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Updated: April 25, 2012 19:29 IST

The glory and the blemishes of the Indian news media

Amartya Sen
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AMARTYA SEN: “The political support for tolerating — and defending — the present profligacy in catering to the relatively better off contrasts sharply with the fiscal alarm bells that are sounded whenever proposals for helping the poor, the hungry, the chronically unemployed come up.” Photo: S.R. Raghunathan
The Hindu AMARTYA SEN: “The political support for tolerating — and defending — the present profligacy in catering to the relatively better off contrasts sharply with the fiscal alarm bells that are sounded whenever proposals for helping the poor, the hungry, the chronically unemployed come up.” Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Our free media, including our largely unfettered press, are a hugely important asset for democratic India. And yet the celebration of the Indian news media can go only so far — and no further.

One of the great achievements of India is our free and vibrant press. This is an accomplishment of direct relevance to the working of democracy. Authoritarianism flourishes not only by stifling opposition, but also by systematically suppressing information. The survival and flowering of Indian democracy owes a great deal to the freedom and vigour of our press. There are so many occasions when, sitting even in Europe or in America, I have wished for something like the vigour and many-sided balance of the Indian press to confront the vilification of chosen targets.

One longstanding example of some moment is the organised mischaracterisation in the USA of the British National Health Service and similar public health arrangements in most of Europe. Despite the fact that America has some superb newspapers, such as The New York Times, the information industry has managed to undermine thoroughly the understanding of the great accomplishments of public health care in Europe, and its contribution to enhancing health security, life expectancy, and the quality of life. Rather, the National Health Service and other such medical arrangements are often seen as some kind of a “health lock-up,” generating a widespread horror of what is called “socialised medicine” (I have heard of a rumour that American children are persuaded to eat broccoli by threatening them with “socialised medicine” as a dreaded alternative).

Professionalism and accuracy

Despite the limitations of the Indian news media, some of which I will discuss presently, we have every reason to applaud our free media, including our largely unfettered press, as a hugely important asset for democratic India. And yet the celebration of the Indian media can go only so far — and no further. There are at least two huge barriers to quality that are very worth discussing: one is concerned with the internal discipline of the media and the other relates to the relation between the media and society. The first problem is that of some real laxity in professionalism in achieving accuracy, which can be harmed even without any deliberate intention to mislead or misinform. The second is the bias — often implicit — in the choice of what news to cover and what to ignore, and the way this bias relates particularly to class divisions in India.

Indian reporting can be, and often is, extremely good. I always marvel at the skill of the reporters, often very young men and women, in being able to capture and bring out the nuances of points that are hard to summarise accurately. However, Indian reporting is characterised by great heterogeneity, and sometimes serious inaccuracies can receive widespread circulation through the media (or initiating in the media). While I have been personally lucky, most of the time, I am aware of problems that others have had, and sometimes I see them in my own experience. As an Indian reader, I would like to be sure, when I open the morning newspaper, that what I am reading — that A said B — is actually accurate. It is hard to have that assurance.

Let me give a couple of examples, despite — I should re-emphasise — my generally good experience with reporting in the press. Four days ago in a public discussion I said in answer to a question about the Lokpal initiative that the solution to the extremely important problem of corruption would have to be sought within the Indian democratic system (including our courts and Parliament), and also that I had not seen the blueprint of any effective Lokpal Bill – neither from the government nor from any faction of the Opposition.

When, later on, I opened the web, I found reports with the following headlines: “Lokpal Bill well thought out: Amartya Sen” (The Times of India, India Today, Zee News, NDTV, among others); and “Lokpal Bill not well thought out: Amartya Sen” (DNA News, Money Control, The Telegraph [which did not make it a headline], among others). One paper first distributed the former story and then the latter, without noting that there is a correction here, and I was amused because it is a paper — The Economic Times — with which I am personally associated, since I was given the privilege of editing the paper for one day a few years ago (it was a great day for me, though I gather from the Editor that I drove them all mad, by rejecting entries and asking for several rewrites).

Based on another meeting in Kolkata on the same day, a lecture for the Cancer Foundation of India, I found the following headlines: “To smoke is individual option” (The Statesman) and “Curb smokers' liberty: Amartya” (Hindustan Times). All this is just from one day. Unfortunately, a misreport on one day can have quite big consequences. The Times of India said on December 15: “Amartya Sen: People on street can't deal with corruption.” I had said nothing of the sort, as the audio record of the speech confirms, but once that misreporting, coming from a news agency apparently used by many newspapers, is in the public domain, it is hardly surprising that I would be showered with rebuke and moral advice. Dozens of pages of denunciations materialised immediately. Much of the moral advice to me would be sensible enough had the statement reflected something I had said. The one I liked best said: “I think Mr. Sen should keep his mouth shut” — an eminently sensible piece of advice given the constant danger of misreporting by a careless press — or, as in this case, a careless news agency on which many papers mechanically rely.

What I had, in fact, said was that the judgment and penalty for corruption cannot be a matter for street justice, and must come through the democratic procedures that we cherish in India, including the courts and Parliament. I believe the Indian people are fully committed to that democratic priority, rather than “summary justice.” What they really complain about is that the democratic procedures are not being applied sufficiently vigorously and stringently to corruption. This is indeed an important demand, and this understanding is very far from any dismissal of the ability of “street people” to comprehend the political challenge arising from corruption. Since I have taken part in street demonstrations myself, complaining about many injustices in India (one recent activity of this kind was related to the public agitation for the right to food), I must stand up for the right of ordinary folks — what the news agency called the “street people” — to be heard loud and clear.

On enhancing accuracy

So what can the media do to deal with the lapses from accuracy in reporting? I don't know the answer — my main intention here is to raise the question — but one thought that is fairly straightforward is to get all the newspapers to agree to publish corrections of their own stories as a regular feature (and highlight them online, along with the corrected accounts). This is done with much effectiveness by The Guardian and The New York Times, and some Indian papers already have such a section (the host of this essay, The Hindu, has had this for many years), but the practice can be made more universal among the papers, and also more active and more well-known.

There is also an issue of journalistic training. Taking notes in a rush is never easy, and it has become harder still since most reporters today, unlike those in the past, do not know shorthand. But there are marvellous recording devices in our modern world, and they can perhaps be used more uniformly, rather than the reporters tending to rely on memory, as many still seem to do. There are surely other ways of reducing inadvertent inaccuracy, and it would be nice to see more discussion on it. But now I must move to the second problem to which I referred.

Class bias

If greater accuracy is mainly an internal challenge for the media, avoiding — and fighting — class bias involves an external challenge that relates to the divisiveness of the Indian society. Of course, class divisions are present elsewhere as well. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has drawn attention to what it sees as the contrast between the very prosperous — the 1 per cent at the top — and the rest of the 99 per cent in the United States. I will not comment here on the veracity of this 1%-99% contrast, as applied to the United States, but relying on a similar division in India would miss the mark by a long margin. There are, of course, many divisions in India — and some apply to newspaper ownership as well — but the division that introduces a generic bias in Indian news coverage, related to the interest of the newspaper reading public, is more like one between a fortunate fifth of the population who are doing just fine on the basis of the economic progress that is taking place in India, and the rest who are being left firmly behind.

