by Pritha Kejriwal
After the expose of the Radia Tapes by Open and Outlook magazines, a lot of debate has followed…many allegations, many defenses, counter-allegations and counter defenses, followed by critiques of all and however much one may keep on dissecting the entire situation, its important to understand, the lessons that the viewer or the reader should learn from all of this? What should be their real debate? And how should this influence their patterns of media consumption?
It should be of minor significance whether, Barkha Dutt’s conversations with Nira Radia, technically amount to lobbying or what Manu Joseph and Vinod Mehta did was a breach of privacy and an unethical, slandering piece of journalism. Let them keep arguing as much as they want to. The audience as media consumers should understand that each one of them acted according to their own politics, their particular brand of journalism, their social consciousness, their concerns as journalists and their particular stance and space as opinion makers. And in doing what they are doing, each one of them becomes a metaphor for what they represent and the audience needs to interpret these metaphors and choose the ones that feel right to them.
So when NDTV or Times Now or IBN or so many others cry themselves hoarse against the Maoist threats, Outlook publishes Arundhati Roy and her defense of the Maoists. When NDTV holds candlelight vigils for Jessica Lal, an Outlook or a Tehelka talk of social justice for farmers. When NDTV celebrates the army and its soldiers and Times Now mourns the killing of CRPF jawans, Tehelka publishes stories on army atrocities. When Vir Sanghvi jet-sets through luxurious hotels reporting about the best massages you can get, Arundhati Roy walked “with the comrades through the deep forests of Chhattisgarh for Outlook. When Times Now is full of patriotic, nationalist jargon for Kashmir, Outlook, Hindu or Tehelka speak of plebiscite. When Barkha Dutt gushes over Obama’s speech in Parliament, some of these media houses these carry critical essays on America’s real agendas. And while corporate PRs influencing government formations might be a regular affair for a Barkha Dutt to overlook as a possible story, it’s the “story of the decade” for a Manu Joseph. And in all of that and more, a Barkha Dutt and a Vir Sanghvi are always pitted against the Vinod Mehtas, Shoma Chowdharys and N. Rams and very newly a Manu Joseph. Just as CNN in America would always stand against a Democracy Now or Z magazine. Just as BBC in Britain would always be standing against a Socialist-Worker
And no matter how much we debate this newest blow off on media ethics, thinking that things would change, basically and fundamentally, the nature of these media organizations wont ever change. These are instances of class struggle, the contours of which shall never change. While a NDTV, Times Now or CNN shall continue representing a certain minority elitist middle class, a Frontline or a Democracy Now shall perhaps strive to represent the concerns of under represented but majority lower classes.
The discerning media consumer now needs to take a stand and make a choice – between the reality of the millions of people of the world and the manufactured reality of corporate media houses.