“It is not justified in giving 90 per cent of coverage to entertainment”

Stating that 90 per cent of the people in India are at a poor intellectual level, Justice (retd.) Markandey Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India, emphasised here on Monday the role of the media in giving leadership to society in the realm of ideas.

“But how can the media give leadership to the people in the realm of ideas unless it is itself of a high intellectual level,” he asked, advising journalists to carefully study the social sciences, history and literature.

“The media is not justified in giving 90 per cent of its coverage to entertainment leaving only 10 per cent to real issues which are basically socio-economic in nature. Doubtless, the media should provide some entertainment. But the thrust of its coverage should be in public interest. You have lost your sense of proportion,” he said, referring to journalists, at a lecture on ‘The Role of Media in India,' organised by the Calcutta Chapter of the Public Relations Society of India.

He said that the argument that the media was also a business and must give the people what they wanted “is degrading the media. The media is not an ordinary business that deals with commodities, it deals with ideas.”

“The intellectual level of most of our people is very low. Is the media going to go down to that level and perpetuate it or should it seek to uplift it,” he said. Although he said that 90 per cent of the people in the country were at a poor intellectual level, going by the comments he had seen on the Internet and networking sites like twitter, 90 per cent of the people supported his views on the media.

On paid news, he said that there had been pressure to suppress the 71-page report on the phenomenon prepared by the two-member committee of the Press Council comprising Paranjoy Guha Thakurta and K. Sreenivas Reddy.

Justice Katju had passed an order within an hour of taking over as Chairman of the council to publish the report on the official website.

Transition phase

He said that India was passing through a transitional period of her history from a feudal agricultural society to a modern industrial one — a painful and agonising period in history.

“In this transitional period, ideas become very important. You have to promote rational ideas, scientific ideas, and modern ideas, in order to help society get over this transitional period faster and with minimum pain,” he said ruing the fact that a large section of the media was promoting regressive ideas like astrology.

He pointed to Europe, which underwent its own transition from the 17th to 19th century, and the role of great writers like Voltaire, Rousseau, Thomas Paine and Junius in this period.

On the other hand, a large section of the Indian media was actually acting in “an anti-people manner” by diverting attention from real issues, creating rifts in a diverse country like India and promoting superstition.