There is, in fact, a substantial part of the Indian population — a minority but still very large in absolute numbers — for whom India's economic growth is working well, along with those who were already comparatively privileged. An exaggerated concentration on their lives, which the Indian media tend typically to display, gives an unreal picture of the rosiness of what is happening to Indians in general. There tends to be fulsome coverage in the news media of the lifestyles of the fortunate, and little notice of the concerns of the less fortunate. To refer to three of many unfortunate facts (the list can be quite long): (1) India has the highest percentage of undernourished children in the entire world, measured in terms of the standard criteria; (2) India spends a far lower percentage of its GNP than China on government-provided health care and has a much lower life expectancy; and (3) India's average rank among South Asian countries — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan — in the standard social indicators, varying from life expectancy and immunisation to infant mortality and girls' schooling, has dropped over the last twenty years from being second-best to second-worst (even as India has surged ahead in terms of GNP per capita).

The problem here does not, of course, originate in the media, for it is social division that feeds this bias in coverage. But the media can play a more constructive part in keeping the reality of India persistently in the view of the public. The bias in coverage, even though it is by no means unpleasant to the reader, contributes quite heavily to the political apathy about the urgency of remedying the extreme deprivation of the Indian underprivileged. Since the fortunate group includes not only business leaders and the professional classes, but also the bulk of the country's intellectuals, the story of unusual national advancement gets, directly or indirectly, much aired — making an alleged reality out of what is at best a very partial story.

What is probed and what ignored

The group of relatively privileged and increasingly prosperous Indians can easily fall for the temptation to assume that given the high rate of economic growth, there is no particular need for special social efforts to enhance the lives of people. When, for example, the government introduced, as it did recently, its plan of providing subsidised food for the Indian poor, an enormous number of critics pointed immediately to the fiscal problems involved, and some even talked about the sheer “irresponsibility” that is allegedly reflected in the Food Security Bill.

There are indeed many serious problems with the Food Security Bill that has been tabled, and the Bill can be much improved and one hopes it will be. Furthermore, fiscal responsibility is certainly a serious issue and the financing of food subsidies, like other social programmes, demands critical examination. But it is worth asking why there is hardly any media discussion about other revenue-involving problems, such as the exemption of diamond and gold from customs duty, which, according to the Ministry of Finance, involves a loss of a much larger amount of revenue (Rs.50,000 crore per year) than the additional cost involved in the Food Security Bill (Rs.27,000 crore). The total “revenue forgone” under different headings, presented in the Ministry document, an annual publication, is placed at the staggering figure of Rs.511,000 crore per year. This is, of course, a big overestimation of revenue that can be actually obtained (or saved), since many of the revenues allegedly forgone would be difficult to capture — and so I am not accepting that rosy evaluation. And yet it is hard to understand why the cost of the Food Security Bill should be separated out for fiscal gloom without examining other avenues of fiscal soundness. An active media can draw attention to what is being probed and what remains underdiscussed and underexplored.

The impact of India's division between the privileged and the non-privileged can also be seen in the political power of the advocates of continuing — and expanding — subsidies on fuel use, even those that go particularly to the relatively rich (such as petrol for car owners), or of fertilizers, which yield major transfers of a regressive kind, even as they help with agricultural production. It is possible to redesign these fiscal arrangements to introduce more economic rationality, greater environmental awareness, and the demands of equity with efficiency. The political support for tolerating — and defending — the present profligacy in catering to the relatively better off contrasts sharply with the fiscal alarm bells that are sounded whenever proposals for helping the poor, the hungry, the chronically unemployed come up.

If the first problem I referred to, that of accuracy, is one of improving the performance of the news media through better quality control, the second, transcending class bias, concerns the media's role in reporting and discussing the problems of the country in a balanced way. The media can greatly help in the functioning of Indian democracy and the search for a better route to progress including all the people — and not just the more fortunate part of Indian society. What is central to the functioning of the news media in Indian democracy is the combination of accuracy with the avoidance of bias. The two problems, thus, complement each other.

(Amartya Sen, the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998. The Bharat Ratna was conferred on him in 1999.)

More In: Comment | Opinion

I was actually searching for some information regarding the publication of balanced report that media should practise and encourage. When I came across this article written by Mr. Amartya Sen I realized that India is far from witnessing an era where one hundred percent accuracy of media report would be attained. I think media is up to sensationalism and superficiality for the sheer cause of increased circulation.

from:  Mrinal Kumar Bhattacharyya
Posted on: Apr 25, 2012 at 19:15 IST

its a great article!the 2 limitations described above are very correct.First about the internal discipline is a perfect example of how information changes through its journey from the origin to the receiver.and second about class bias.we consume what media serves.media plays a very vital role in framing our democracy.it should be free,free to bring the truth.India's future depends on it,media should not be just for entertainment purpose,it should not be just business.......neither should it be a puppet of political leaders.Media should be what India needs to climb up the stairs of development.

from:  pritma
Posted on: Jan 15, 2012 at 12:32 IST

Great article! The class bias in the media and in our society generally has resulted in a generation of apathetic youth. Even though they see people suffering on their daily commute to work/college they seem to screen out such experiences. Expecting people to act on it directly might be asking for too much, but they should at least acknowledge the problem. A colleague once told me that she wished to 'move to Africa' to help the poor. When asked about the poor in our own country she said something to the effect of, they are already taken care of.

from:  Manu N
Posted on: Jan 12, 2012 at 08:36 IST

Sen observations are correct. H e does not ill of reporters but over
all accountability is missing. Papers are equally accountable to
readers like to the people they cover. For that purpose there is copy
or subbing editorial desks. Again diverse subjects are covered and u
cannot get expertise at the desk to correctly edit. In a democracy
media's role in indeed very vital. Eyeing for advertisement income is
the major problem. Money is needed. More money from advertisements
forced newspapers to print more pages. This is a great burden for
reader too as he has to carry that voluminous paper. In the past
limited pages are allotted for advertisements and about 70 % of pages
for news/opinions/editorials etc. Today with the advent of microphones
short hand noting is gone but at the cost of accuracy and punch.
Shorthand helped reporter to correctly take note of salients
accurately unlike today. So reader is at the receiving end of all
inaccuracies. These lead to problems to all. Feed correct

from:  dr.g.balakrishnan
Posted on: Jan 12, 2012 at 02:42 IST

A wonderful article, thanks for writing this Mr Sen. Hats off to hindu for publishing such relevant and thought provoking articles.

from:  Susruthan
Posted on: Jan 11, 2012 at 15:11 IST

Dr.sen's eye opening tirade against the inaccuracy in the indian media is thoughproviking. Inaccuracy is not because of gross negligence, but it is because of orchestrated journalism, to cater the policy stand of the respective newspapers. Newpapers will become newsproviders when they come out ouf the oister shell of this partisan concept. when a piece of news is reported without an editorial blend, then it will go out of the newspaper's established wested interests. so they cook up inaccuracy deliberately.

from:  Sajeev P P
Posted on: Jan 11, 2012 at 09:57 IST

An excellent piece , however it suffers from deficiency of conceived, thought and articulated from points of view of English thinking & English media which represents Urban Class and therefore most media debates are among such people and that too a very small number of panelists for most channels with similar questions (watch NDTV & CNN IBN). Media ought to expand horizons and collect views from people in areas away from metro cities to have additional dimensions.

from:  Atma Gandhi
Posted on: Jan 11, 2012 at 07:20 IST

The Indian media should look into the problems concerned the people and should leave these unfortunate parts aside because at the end of the day the main motive is to highlight the people centric problems. Amrtitya Sen has beautifully summarized the accuracy and class basis in Indian media and also has tried to touch the main and immediate concerns of the people that media should take care off. The media should be positive as much as possible because it is very important for the overall development of the democratic India. I personnely feel that media should not spare or hide the shortcomings of those who are directly or indirectly assisting it and it should come out of this vicious circle circle and work without any kind of pressure.

