Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac has stressed the need for class and mass organisations to emerge themselves as the bulwark against the onslaught of a section of the media who thrive on dissemination of paid and distorted information with the intend of commercial gains.

Speaking at a seminar on 'Contemporary Society and Media', organised by the MG University Employees Association as part of its 27th annual meet here on Thursday, Dr. Isaac said it was imperative on the part of democratic and progressive forces to work towards building up an alternative media regime and an alternative system of communication to thwart the attempts of commercial interests to capitalise on making financial gains at the cost of the growth of the democratic process in the country.

Referring to the effectiveness of such an attempt, Dr. Isaac pointed out that one had to take the cue from the outcome of the elections held after the fall of the first Communist government in Kerala. In spite of all the mainstream media houses taking a position against the Communist party, it could come out as the largest single party in the State Assembly.

According to him, the incursion of commercial interests into media has been a global phenomenon and it has already raised its head in India as well, resulting in the form of paid news. The prime victim of the overplay of commercial interests in the media is the editor, who is replaced by the manager, he said adding that it is the monopolistic tendencies in the industry that lay at the root of the evil. An explosive technological growth in the communication sector has created a situation where integration of various sectors of mass media can be effected on a global scale.

The distortion of information subverts democracy, infringes upon the Representation of the People Act, violates the Companies Act, and more than anything else, discredits the media themselves, he said and pointed out that studies have found that the credibility of the media has taken a beating in the near past.

Dr. Isaac stressed the role of individual mediapersons in taking up an effective fight against distortion of news and said that in spite of all pressures, mediapersons can function effectively making use of the minimum level of autonomy at his or her level. “No management can go to such an extent of micromanagement of news,” he said. He however, expressed suspicion that the real culprits were those mediapersons who acted ‘more loyal than the king.'

He said that in the debates on the SNC Lavlin case and more recently the lottery controversy, there was a clear attempt to distort information. “While the reporter has the right to give his or her own interpretation, one should not blackout the core issues,” he said.

Vice-Chancellor Rajan Gurukkal made the introductory remarks. K Sheraffuddin, general secretary, MGUA, welcomed the gathering and P.S. Satheeshbabu , president, MGUA, chaired.