The media needs to rethink on the big ethical question of whether its commitment is to the market and advertisers or its base of readers, Sashi Kumar, Chairman, Media Development Foundation said on Tuesday.
In his key-note address at a seminar on ‘Religion, Ethics and Media,' hosted by the Department of Christian Studies, University of Madras, he said this ethical question was more relevant in the Indian context where the media as the Fourth Estate was not constitutionally accountable to people unlike the other three pillars of democracy, and its freedom was a common right mandated in Article 19 of the Constitution.
Referring to the “structurally problematic” situation, where the media depended on advertising for 80 per cent of its revenue, he wondered whether the media was the Fourth Estate or the Fifth Column of the market. Combining the posts of Editor and CEO into one entity — as had happened across media organisations — had led to erosion of media independence and as a product of the market the media was guilty of distortion of priorities. “The biggest danger is the growing disconnect between the media and the people, civil society and the public sphere. Such a media which is removed from its core constituents makes itself irrelevant.”
Where its ethical responsibilities and core concerns lay in highlighting issues of mass deprivation, hunger and inequities, contemporary media had become a purveyor of “feel good journalism,” or journalism that was a reflection of the preoccupations of the middle class. He suggested the media should put itself in the dock more often and ensure that its connection with the people is not broken. Pointing out that religion too, like the media, can be a mediatory and empowering process to the ultimate (truth), he said the problem was when either of them became an end in themselves where the represented became the reality.
Presiding over the function, Information and Publicity Minister Parithi Illamvazhuthi called for peaceful coexistence among various faiths. Inaugurating the seminar, P. Saravanan, Madras University Registrar said while the saying goes that today's news is the history of tomorrow, it has to be assessed how much of media reportage actually becomes part of the history.