from:  Shahnawaz Mantoo
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 18:45 IST

I am in total agreement with Amartya Sen. Having been in journalism for 40 years and worked both as a Desk man and a reporter in a news agency and a couple of newspapers, I know how the inaccuracies occur. Most of the time it is unintended and flows out of anxiety to 'hit the news' or ignorance of the subject matter. For example, a reporter covering PM's speech highlights the points he makes in passing about a current controversial event, ignoring his focus on the theme of his speech, say malnutrition. It is difficult for an average reporter to make news item out of thinkers like Sen. ideally they should be reported in full to avoid quoting them out of context. Or people like Sen should be covered only by expereinced journalists who by disposition respect sensitivities of the subject matter and the speaker. Press may be free in India. But it will take long to get newsmen free from ignorance and bias. Journalists should come by choice rather than by chance and be committed to the job.

from:  RC Rajamani
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 17:01 IST

As rightly put by Dr. Sen, free media is a must for vibrancy in any democracy. But with freedom, comes the responsibility towards those who are ever unheard, hithero published and close to never debated in mainstream. As very succintly put by Dr. Sen, Indian media is very far from informing public opinion on pertinent social realities like extremely alarming malnutirtion levels among Indian women and children. I wonder, when would a media house run full coverage / full day telecast on such issues to galvanize public opinion and put pressure on governance as was done in the case of Janlokapal / issues of corruption?

from:  Naval Kishor Gupta
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 13:14 IST

Great article. Very balanced, and great that he makes a strong case for praising Indian media's freedom, irrespective of these serious problems cropping up. However, w.r.t last sentence, while the two problems complement each other, they are distinct and solutions can be distinctly sought and achieved.

from:  Rahul
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 12:12 IST

Dr Sen said it well, wholesome tips for the entire media. Thanks to THE HINDU for publishing the article in its due diligence. The time has elapsed for media to focus on progressive reporting and ought to have a self assessment mechanism to identify what value addition achieved in society by each report, articles etc...

from:  CR Raveendranath
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 12:06 IST

I have been a reporter once in two national dailies and now am a lawyer. Having seen them at close quarters I wonder how they can manage with such abysmal salaries and payment to reporters . Their clerks on the management side get higher. stories that I hear from Hindi dailies , I wouldnt know about other language papers as I live in the Hindi heartland , shows a pathetic picture. The solution I think is to divorce ownership from editorial control. Editors should only be removable like Supreme Court judges by impeachment through Press Council of India by two third votes.

from:  Arvind Kumar
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 09:45 IST

Indian media is thoroughly biased against Dalits and minorities. Most of
the newspapers have a poor stuff of so-called journalists who masquerade
as professionals. With the honourable exception of great newspapers like
The Hindu, most of the publications do not understand the significance
of coverage of issues of the downtrodden. In this scenario, is it any
wonder that the Indian media is termed anti-people by the victims of
caste, community and class discrimination?

from:  Samina Yasmin
Posted on: Jan 10, 2012 at 00:06 IST

The fine fabric between useful reporting and useless gossip is lost because there is no accountability in print and visual media. Even as in the case of blatantly misreporting Dr.Sen, who is accountable for all of this? Imagine the consequences had the misreported issue been regarding Ayodhya or Godhra. It is high time a whip is cracked on all erring media power houses who think - what they print or speak is what the people should know and see. I was disgusted to see the unmindful debates in visual media criticising Shri Markandey Katju for his sensible observations on reining the media. Hope the Government hears and does not resort to sayings like "The media will regulate itself". Hope better sense prevails.

from:  Srikanth. S
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 19:05 IST

India is a nation in making, it has been building over the ruins of several hundreds of years of cultural and economic exploitation. Mr. Sen sir,has already shown the priorities and hinted the further doctrines where we should endeavor to usher India into.Recovering a loss of time and position has been historically a different affair, things in India had been socially and economically well. Alas most of our public decisions were guided on morality and ethics unlike present days confused rudder-less motion. What we should strive for is the establishing a neutral media, which is fierce journalistic in proffession and a compassionate in heart towards dispensation of natural justice to all those illrepresented and needy people.Alas, we are still long way to claim a position where we have a system in place to promote right things vigorously. Clamouring for a little more space in this already over crowded India has played a big deal in shaping our mind towards relativism instead absolutism.

from:  Anand jha
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 17:12 IST

Thank you for bringing these less written about issues to light, Dr. Sen. A lot of people who we speak to in middle India seem to think we are doing just great. Their first target is subsidies of any form given to the larger sections of the population. Of course the Indian magazine section chooses to ignore this completely and instead conducts surveys on things like ‘how early are Indian losing virginity’ or ‘how many couples in Indian metros have affairs’. Their focus needs to shift and it is likely to take more time than we think.

from:  Vinay Kudlapur
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 12:10 IST

Over and above the accuracy and unbiased reporting - as rightly stressed by Dr Sen - the media needs to consider usefulness, national interests and the likely impact of the report on the already delicate inter-community fabric of our society. Bitter truth for any community needs special attention while reporting. The causes for the contemporary media failing to adhere to these basic norms of publishing is their driving principle - business means making money. Corruption, like other professions, has not left them untouched. We are currently being offered stories (not even deserving to cross accuracy or bias check!) about the self-proclaimed heroes of different professions - perhaps forming "paid news". That free expression is no longer without risk, is not reported much. Your request to use genuine ID and name is an indicator that critics are afraid of using genuine identity!

from:  VMN Sharma
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 11:16 IST

Noble Laureate, Mr. Amartya Sen in his above article has depicted the milieu of Indian media. In this fast moving 2.2 Billion (approx) populous country, media plays an important role to explore and put forth the needs and demands of those who remain underprivileged and don't come under the criteria of this world class gaudy politicians.Also the misinterpretation of the information or thoughts can lead to a dilemma among the nationals of the state.Paid news is again a big slap on the free media which is turning towards more materialistic things than social & cultural aspects.

from:  Irfan A Qureshi
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 09:27 IST

It was a delight to read Dr. Sen's article. Have we not witnessed the
deteriorating standards of journalism in the last decade or so? The
electronic media is hit worse than the print media. Every private news
channel that has come up has contributed to this decline. Because news
is now entertainment. One only has to watch TV9 to see what this has
led to. There is no pretense even, of accuracy, ethics or high
journalistic standards. In fact, who can even call it journalism? The
owners of the channel certainly don't pretend that it is. It is a
money making enterprise and delivers whatever sells.

from:  lrao
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 07:53 IST

VEry good article on Media by Amartya Sen. The BJP and RSS shall give
the stewardship of its poll campaign to TIMES OF INDIA editorial team
and the Management. It is doing much better job for them, then their own
core team of Arun Jaitley, Sushama Swaraj, Gadkari etc.etc. etc.

from:  Niranjani Shetty
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 06:48 IST

Great reading.Thanks to Hindu.
Barring few,Indian media is certainly well balanced compared to American media.The bious reports regarding revolutions in Iran,Middle east countries,Mayanamar,North Korea........all media have one and only one loud mouth.I have never seen in Indian media such political bious.Only that TV channels are going out of way.I am sure they will find the best guidence in what Dr.Sen has said in his illustrated article.

