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Dr. Subhash Chandra on Media's Credibility and Paid News

It perhaps is an understatement that the media has become a key source of day-to-day information. The ideology of the current generation has been keenly influenced and shaped by the broadcast and reach of media across the globe. More so, India is making leaps and bounds in the field of information and broadcasting with blooming media houses and news channels which hold a large presence and indomitable power over millions of households. Yet, the power and responsibility of the media, especially news media, is questioned today.

In a recent episode of the Dr Subhash Chandra Show, Chairman of Essel Group and ZEE, Dr Subhash Chandra talked to students about an issue that is much debated today: How credible is the news media? Has it let go of its ethics in the race to capture more viewership?

Answering the issue, the students raised their concerns about being presented with an increasing amount of opinion-heavy news and not being presented with news as it is. Many spoke of the menace of paid media, where news organisations treat delivering news more like a business. One could argue that it is what the viewer watches that the media delivers.

But is this what the viewer wants to see - entertaining news - that ticks the TRP ratings. Shouldn’t the news media be more responsible in building and propagating information, when it is the same information that influences thoughts and viewpoints of the viewers?

On many an occasion, Indian news channels have come under fire for sensationalizing every piece of news they receive. They have come under the scanner for being downright insensitive, and committing glaring mistakes in anxiety to deliver ahead of the competition. One has also noticed the media turning judge, jury and hangman even before a court case is filed.

Dr Chandra acknowledged their criticism and spoke at length about the challenges that the media industry faces. Explaining further he said that the credibility of media was not lost, but it is the brands who have lost their credibility.

Then there are some politically backed channels that appear to be mere subdued mouthpieces for political parties- even when the law prohibits ownership by political or religious groups- thus making it hard for an unbiased news environment. Dr Chandra also raised concerns of the questionable ownership of some media channels and the licensing procedures.

In the following episode of the show, Dr Subhash Chandra took the discussion on 'paid news’ further by talking about advertisements.

Students at the session raised questions on why a newspaper reader has to go through three pages of advertisements to reach the main page, thereby pointing a finger whether news is mere a “filler” for advertisements.

Dr Chandra stated that running a newspaper is not very profitable and mentioned the fact that newspapers are still the cheapest medium of news in India compared to any other country. "In print media particularly, the power lies in few hands, and they don't want competition so they have naturally kept the cover price of the newspaper very low," he said.

Further into the discussion, Dr Subhash Chandra assured the students that although there may be various platforms giving news, this increases the competition for each organization to spread better quality information. And so, "news is not different." At the same time he implied that media is not all bad; the awareness spread by the media has a positive effect as well - shaping mind-sets.

Indeed, the fact remains that the media is the only instrument that keeps both civil society and the government awake. During calamities, media plays the role of a messenger by connecting the affected to the devastated family members. Time and again the media has been successful in shifting the attention of viewers to news that needs attention - be it struggling national sport or an anti-corruption campaign.

Summing up the discussion, Dr Chandra implied that media still have a lot of work to do to build a solid credo. It is when media is unbiased and responsible is when credible and informative news will be delivered and spread to foster an impactful change in the nation’s ideologies and mind-sets.