Media should be accountable to the people: Sashi Kumar

Staff Reporter

He says media is veering towards the corporate

KOTTAYAM: Sashi Kumar, chairman of Media Development Foundation, Chennai, said here on Friday that it was time to initiate a Media Reform Movement to make the media accountable to the people.

While on the one hand, the media enjoyed the privileges that the people had bestowed on it, on the other, it was moving away from the people to reap the profits of its proximity to the corporate world, he said.

Mr. Sashi Kumar was speaking on `Media and Development' at the inaugural session of the 44th annual conference of the Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad (KSSP).

He said the freedom enjoyed by the media was on a par with the freedom enjoyed by any citizen. The efforts of the State to encroach upon this freedom were effectively stalled with the support of the people and the civil society, who knew that such encroachment would ultimately lead to infringement on the freedom of the citizen. However, while the State was now reconciled to the reality that it had to live with a critical media, the danger from the corporate world was real, as it was aware that the media was reliant on it for revenue. This had forced the media to look more towards the corporate and away from the people and the rural, Mr. Sashi Kumar said.

He said convergence of technology and digitisation, the two developments that were expected to play a major role in the democratisation of media, too had failed to produce the expected results. "Instead of democratisation, it had collapsed into vertical integration of the media." This had resulted in a situation where the viewer and reader were given more of the same, instead of more of different things.

"When a newsperson says he or she has missed a story, they are referring to a story that has appeared in a competing channel or newspaper, and not a different story," Mr. Sashi Kumar said.

In this corporate competition to give more of the same, the working journalists get marginalised and the reader or the viewer is denied his or her choice. The media today makes the ordinary look extraordinary to provide the consumer with a notion of choices and variety, he said.

He said though the media had embraced the principles of the market, it remained less accountable than others in giving quality products. Large areas of the media were still out of bounds of the right to information of the people. This disconnect with the people should be addressed, he said.

Mr. Sashi Kumar also focussed on the emerging media sphere where production of news as a cultural product had shifted from the media to the people. The emergence of citizen journalists and the growth of blogosphere had brought the people into focus.

According to him, it was high time to initiate a major movement to restructure media. Organisations such as the KSSP would be able to initiate moves that would empower the people with critical awareness of the media.

K.N. Ganesh, T.P. Sreesanker, Korula Isaac, Principal of CMS College, V.N. Vasavan, MLA, and others spoke on the occasion.

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