from:  Ashok
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 04:21 IST

"There tends to be fulsome coverage in the news media of the lifestyles of the fortunate, and little notice of the concerns of the less fortunate" - Well said. Our vibrant Indian media continues to be in the forefront of our community-making, society-reshaping and nation-building enterprise. Bharat Ratna Professor Amartya Sen has raised many valid points for consideration. Thanks to "The Hindu" for publishing the intensely thought-provoking article.

from:  Dr.Cajetan Coelho
Posted on: Jan 9, 2012 at 00:08 IST

There tends to be fulsome coverage in the news media of the lifestyles of the fortunate, and little notice of the concerns of the less fortunate - Amartya Sen. Thank you "The Hindu" for publishing this piece. Although there are many biases of the media, the celebrity-bias is perhaps the most pervasive. For the media, only the celebrities (read - fortunate ones) matter. In India, when a celebrity sneezes, the whole media weeps in sympathy whereas when ordinary people die - in protests, atrocities, calamities, or even in state inflicted massacres - it's hardly a news.

from:  Shahidur Rashid Talukdar
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 20:53 IST

I am surprised Mr Sen has not touched the fundamental policy of Indian media that is sensationalism. All infirmities of the Indian media is a result of their emphasis on sensation and trp. Debates on economics, environment,poverty, corruption are mostly absent. What is common is the debate on political issues and here it is mostly a turf war between politicians than principles and merit. The whole idea of chat shows on television is to arouse viewership of common man than a real debate based on merits of an issue and bipartisanship.

from:  P.N. Razdan
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 20:46 IST

Excellent piece by a very distinguished gentleman. Only The Hindu bothers to publish such articles. The profit-making agenda of other media houses precludes the publishing of the reality of India since the middle-classes are simply not interested and the media dishes out what the middle-classes prefer. Largely irrelevant, sometimes misleading, dross. The Hindu has a responsibility of attempting to generate a wider readership at the national level for only The Hindu is worth any salt.

from:  Samir Mody
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 19:28 IST

Excellent article- a word of warning though, from here in the UK- do not allow monopolisation to occur in your media undermining media plurality- witness what the Murdoch family have done to distort the media and degrade democracy and public life in the UK. Politicians here now formulate policy according to the wishes of the Murdochs rather than the national interest, since he who controls much of the media controls public opinion and with it the voting preferences of the public. You can bet that with it's rising prosperity and affluence India will attract greater interest from Rupert Murdoch.

from:  J Mandal
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 19:17 IST

"NO NEWS" IS BETTER THAN WRONG, ILL DIRECTED AND MISLEADING NEWS. Every one knows that Media in a democracy should represent the voice of people freely, frankly and timely and raise failures of Legislative, Executive & Judiciary systems to keep them in check; but this is hardly observed. Failure of Media is failure of Democracy. Media could proactively set direction for country, inform competing countries’ achievements and encourage hard work through recognition of success. But it appears that Media itself had become complacent by publishing cheap news mostly on crime, Bollywood gossip, or Cricket and much worse, news for financial gains. I am not sure if journalists are going through proper training by any academy and are adhering to any standards at least in coverage of foreign affairs such as news on China which puts us on war mode rather than positive industrial competition mode. I applaud Hindu & Amartya Sen for showing a ray of hope with this article & hope more will follow

from:  Dayakar
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 18:45 IST

Prof Sen , the big media houses are run successfully by business families with the ultimate motive of profit which is poles apart from social responsibilities towards changing and shaping Indian society into a better place to live in . I wish in his article he would have touched upon the "profit motive hence the bias in reporting" that is practiced by both the electronic and print media.

from:  Shilbhadra Datta
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 16:03 IST

Nice article and read it throughly.Thanks "The Hindu" for publishing such good article after the article of "Freedom of Indian Press" by PCI chairman Mr.Katju. Hope Indian print & electronic media will took a lesson from the article.

from:  Manojit Pal
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 15:36 IST

My dad was a correspondent for The Hindu in the 40s and I growing up in Ooty read Hindu regularly as opposed the ?The Mail a pro british paper. The Hindu had an editorial every Sunday The War - a fine summary of WW 2. It had a page each for International,national,and provincial news, the sports column even gave Canadian ice hockey scores!. It is and was owned by Iyangars Brahim's yet it was above the hated caste system, child marriage, wrote against the treatment of Brahim widows. Played a big part in Indian Independence. I still enjoy reading The Hindu.

from:  R D James
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 13:39 IST

Good articulation by learned noble prize winner. Many articles has been published on Media here on The Hindu platform and another balanced piece of writing on media and our societal issues. We are passing through critical era,furthermore for enhancing quality of journalism again we are going back to square, because the quality is now having different sets of qualification/definition and abiding different rule hence we need ethical standard behavior rather than any other thing for accuracy enhancement.In past days and present we are watching that entire media is behind Janlokpal only that issue is getting covered by our media why? Do we not have any other serious issues in our society? In print media i find The Hindu at some extant serving great duty for our nation.

from:  Rehan
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 13:17 IST

This article is timely. According to Sen"Authoritarianism flourishes not only by stifling opposition, but also by systematically suppressing information" This is what happening in India. This is most unfortunate and most alarming. what is worst is that, biased reporting, the victims will be always lower classes, practically lower castes like Dalit, OBCs and low caste Muslims.It is most unfortunate Mr Sen deliberately or accidentally avoided the usage of the word "caste" . In India class is hugely linked with caste. No meaningful class analysis is possible in south Asia without caste analysis, without studying the implications of caste inequeties.His piece is scholarly one but lacks proper intellectual orientation. Anyway his attempt is commendable

from:  Prof T B Vijayakumar
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 12:09 IST

An excellent article from an honorable personality..its a hammer on the media who have forgotten what they were meant for....an honest and unbiased press is extremely important for a democracy to stand strongly....they should be the voice of unheard strata instead of becoming tame of any particular class...."go for truth not for money and biasness"...the hindu is the only relevant newspaper i find worth to read nowadays

from:  Mehra
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 11:42 IST

While saying 'thank you' to The Hindu and to Dr Amartya Sen for the enlightening article, "The glory......",I may be permitted to add that the first problem ( 'some real laxity in professionalism in achieving accuracy..') may be rectified by journalists individually and/ or collectively, the second problem (the bias---often implicit---in the choice of what news to cover and what to ignore, and the way this bias relates particularly to class divisions in India.)is not of that nature.It involves THE OUTLOOK OF THE OWNERS OF THE MEDIA. Dr. Sen has given some very pertinent examples.These can be multiplied.'Transcending class bias' (Dr.Sen) is too much to expect.I wonder if journalists individually can accomplish this.

from:  Janardanrao Venuturupally
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 11:38 IST

I do agree with Mr.Sen that no compromise should be acceptable on the question of accuracy of information. But transcending class bias-in my view-is the toughest task for a journalist. The general mindset of the society is dominated by ruling clique who represents the exploiter classes. The print and electronic media are owned by corporate houses. A journalist is merely an employee there. He is to satisfy his boss first to retain his job. Moreover, every journalist is not necessarily a pro-people person. So how can he serve people's interest professionally?

from:  Raisul Huq Bahar
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 11:27 IST

I wish many of the other so called intellectuals in India had the same
sense of proportion and balance that Amartya Sen has. The emphasis on
health indicators like under nutrition and immunization is welcome.
India will fall back further due to inadequate primary health care.
Malnutrition and lack of access to primary health care will hurt those
left out. And the privileged will suffer due to obesity and access to
ill conceived over care.

