'Media power has declined'

CHENNAI July 3. The importance and power of the media as an institution declined since the 1990s, the Dean, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Prabhat Patnaik, said here today.

Citing instances, Prof. Patnaik said that while after the Bofors case revelation, there were resignations, which eventually led to a party losing power at the Centre, the political class now paid ``no visible price in either the Tehelka or after the Gujarat carnage.'' In the past, there was ``a certain reiteration of the basic values of democracy,'' which seemed to have given way to a line of thought, which did not augur well for the institution of liberal democracy.

In the case of Gujarat, despite the ``remarkable unanimity'' in the media that the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, should go, ``its opinion went unheeded,'' he said delivering the Asian College of Journalism convocation address on `market, morals and the media' here today.

Commending the media for its ``heroic role'' in exposing the Government in Gujarat, he noted that the media played similar roles in exposing the Kargil coffin scam, the UTI fiasco and many more in the recent past. But each of these incidents led to only some fringe elements being booked, he said.

Prof. Patnaik said that in fields where the media were on the same side as international finance capital, they appeared to be powerful. But when they tried to strike a different posture and attempted to uphold humane values, expressing concern for the poor and the suffering, they appeared powerless.

Outlining the mission statement of the College, Frontline Editor and Media Development Foundation (MDF) Trustee, N. Ram, said performance audit for the media was ``overdue.'' The media played five substantive roles: that of a credible informer, a critical and investigative role, ``some kind of educational role,'' some kind of agenda building role and a propaganda function.

He noted with concern the tendency to treat media as any other business and said the Murdoch-style price wars were aimed at killing competition.

The rampant corruption and the higher level of manipulation of news, especially financial news, was a challenge that those in the media had to face.

The MDF chairman, Sashi Kumar, said the Foundation would admit one male and female student each from the seven SAARC countries, thanks to a donation made available to it.

Sixtyfour students were awarded post-graduate diplomas at the convocation. Anjali Nirmal Kamath was awarded the R.K. Narayan prize for the best outgoing student.

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