:07 AM

Dear Ruchi,

Actually media is becoming more democratized. Just the fact that you are able to voice your concern today for thousands of people to read is in itself the proof of that fact. Internet has dawned a new age of citizen reporters.

That the electronic media all over the world, not just in India, are going down the tube (pardon the pun) is not a new phenomenon. It all started with the advent of cable TV in the 1980s. Objective and honest reporting became subservient to commercial and political interests of a few elite. Just look at Fox and Clear Channel Communications and also the stillborn Air America Radio. This partisanship does not serve any useful purpose in the public discourse other than mutual backslapping of extremists on both sides of the aisle.

Bloggers and citizen reporters are making The Establishment more and more irrelevant. Both the print and the electronic media are becoming increasingly desperate to corner patronage by resorting to titillation. They have forgotten their Raison d'ętre. Just look at how the Times of India website has evolved. Long term it is a good thing, because we don't need Establishments.We should democratize all sections of the society: whether it is media, government, health care, education or any other.


Ravi Kulkarni

January 31, 2009
10:59 PM


you could have fine tuned this by:

a: defining media


b: pointing your criticism more specifically

by lumping them together this becomes a sweep and (for me) loses its bite

January 31, 2009
11:13 PM

"hour long adulatory shows on news channels about an Indian superstar who frankly claims to have no ambitions other to have fun and entertain the masses etc."

Isn't that precisely the job description of a superstar?

February 1, 2009
03:30 AM

This shit appeared in India's largest family newspaper, the Times of India today-

From night of blunder to night of wonder

Let your nose be your guide: Try to find out what all scents turn on your partner and wear it before going to bed.

Talk dirty: If you know the art of playing with words, then you can see your partner turning red before even you touch her.

Art of kissing: It might be difficult to imagine for many, but a nice, luscious, passionate kiss can make both of you feel like undressing and making it a night to remember.

Experiment: Try to learn different ways of foreplay and pleasuring your partner. There are other ways of reaching an orgasm, apart from the missionary position.

Some men like to be dominated: They don't want a mere sleeping partner in bed. So try to be a part of it lady and surprise him with your moves.

Ah! That feels great: Offering to rub her body down or ask her to rub yours so as to arouse the senses. The thought of your bodies touching each other many turn a regular massage into a really hot move.

Let's get naughty: How about some visual stimulation to get your partner in the right mood? Many couples love watching erotic videos together. Here we are not implying pornography.

Everyone loves compliments: Be it man or woman, all of us like to be appreciated. So if you appreciate her curvaceous figure while making love to her, it definitely ignites her desire for an orgasm.

It's done: Men are generally designed to sleep after sex, whereas women need some pampering post intercourse. So make an effort to at least cuddle your wife after the big 'O'.

Ravi Kulkarni
February 1, 2009
09:14 AM

Hey that's not so bad :). There is much worse stuff these days; at least this is teaching something for the uninitiated or the clueless ones.



February 1, 2009
10:26 AM

If people want to read boring papers there's always The Hindu.

February 1, 2009
11:00 AM


Media is now holding tutorials and seminars, and it is in a recruitment mode to initiate people into sex culture. It wants to recruit and build large enough constituency so it can used by media to wage sexual politics, and politics of sexual victimization.

February 3, 2009
01:31 AM

@Ravi: I agree it's a good thing that there's a forum to discuss alternative views. However, blogging is largely unorganized, and given that the reader initiates the search/reading, it predominantly creates groups of similar thinking people (instead of influencing/changing public opinion at large). On the other hand, mass media propagates its messages to large passive consumers generating public awareness/opinion for messages of its choice. Moreover, with the increasing consolidation of media and corporates companies, independence and quality of news is seriously compromised.

@temporal: Agree that this would have benefited from some good editing. Also that I could have been more specific in my criticism. However, I don't understand point a.

February 3, 2009
02:30 AM

Yes. Indian media is driven by profits, which can come only, when it promotes consumerism at the expense of family, peace, health, sustainable development.

Regarding blogging: Very few Indian bloggers work to diverge away from main stream media(MSM). Most pick up stories from media and try to build consensus, which in in no way different from what MSM does.

Indian bloggers are also extremely suspicious about any view, facts, statistics, story, which is far different from what Main Stream Media says.

Even Wikipedia insists on sources from MSM.

The consumerism, mall and loan culture is creating havoc in Indian society.

"Work Hard and Party Hard".

This is extreme behaviour.
This slogan is also created by MSM to promote consumerism.

The suicides in India have gone up by 40% since 1996. The main reason is not poverty (5%), but family problems (30%).

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