from:  Dr. Muhammed Miras
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 09:49 IST

There is definitely a need to bring about a a proper framework for electronic media, especially when they indulge in prejudgment on delicate matters, with a tinge of bias. The quality of debates and discussions, with anchors interjecting and making up the minds of the panelists is sickening. A noticeable feature is that, during the weekends, all seem well and the TV Channels tend to on a holiday for good!

from:  M.V.Muthu
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 07:03 IST

Indian media is doing everything right that a commercial organization should do, i.e. selling what is getting sold most. Information media, realizing that they represent one of the strongest pillars of democracy, should also inculcate some social and moral obligations. This article correctly identifies reactions to the above problem, but there is another angle to it with respect to "who is being quoted?". People who usually get quoted (politicians, actors, activists etc.) should make things explicit, which remains free from personal interpretation.

from:  Sandeep Tripathy
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 06:54 IST

It is competition among newspapers to sensationalise any trivial news.The american press and neither UK press are free from bias.The press has to do some soulsearching and improve the quality of their reports.I agree with Sen about the role of parliament and courts in India and they are neither perfect in my view.

from:  kirubakaran
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 03:51 IST

Should I be surprised that The Hindu is the only news organization that printed this article?

from:  Abner
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 02:11 IST

A great article by a highly respected gentleman, but India being India, a Wonderful and Fantastic country, the world's largest Democracy, however not the best, with rampant corruption, where even the ''Poor'' have to pay, and where the ''New Rich'', Those who have ''made it'', the ''Barra Saibs'' as the British would call them, and who are amongst the 400'000'000 ( Over the total population of United Europe ! ) Most of this wealthy population, seem to ignore the fate of the Mass of the ''Forgotten Poor'' who have ''No Voice'' but stand at 800'000'000 today, and this is no Joke. This is where the Press, the Media, Reporters and Statesmen have to take on the responsibility, not only to inform the country and world of clear facts, but with this arm of ''Public Thinkers'' find ways to better the Lives of Individuals who with no choice of their own, were born to Suffer in Silence, ( for the moment !) but must be helped, and not be forgotten.

from:  Jack Vicajee Bertoli
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 01:33 IST

Two hundred sixty thousand farmers have killed themselves in our blessed country. No mention of it.! Conspiracy of silence or mute response by the so called intellectuals and the loud mouth media.? Only The Hindu at times has tried to bring this issue as well as that of child malnutrition. The Hindu must try harder.

from:  Saahas
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 01:27 IST

I think people should be willing to pay higher for news. Reader owned newspapers and channels can go a long way in solving these problems. 'Democracy now' is US is a great example of user supported news source.

from:  Adarsh Jose
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 01:01 IST

Very balanced article by Prof. Sen

from:  Kamlesh Kumar
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 00:53 IST

Well balanced article ! I would like to point out how important is improving journalism standards in India....Media specially electronic one is very influential. It has lot of power to influence common man's opinions. Unfortunately, electronic media specially non-english national electronic news channels have been very narrow and negative on certain issues like India pakistan relationship, Indians beaten in Australia, Raj thackeray controversy etc. All these are very important issues as such issues influence lives of many. Unfortunately, all have been handled quite immaturely till now by national non-english electronic media. One of the solutions for betterment can be forcing these media houses make their news reporters' variable part of salaries 'value reporting based' rather than 'TRP based'.

from:  Amol
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 00:19 IST

CLASS BIAS. I thank the professor for bringing out prominently the class bias in the media, especially the electronic media. He brings out that India which used to be the second best in this region comprising Pakistan, Bangladesh,Sri Lanka,Nepal and Bhutan in social indicators has degenerated to second worst position inthe last 20 years (ie during this period of liberalisation and globalisation), though the GDP rose 8-10%. Suicides by farmers and weavers is a daily occurence. Is it not better that the BPL families are given nourishing food like milk, eggs, vegetable and pulses under Food Security bill instead of rice and wheat which many of them can afford.
I may be excused for saying that among the comments above very few cover these points.
It doesn,t mean that media should focus on poverty, rather they should
bringout shortcomings ,etc in the Govt. policies and implementations
inthis respect.

from:  Narayana Sambarapu
Posted on: Jan 8, 2012 at 00:15 IST

*i fully agree with Mr.Amartya Sen views w.r.t 'free press/ media'...! *but, i may like to add that this practice of 'extreme-positioning'/ bias is found in every shades/ sphere of our lives n not just Media/ press alone & i may call this as 'Human-Nature' or 'Human-degradation'...!!
*also, i may add that in today's WORLD to b a PERFECT or Accurate is next to impossible or impracticable (exceptions are always there) but,can't b ruled out & even if there are any they don't find a 'breathing-space/ place' in SOCIETY we live-in ...!

from:  Chandra Shekhar
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 23:29 IST

For a man about whom it says he is a recipient of the Bharat Ratna, one can only wonder why he bothered to write it, and why he was awarded the honour. It provides no great revelation, nor any startling suggestion, and refers to things well known by many. Surely, he should be doing rather more than stating the obvious. What Mr Sen has chosen never to do is to be a public intellectual, who by definition is non establishment, and who challenges the system to deliver. In a nation afflicted by so much evil perpetrated by the ruling elites, Mr Sen should have been sounding the clarion call and leading a movement for transformation, not penning articles that lead to nothing. An academic piece is commonplace stuff. But clearly he knows what the people want, as the accolades showered on him in the columns here copiously demonstrate. When such inconsequential efforts receive wild applause, why be surprised we have such spectacular failures to our name. Incredible, Eternal, never changing India.

from:  K Kitchlu
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 22:54 IST

Dr Sen's article has advanced debate about press freedom and the two critical areas of accuracy in reporting and inherent bias in coverage of interest in favor of the well-to-do class. It is to be understood that only few in the media can take on the Government since government controls release of newsprint, advertisement, invites etc. Further, since newspaper owners have to answer to their stakeholders, accuracy and bias of reporting do not get priority.

from:  P Sreenivasan
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 22:43 IST

When a scholar like amartya sen writes on a subject as critical as this ,it's a pleasure to read. i live in delhi , which is also probably the capital of journalism. here so called national dailies are increasingly becoming some kind of commercial vehicles. Earlier there used to be only one page three. now much of our newspapers is page 3.some of them are officially capitalistic. for example , Times of India publicly takes share from Companies instead of cash!! surely there are others . the class bias pointed out is there for everybody to see. one does understand that papers need to make profit but clearly things have gone much beyond that. subsidies are rarely good but it is the pro-poor schemes that are targeted most !!! another thing is incessant quoting from foreign sources as if they are all gospels of truth !Having said that i agree with Shri Sen that overall our press is doing a good job. but it is such a critical service that it needs to improve its quality constantly.

from:  surajit som
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 22:17 IST

I would say in one line , read the newspapers according to there stands and limitations . After all we don't have one newspaper to inform us.

from:  Shiva
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 22:07 IST

As long as the structural problems such as profit motive, sensationalism, corporate backing, vested political interest, unqualified journalists, lack of ethics and morals towards humanity etc remain with Indian media, Amartya Sen words just go in vain. there should be a sincere efforts from both government and with in media side to correct these structural problems.

from:  Shankar Rao Chirala
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 22:03 IST

we have to inquire why most of the reporters are reporters? we will
get the answer of all the questions.

