Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Media Manipulation in India- The Structural Compulsion to Lie

Yesterday I saw a very interesting talk given by P Sainath, titled "A Structural Compulsion to Lie" which was given to an audience consisting  primarily of journalists.


 Anyone who has some time to spare must watch this witty and really hard hitting talk (in ten parts) which seeks to expose the myths surrounding mainstream media in India. Thus, I presume that Noam Chomsky's propaganda model which was discussed in his book Manufacturing Consent is not just true about western liberal democracies but also about the Indian media, at least the mainstream media which is highly corporatized and in the words of P Sainath, not just an instrument for big business but big business itself.

I myself looked through the websites of several of the mainstream media corporations in India, like NDTV, Living Media, Network18, and realised that they are owned (and therefore quite obviously controlled) by large business interests, apart from owning interests in several sectors themselves! For example NDTV's website, due to guidelines issued by Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) have put their shareholding patterns online here. On going through these patters, I found out that a large chunk of NDTV's shares (20% or more) have been held by huge corporations, investment banks like Goldman Sachs, Reliance Capital and other mutual funds. The latest shareholding patterns also mention the huge investments "foreign institutional investors" have made to NDTV.

I believe that such large investments by multiple corporations and the advertising model on which mainstream media is based, necessitates that the media's independence is seriously compromised and is in fact a myth. Furthermore, the focus of the mainstream media on the top 5% of the Indian population has largely blocked any reportage from the rest of India, apart from events of mass distress and death.

It is sad that policy makers and opinion makers in this country often make policies and decisions on the basis of the fictionalised/mytholigized versions of reality that the mass media touts as the truth. Its worse that we, the so called informed and educated citizenry of this country continue to accept whatever the media feeds us as the eternal truth. Its time to wake up and stop being Nero's Guests.

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