“Fact: Adolf Hitler was Time Magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’ in 1938
Moral: Mainstream Media is not always reliable.”
Though this factual content from a meme highlights with historical evidence that mainstream media is not to be trusted blindly, I would like to elaborate on the matter for better understanding. As a mischievous kid, youngest in a huge joint family, I used a trick to hide my misdoings. I always managed to get away with my elaborate practical jokes and disasters brought forth because of my clumsiness and hidden experiments with food items and cosmetic creams. The scam was to make a massive fuss about the minor misdeed of a cousin who might have pulled my hair or escalate the appeared intensity of my stomach ache.
The Indian media seems to be a lot like the ten-year-old me. The bold lettered Breaking News flashes all over your television box are mere distractions. The maneuvering tactics used by various news channels is very similar to the schemes of an impish child but far more damaging and precarious.
Let me enlighten you with the methods used by mainstream media in our country to shape public opinion and send information across. First of all, it’s important to note that there are several distinct types of media which do different things, like the entertainment/Bollywood, soap operas, and so on, or even most of the newspapers in the country. They are directing the mass audience.
There is another sector of the media, the exclusive media, now and again called the agenda-setting media because they are the ones with vast resources and they establish the framework in accordance to which everyone else functions.
They are essentially supervisors of sorts. They can be political managers, commercial managers (like corporate executives), doctoral managers (like university professors), or other journalists who are involved in shaping the modes in which people think and perceive important information.
The actual mass media in our country is basically trying to divert people’s attention. They want the audience to get deeply involved with professional sports or sex scandals or celebrities and their lives (romantic and domestic), as long as the topic isn’t serious. The actual events and ideologies (political, economic or social) are hidden behind the thick shimmery gloss of the Breaking News.
I am sure one isn’t unaware of the dust of controversy that swirls around the Central Board of Film Certification and its proposition to make several cuts in a film based on the drug problem prevalent in Punjab: ‘Udta Punjab’. But I would like you to literally raise your hand in the very room where you are reading this, if you are as outraged about the drug abuse and its lethal consequences as you are about the suggested cuts.
The narcotics issue corroding the lives of the people of Punjab is not novel. By a layman, it is merely seen as a fact rather than a situation that needs critical attention.
“Punjab toh hai hi drugs keliye famous
,” is the nonchalant statement made by a random middle-aged man sitting in McDonalds with his family adjacent to mine. Clearly, drug abuse has become more of a characteristic of Punjab rather than a fatal problem and that is a hazardous issue in itself.
However, the outrage among people regarding the eighty-nine cuts suggested by CBCF, headed by the now infamous Pahlaj Nihalani, is far more than the public outrage regarding the incompetence of the government and the police to eradicate the problem of substance abuse that exists in Punjab.
If you assume that this entire episode centered around Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Udta Punjab’ would help solve the integral problem of drug abuse, then you are sadly mistaken. All this hullabaloo regarding the editing of various scenes in the film would only help to make the film a massive success at the box office and would portray Bollywood as a supreme guardian of the essential nature of art, that is, to exemplify the truth of society for its consequential benefit. If you follow Bollywood and its news closely you would be aware that that title is not suitable for it. Now and again, we come across controversies, events and even films that brutally expose the hypocritical attitude of Bollywood and its stalwarts.
The same celebrities who openly support freedom of expression in the ‘Udta Punjab’ case were unable to digest the jokes of Tanmay Bhatt in a Snapchat video targeting Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshakar. These celebrities were also stringently against the abusive language used in the roast comedy episode hosted by All India Bakchod (AIB), first of its kind in India.
The sexual jokes cracked on a comedy platform were suddenly so derogatory that celebrities like Aamir Khan had to come forward in order to oppose and disregard the entire show. But if the censor board cuts a few abusive scenes from a film much in the limelight then free speech becomes the chant of the nation and its prominent members. I do not wish to support CBFC on its censorship methods but only strive to flip the coin to the other side as well so that you can see that the filmmakers are not all that innocent as well.
When the blockbuster film ‘PK’, starring Aamir Khan faced trouble for its plot targeting religions from the all-powerful and influential Shiv Sena, we witnessed that hardly any renowned celebrity came under the spotlight to comment and ridicule Shiv Sena. This was because ‘PK’ was lined up against a far bigger socio-political force that derives its primary muscle-power from Mumbai, the hometown of Bollywood.
The significance of media in this fiasco cannot be nullified. Debates on every news channel with Censor Board members, actors, directors, politicians and journalists dominated my television time. The newspaper always had a front page article about the court proceedings regarding Udta Punjab with quotations from the Nihalani, Anurag Kashyap and judges presiding over the case. Even though, I do not follow Bollywood, I knew everything about who said what regarding Udta Punjab. Ironically, the film meant to emboss the issue of drug abuse in Punjab, hid the issue furthermore to some dark eerie corner where people snort the white powder, and deriding Pahlaj Nihalani and CBFC received all the attention. The Punjab government and police could easily hide their incompetence behind the boulder of this controversy.
Media successfully directed the public rage towards the censor board instead of the practice of drug abuse itself. Do you know why? Because apparently political parties in Punjab have a lot to again from the youths who drain their spirits and their lives in heroin and cocaine.
The entire nation stood up against the censor board and even mocked the BJP government with accusations of hindering freedom of expression and free speech, all thanks to media and its enormous efforts. But I would like you to contemplate what would happen if this nation stood together in similar solidarity against more pressing problems like poverty, starvation, farmer suicides, droughts, environmental issues, faltering economy and heinous criminal activities? But this doesn’t happen because these basic matters never make it to the front page for more than a day. The eyes of the people viewing these issues are squinted by the intense flashy light of the sensational news presented in a two-hour debate show about a film. The media tries hard to not create a gigantic stir about serious matters because god-forbid people start retaliating to them. While you were reading the quirky remarks made by Justice Dharamadhikari presiding over the ‘Udta Punjab’ case, a man named Shrikant Dixit died in the Barabanki district of Uttar Pradesh due to starvation and immense poverty, and the government provided no help to save its citizen.
I think if people were as enraged for Shrikant Dixit as they were for Anurag Kashyap, the government would be forced to look into matters of poverty and malnutrition more rigorously to produce positive results.
However, now the case between Phantom films and CBFC is close to the end with the film releasing on 17 June, 2016 which is this Friday and the Bombay High Court clears the film with just one cut asking the CBFC to not “act like a grandmother”.
Maybe now we can all have our peace of minds back and focus on other things happening in the nation. However, there is now another issue rising up as a Punjab based NGO wants to stop the release of ‘Udta Punjab’ with the claim that it portrays Punjab in a bad light and has approached the Supreme Court for it. The Human Rights Awareness association has moved the Supreme Court and has also objected to the Bombay High Court’s decision. So maybe this matter won’t really end till people actually watch the film and give their take on it or when the media finds something better to put its glamorous spotlight on.
The media in India has grown into an economic giant, with a business turnover which exceeds one percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and matches the economic scale of many individual industries in India. It is considered the world’s most dynamic media industry and one of the fastest growing anywhere.
Despite colossal growth in the Indian media business, the lack of quality and variety shows a swelling disengagement with the tangible lives of people in the country and the most imperative issues they face.
The media has played a lopsided role in shaping public perceptions of politics, electoral outcomes and the way power is exercised. In stark disparity to the enormous monetary power and political thump of the Indian media, stands its apathetic quality, credibility and legitimacy, loss of diversity and heterogeneity, superficiality in reporting and commenting on serious issues, and systematic defilement of basic norms of responsible journalism.