from:  dr. harish
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 21:53 IST


Dr.Sen , as usual is in his truly best when he says none too complimentary words about the India media as regards factual inaccuracies and highly skewed reporting in terms of the contents .Just one example of today will prove his point convincingly --The indian news and TV media went into high gear as usual with highly prejudiced reporting with regard to the treatment meted out to Indian businessmen in China recently, in the context of economic offences --and the whole story has been exploded as very false by the businessmen themselves on their return when they said that they were treated very much with respect and honour right through and in accordance with the laws of the land.

from:  Raj vaidya
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 21:36 IST

I would have preferred Dr. Sen to comment on the state of Indian politics. India's media is something we can very well live with, even be proud of. It seems he has chosen to talk about the media because he has not been quoted accurately on a very sensitive subject, the Lokpal movement and the pervading corruption in the country. How about an article on the economic and social consequences of rampant corruption that's a national shame? Did he watch the free press coverage of the shameful way the Rajya Sabha debated the Lokbal bill? Would he comment on the conduct of his friend, Manmohan Singh, and the convenient silence he observed during and after the debate? Dr. Sen, please don’t waste effort trying to fix the Indian press. It's fine, alive and kicking. Spare them for now. Please let us hear your views on the way the political establishment has treated the anti-corruption movement. That merits your scholarly treatment rather than the media which has done excellent job despite its weaknesses that he has cited so well, and that we all know.

from:  Bijay Jayaswal
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 21:04 IST

with "freedom" of press, there also has been free fall of standards. for example, the entire times group has become outlet for soft porn, racy, colourful pictures all in name a la publicity and revenue. Dr. sen has neatly harpooned the issues and those who won't heed his suggestion have premature demise writ over them. reporting fairly and with fair degree of representation is difficult in India thanks to its innate diversity (social, political, etc.) further compounded by marginalized groups finding no voice because they bring "no" revenue. what's the choice? Sustenance needs money, money comes from catering to urbanized populace who face lesser issues and therefore crave titillating articles. media faces definitely challenges. however, biased,inaccurate, sub-standard, overt over the top celebrity focus may give short term relief (if that's the objective) but a definite extinction in near future.

from:  mtg
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 20:07 IST

sir! your are right and accurate in your view, but in Indian context authentic media are not dominant and survive in market due to political , bureaucratic and economic factors. other problem is true(paper media) reach after a day.

from:  prashant
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 19:37 IST

Dr. Sen's write-up is a must-abide by guideline for professional journalists. Both print and electronic media journalists should take it as their working manual. At the same, over all readers' propensity, irrespective of their class and gender background, is also to be taken into consideration. About the question of accuracy we cannot compromise. But the challenge of transcending class bias is the most tough task in my view-as the social trend of thinking is dominated by the ruling clique who hail from exploiter classes.

from:  Raisul Huq Bahar
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 19:26 IST

Well done Dr.Sen.you are expressed the real people voice.Its a timely Intervention.please go ahead.Thank you and HINDU.

from:  neethirajan
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 19:13 IST

Dr Amartya sen has highlighted two important aspects on the role of the media in a highly Objective manner and this should be taken note of by the fouth estate in India. The first is Accuracy in reporting the news and the next is absence of bias. On the first factor, he has Given the list of three news papers , including HINDU from india. If the facts given through The media are not correct, the newspaper has to correct it, and if there is an inbuilt system To correct, the particular newspaper will be believed. On bias again, he has shown how his Views were distorted by two papers in India through the headings on an important issue like The lokpal bill in India. The Nobel laureate has said this with no malice, but with the only
Motive to establish the credibility of the newspapers in India and to establish high standards In journalism in our land. The chairman of the press council of India , has said the same thing in a different language for excellence.

from:  C.p.Chandra das
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 19:13 IST

Thanks to THE HINDU for providing us a privileged to read an insightful piece of writing by an acclaimed academic.

from:  Dr.Himanshu
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 18:22 IST

An astute analysis by Prof. Sen with his characteristic insight! I would request The Hindu to arrange a regular column for Prof. Sen like the NYT has of Prof. Krugman.

from:  Debajyoti Datta
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 17:58 IST


A brilliant expose on the Indian media of which this writer is a member. On the twin dangers- lack accuracy and worsening class bias, Sen is spot on. There are countless examples one can give on these two aspects but I will stick to one or two. The country's leading news agency PTI doesn't have a correspondent from where this journalist reports for various publications on global developments and events in the multilateral organizations. Yet PTI puts out news stories day in and day out with a dateline where it has no presence. Later, these stories are picked up by the media. Besides, the stories are inaccurate and colored- without any respect for accrucy. Who can stop this bogus practice? Sen is 100% correct on class bias, particularly when it comes to reporting on the existential struggles of workers and peasants. It is horrendous to read stores fed by the police and state. Perhaps, Arundhati Roy is justified in criticizing the corporate-driven Indian media.

from:  Immanuel Acharya
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 17:28 IST

1-Most of the privately controlled media is a business venture and is expectedly run like one.So they print or show what sells.Admittedly there should be limits of decency etc. but beyond that it is not advisable to tell media what to print or show. 2-Yes a majority of Indians are poor but they are poor because of the socialistic policies followed so far and which Mr Sen so passionately subscribes to. 3-The diamond and gold imports give rise to employment in the jewelery industry which Mr Sen conveniently ignores. 4-The primary objection to giving doles is not the fiscal deficit(it is definitely a consideration)but the humongous leakages that do good to only the politicians and the hugely bloated bureaucracy.

from:  Krish
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 17:14 IST

Professor Sen's article identifies correctly the problems that plague the Indian press today, and also suggests directions in which the solutions lie. But given the pattern of ownership of the papers, and the the tendency of the reporters to use racy in preference to accurate language in the anxiety to catch the readers' attention, I don't see much hope of his sensible advice being taken and acted upon. But eventual salvation for the press and the society it caters to lies in Sen's well thought-out suggestions.

from:  Lakshman R.D.
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 17:03 IST

Such articles brings out in a concise manner the various characters of Indian Media.This should be posted to every news paper and discussed on news channels.A democracy is functional only when information asymmetries are removed enabling people to make informed decision.Thanks to the internet it is such an equalizer when it comes to information.Democracy also prevails here as false information sooner or later gets weeded out of peoples choice,but something like pornography needs to be checked by every country.

from:  Paritosh Bandhu
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 15:57 IST

Nice Article. Expecting a comment from Honourable chairman of Press
Council of India.

from:  Jerin Ambalathinkal
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 15:38 IST

Yes, it's a timely discussion on the role of free media in shaping up the Indian democracy. No doubt, the Hindu's role in this is outstanding in the Indian context. Self-control and self-discipline are the accompanying artists to the main musician of democracy. I hope the newspapers have still time to adhere to this and proceed for betterment of democracy.

from:  selvaraj vagarayampalayam
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 15:31 IST

limitations are more on Indian media,so we can not compare directly with outsider.Inspite of that they performing well.

from:  Rahul P. Waghmare
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 15:20 IST

The call for errata is timely. But more than the newspapers, this is
somethings that news channels need to do. To achieve rhetoric and
seductive cliches, they have time and again abandoned rigour/ fact-
checking. They tarnished individuals like Iftekhar Geelani from DU, the
Talwars in the Arushi case and many others based just on police press
conferences. When proven wrong, they have just moved on without as much
as shrugging their shoulders. And the amnesiac masses do not care.

