Many people raised questions about unethical means media employed while reporting recent tragedy in Bombay. Not only were they unethical, insensitive, crude and sensational, they also hampered counterstrike and may have resulted in more lives lost. One would have excused if they were not aware of their own stupidity, which, of course, should not be the case, but their blatant violation even after Ministry of I&B sent them a decree clearly showed a lack of conscience on media’s part. A general appeal in private and mainstream media is for better treatment of information pertaining to such incidents. No one, so far, has offered any solution though.
As I have been repeatedly emphasizing on this blog, expecting people to act on moral grounds by their own volition is model but not practical solution. People and organizations are going to act based on (dis)incentives they have and not based on their own consciences, as much as we would like to have this in the world. I’ve been trying to think of what penalty we citizen can inflict to tilt balance of incentives in favour of more ethical media management. A government body which penalizes these channels either on grievance complaint or active monitoring is one way to go. However, recent attempts by Ministry in developing code of conduct have been vehemently opposed by media who would like us to believe that self-regulation is way to go. If only they had regulated self. Recently created News Broadcasters Association (NBA) in India has developed a set of non-binding guidelines which are obeyed in violations mostly. Since self-regulation failed miserably and is an oxymoron to me in the first place, Ministry can try to bring legislation to the effect. After all, why would media have problem with legal regulation if they really wanted to follow their own self-regulation, unless that was hogwash which it what it appears to be?
Alternative is for us to boycott these channels and let them know why we do that. I’ve been proponent of power of public in most cases in teaching lessons be it to corporate, government and private sector. But again, what we do says more than what we say, and people of India are not going to stop watching sensational news channels just because they claim they don’t like sensationalisation. If they really didn’t, would these profit driven media be stupid to serve that? More and more I think about it, more and more problems for which we like to blame politicians, government, corporate and lobbyists are because of what we do. A newspaper whose top five stories always comprise of glamour and sex is largest selling English daily in the world. Reality shows which show blatant humiliation and meanness gross highest TRPs every week. Doordarshan with its clean and unsensational news is least watch television channel among people who have access to cable. As much as anybody would like to think otherwise, because it is easy to blame others than look self-ward, we too have a blood on ours hands.