Wednesday, January 20, 2010

4th letter to Editors Guild

Dear President,

The following letter has been prompted by a suggestion by Mr. N. Bhaskar Rao in his article "
Paid News - a deep seated malaise" in today's Hindu news paper.

Specifically he mentions in his point number 4 that: "Academic bodies, independent research agencies, and civil society groups should be encouraged to monitor media contents and articulate their views from time to time."

I fully concur and agree with him, but the sad part is we (civil soceity)just dont know who to write these views to. Some citizens are more than willing to set aside some time and articulate their views, but are just not clear to whose notice they can bring such things so that they can expect immediate action.

Editors Guild as a body can be approached for broad policy guidelines, but for specifics and nitty-gritty of the contents on TV media and newspapers, the only option available so far is to write to the editor. In this matter, the mechanism followed by The Hindu is laudable. The Reader's Editor is an ideal channel for us to interact on a very regular basis our concerns/clarifications on content in the newspaper (It is another thing that I have some serious concerns about the manner in which the present RE is functioning vis-a-vis the previous one, but that is my personal opinion :) ).

1. Is it possible to evolve a rule that makes it mandatory for all news media (print and electronic) appoint such ombudsman mechanisms, so as to be more approachable for the common man. The mechanism should not be a mere "your concern is noted" kind of thing, but has to be interactive to the maximum extent possible (like the previous RE of The Hindu was). The mechanism has to be such that, it can also put a check to the owner driven news that dominate news channels. Relevance of news should take precedence over TRP's ( I know this is easy for me to say, for at the end of the day, the business also has to sustain, but a fine balance is missing as of today). An immediate example that comes to my mind is when Saif and Kareena were guests at HT Leadership summit and their section was aired more number of times than others. Surely, they wouldn't qualify as "leaders":).

2. If not, I suggest that the editors guild take a bold step and recommend to the Government of India to appoint a autonomous commission. The terms of the commission will be similar to the Ombudsman mechanism stated above. In addition to that, periodic interactions with public, in various cities should also be conducted by this commission. Streamlining the mechanism for better interaction with viewers/readers will go a long way in not just curbing paid news but also in making the content more relevant and meaningful.

It is not my intention to constantly berate the media through my letters, but it is an honest attempt to bring in some much needed feedback mechanism. I know how much impact the media can create on the nation and hence these letters. Hope they are taken in the right spirit :)


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