from:  Abraham Abhi
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 14:16 IST

So true, the newspaper has absolutely no story about the vast underprivileged part of society, making them invisible to a white
collared worker like me.

from:  Subroto
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 13:48 IST

such articles are the need of the time. its really a serious issue and such articles about media should come in the media, even discussion on TV media too...

from:  Bandana devi
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 13:26 IST

I totally agree with the sentiments expressed by Dr Sen about the Indian media. The problems generally stems out of the fact that the quality of people getting into this profession is generally very poor. Unfortunately I have no choice but to agree with Justice Katju in this regard. At the grass root level where information gathering generally happens we have very few people who have the ability to gather any information accurately, It would not be inaccurate to say that we have a crowd of rejects at the grass root level. Most often we come across situations where the very process of information gathering gets distorted due to integrity issues of the people involved.
At the senior level the distortions generally happen due to vested interest.Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to name a News paper or a Channel which does not indulge in biased reporting. Most of the time corruption at the senior level is rampant and the radia tapes are a living testimoney of this fact.

from:  Niraj Kumar
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 12:58 IST

excellent views given by great noble laurate. i would like to add that media, the integral part of our daily life ,exercises huge influence on the society. before independence it was considered a gret tool for creating a knowledgeable hormonious society. but sadly now it has become a mere business concern where the first and the last word is'profit'. acknowledging the fact that money is essential for survival of any media, stiil can the human benefactor idea be totaly dilluted. sometimes it is said that people like to read the gossip kind of cheap stories. but i think it is not the people but the media which decieds the taste of masses.i earnestly appeal to both the media house and reciepants to take responsibility of building a strong society where everyone will live amidst amity and fortune.

from:  surajit das
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 12:38 IST

If I had the wealth, I would get this article translated into all the 20-odd official Indian languages, have millions of copies printed and delivered to all literate homes and houses country-wide. Next, I would request Prof. Sen to lead a prime time TV discussion on this subject with a link-up to all prominent channels with simultaneous translation and transmission, having on the opposing side journalists and commentators who oppose all government schemes to help the poor on the grounds that they are money down the drain.

from:  n. satya murti
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 12:27 IST

Indian media is now working purely on business rules. Ad revenue is the main motto of many newspapers / TV channels at present. Before publishing any news, the news editors thinks: Is it reaching to the target audience? (from revenue point of view)

from:  Hanmi Reddy
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 12:14 IST

There are "Neogtiated"settlements of Power and Water Bills Charged on Top Consumers in Industry. Ordinary citizens will have their power/water cut for default on bills even les than Rs.250.Big Industrial Units are allowed to accumulate dues running in to crores.IF any one is bold enough to cut the supply (sometimes Owners instruct the field staff to Cut Off the supply)they will bring STAY from Courts on the arguement that they will have heavy losses and Production is important.
Once the STAY is obtained units will run business as usual and long judicial process will start.In between the Consumer and Department will have öut of court"settlements wherein the defaulter will pay less than 1/10th and get settlements. Have we fathomed the loss incurred by way of "Protection"to VIPs and VVIPs-travels,accomodation,benefits etc for very personal and political campaigns.

from:  Arackal Narayana
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 11:54 IST

Headlines are outrageous in some newspapers like the TOI. I often wonder if it is a lack of competence on the part of new journalists that produces inaccurate, unprofessional reporting. It could also be that a news source wants to beat the competition into getting news first, and receiving most ratings/ viewers etc. And if only the TV journalists wouldn't yell into their microphones...

from:  Divee
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 11:27 IST

Amartya Sen does not need to bother about India Media not covering the no so previleged class (eg. social indicators), it is done by world media very effectively, in fact most of the time they cover only that - about slums in india, farmers suicicds etc. Media like BBC covers mostly negaitve image of india by comparing previleged vs under previleged. There is no free media in China, and India is much better off. Media in developed countries ( eg CNN or BBC) most of the time cover only positive news about their countries, whereas it is opposite when it comes to developing or underdevelped countries.

from:  Bala
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 11:22 IST

No one can help but give a "standing ovation" to Dr Sen-though not possible in a print media. The latest and sound "really bizzare " panel discussions carried out by the t.v.channels on the date of birth controversy is prime examples of the media going beyond any consideration of the national interest and the integrity of the armed forces by allowing crass irresponsible and very "loud"comments on a "serving" chief of our armed forces. Is there nothing we give respect to? the selective airing of one or two scams and the obfuscation of much graver issues do not give any credibility to the journalist community. Why we cannot highlight the gravest issues facing the millions not been covered for a change instead of the "repetition" hour after hour of the same topic dished out. Do the communal harmony, abject poverty, abject supression of the poor by money lenders and local landlords, malnutrition of our babies, poor medical care etc not count.

from:  Ajithkumar
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 10:46 IST

While reading the crystal clear analysis we feel privileged to have in our midst giants like Amartya Sen to guide destiny of the nation at this critical juncture. We are indebted to Prof Sen and The Hindu for the publication. While, especially visual, media has go miles before an ideal equilibrium of “combination of accuracy with the avoidance of bias “. But in all fairness, Indian press is nowhere as destructive as American television and radio talk shows >featuring hatemongers and demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Fox News' Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck spewing viperous poison to willing listeners who form a considerable proportion of the society. The so called free American press taking advantage of First Amendment protecting freedom of speech, played considerable supporting and damaging role in sustaining the administration disinformation and lies during Vietnam and Iraq misadventures.

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 10:39 IST

In India other then The Hindu all news paper and TV are just a
entertainment paper and channel.

from:  Anil
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 10:35 IST

Excellent! Should be an eye opener to the media that in the name of a "positive story", goes predominantly after the affluent sections of the society and leaves the rest on the shoulders of one or two journalists like P. Sainath.

from:  K Palaka
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 10:32 IST

Some interesting observations regarding USA press. When USA press people interview foreign leaders they want the leaders to agree for an impromptu interview for the leaders to field the questions from the press and answer extemporaneously. Yet when the press members interview American presidents the questions are given to the presidents in advance to prepare the answers:
1.When Reagan was the president his chief of staff used to warn the press members in camera that if they were to ask unsavory questions they would not be allowed to ask questions. If a press person cannot put a question the studio employing the pressman would hire somebody else in his place. Thus the White House controlled the press. So much for the hubris of press freedom.
2.At least once when Mr. Reagan was asked a question by a pressman the president started reading the answer for the next question. If a foreign leader were to be in the shoes of Mr. Reagan the press would not have been so kind on such an occasion.

from:  T.S.Krishnaswamy
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 10:31 IST

The first problem of lack of accuracy arises from the pressure to create sensational news to capture eye-balls. This has skyrocketed with the exploration of the visual media to the extent that it is publish-or-perish situation for the reporters now.The second problem of bias in reporting is because of pressure and desperation to get the advertisement money which has skyrocketed now due to the ever increasing cost of production and near fixed subscription charges. So you create the news that makes you attractive
to your buyers.
So it appears like a question of competition and survival to me.

from:  ramkumar
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 10:29 IST

The comments of Prof.Amartya Sen ought to be sent by the Hindu to Budget speech writers of the Finance Minister,all secretaries in the Finance Ministry,PMO, DG od Enforcement Directorate,Chairman and Members of CBDT, Excise and Customs,Director CBI,leaders of opposition parties in Loka Sabha and Rajya Sabha,Chairman andMembers of the Standing Committe on Finance,Home and Law Ministry;and IAS Officer's Wives Association preside over by the wife of the Cabinet Secretary,wives associations of IPS, IRS and IFS officers with a request to perceive the misery of 800 millions of Indians, their malnutrition,garments, food, water,fuel, schooling,HOUSES etc.,and come out ofthe prison of gem and jewellry,drink and dance,all excessive indulgences, desires and GREED.This is easier said than done while remebering the writings of the great seers and authors from Maharshi Vyasa to GBShaw on the incorrigibility of human nature." We the People" and our elected reprentatives bear out the truth of this.

from:  I C Menon
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 10:13 IST

This is related to only paper media. Electronic media is very forward in these types of news. Very we go through several news channels, I think, the importance of any news is depend on that reporter's acts of telling that news. You have to just observe up and downs in his voice.

from:  Pankaj Yelapale
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 10:12 IST

This is indeed a very well written article, and very clearly and succinctly brings out two significant problems in front of the Indian media. It is very refreshing to see that Dr. Sen has refrained from making broad brush accusations such how media cares more about XYZ movie/sports star than real issues, which a lot of commentators on the Indian media have done recently. I will just add that the class issue we see in the Indian media is also somewhat of a language issue. The better off classes tend to read and write in English and thus the English media only reflects their anxieties. I think we should make efforts to ensure that the next generation of better off Indians can also access the Indian language media.

from:  Vikram
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 09:14 IST

Mr Sen, in his characteristic candidness,has delicately pointed out the two abominable pursuits of the Indian media.These observations are critical worthy of serious consideration by the media.Accuracy and absence of bias are the life sustaining sap of the media.Hopefully they will be assiduously maintained.

from:  G.Rajaram.
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 08:50 IST

Thank You - The Hindu! An article of absolute substance! A stimulant for "Soul Searching" for all concerned with News Media!

from:  MSR Ayyangar
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 08:35 IST

It is very unfortunate that the Indian media fails "in keeping the
reality of India persistently in the view of the public" its like the
media acting like bollywood movies showing only the glossy and the glamorous. The media should wake our sleeping consciousness by depicting
the realities of this nation and the world, and create an urge in us
to act up on the gross injustices that so prevalent in this modern
world. and that is the role of the fourth estate.

from:  Sajid Kochi
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 08:22 IST

Vry well balanced, accurate and enlightening presentation of media,especially the English media.Another bias to be noted is the avoidance of or even antagonism towards the traditional Hindu institutions and practices of large majority of Indian citizens.Conversely, there is far more acceptance and favoring of those of religious minorities, however negative they might be. A third area is the enormous space devoted to so- called movie icons and their doings which contribute very little to project positive values in the country.

from:  Muvi Ravu
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 07:38 IST

Dr Sen's comment about revenue loss due to exemption of diamond and gold from Customs Duty is an eye opener. But if Dr Sen were to be informed about the actual goings-on in the revenue-collecting,revenue-generating ministries/Departments of the Government of India and State Governments, he would abhor and gasp in horror. Rs.50,000/- crores loss that Dr Sen has averred to are peanuts when compared to the revenue loss as a result of the systematic well-organised under-invoicing of imports(many of them, unwanted goods and chattel) more specifically from China. One estimate puts the loss due to under-invoicing of imports at Rs.2,00,000/- crores per annum. The Central Board of Customs And Excise has no and control over its officials. The IRS cadre has thousands of personnel who have gotten filthy rich by getting in cahoots with unscrupulous importers, who part a small portion of their ill-gotten lucre to get away with impunity. I fear for my life if my identity is revealed.

from:  Sharma
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 07:30 IST

An excellent article, Sir. This essay brings out several issues that I personally find bothersome and have posted about on my own blog. As a kid, I would read The Times of India daily (for news and vocabulary) and could quote it as a reliable source for news articles. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case and I have to visit multiple news websites to get the complete picture. News reports today seem to be suggestive and opinionated rather than providing facts. Moreover, they are rife with grammatical and factual inaccuracies whereby journalists seem to throw in their own ideas in the report.

from:  Nikhil
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 07:20 IST

Accuracy is one thing, but political neutrality is the most difficult thing for many reporters and editors! In not being so, the communicated news becomes a propaganda that people are none the wiser and reactive to only to the half truth presented as reality! It is not only the news reported but the news omitted that makes the complete picture. Are we informed of all the facets of events by most of the media to examine the truth? Perhaps?! Perhaps not !?

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 07:20 IST

Mr Sen has hit the nail on the head. ALthough he has asked a lot of tough questions, he has also given various techniques to the journalists how to be a better and wiser reporter. He is right in his judgemet that journalists need to reduce bias, not just of caste, colour, religion and sex but also social. What I mean by "social" is that the news should deal more with issues, like poverty, unemployment, suicides of the farmers etc, and not on entertainment or astrology etc. Mr Sen has subtly supported Mr Katju, but he is also against his views, as he allows more freedom of the press.

from:  Aiman Reyaz
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 07:17 IST

Nicely done article. However, the news media now a days is not there as check / counterbalance of governance, society's changes etc - as in early days. Bring knowledge and current affairs to the the public. In olden days , if one wanted to have a go at the IAS exam the advise given was "Read a couple of news papers daily" Now, most news media is run by corporations or are listed; they are answerable to investors; they need to make money; thats all it counts - money. Dog bites man is no news - but man bites dog is - principle.

from:  R G Krishnan
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 07:12 IST

The article has cogently and clearly explained the two evils- inaccuracy in reporting and class bias present in the media.The media has a redeeming role in India . Its vibrancy has to capture the other India neglected in giving importance to the lifestyles of the fortunate fifth of the population. It has to examine the claims of the one sided growth of India and point out how we are lagging behind in providing nourishment to the malnourished children, the fall in standard of life among the countries of region and the raising costs of education.

from:  J.Ravindranath
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 06:41 IST

Excellent article.

from:  Anurag Joshi
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 06:25 IST

This can be possible if Indian Media houses collaboratively work towards creating an environment where they encourage un-biased discussions on the 'real issues' of the country. For that we will need: 1. Media leaders/Editors who identify and understand the real/important issues. 2. Strong/intelligent reporters who can collect enough information to capture attention of the viewers/readers. 3.They also have to play educational role; In terms of explaining the functioning of the government and policies. May be they should sit down together and come up with a compliance document(SOX type), or treaty with each other, or kind of self imposed
standards for accuracy in reporting.
The true democracy will be established when more and more people are not only educated but are well informed and gather to discuss 'real issues' on the streets, not for summary justice..

from:  Kaustubh
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 06:06 IST

1.Indian newspapers depend on advertisements from the local governments. One Tamil Nadu government used to blackmail the press threatening that if a newspaper published any article unfavourable to the then-ruling party the newspaper would not get advertisements from the government.There has been a severe financial constraints on news media 2. Even in America press may be free, but they may get only the altered or filtered accounts of news from the CIA and other agencies.Once a senior executive from (NYT)New York Times was visiting an East European Country. Upon knowing he was from NYT the locals told him to his surprise of a reporter from NYT staying in a hotel to whom they would take him to meet.As they were entering the hotel the alleged reporter was hurriedly getting out of the hotel through the fire exit, for he was in fact a CIA agent and not a NYT reporter. This account was published in NYT a few decades ago. It would be comical were it not so tragic.

from:  T.S.Krishnaswamy
Posted on: Jan 7, 2012 at 04:11 IST
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