In reality, media is not independent. Government has a lot of influence on media. There have been times when the government has censored the media. An example of censorship by the government is during the Emergency (1975-1977). The government continues its censorship in films but no longer censors the media's coverage of news.
Independence of Media
More often than not, the media does not give a balanced story. This is because:
Business houses control the media and it is in their interest if the media highlights only one side of the story.
The dependence of the media on advertisements for revenue deters it from reporting against people who give them advertisements.
For making a news interesting and increasing the public support for an issue, media tends to highlight on only one side of the story.
Since media plays a significant role in deciding what stories to focus on, we can say that it decides on what is newsworthy. An annual event at a school may not be covered by media but if a famous cricketer is a Chief Guest at that function, media will be interested in covering the event. Media, by focusing on selective issues, has an influence on our thoughts and consequently on our actions. Due to the significant role that media plays in influencing us (by influencing our thoughts) it is commonly said that media sets the agenda.
Few years ago, media drew our attention to the alarming amount of pesticides in cola drinks. It therefore made us aware about the need to monitor these drinks according to international quality and safety standards. This reporting was done by media in spite of the government's resistance. Thus, media played a very important role in giving very crucial information to the people regarding health risks of consuming cola drinks.
However, there are also instances where media fails to focus on issues that are important for our lives. Some of such issues are as under:
Unsafe drinking water: Every year thousands of people die due to illness caused by contaminated water. But media seldom discusses this issue.
Slum demolition: There have been instances where media chooses one issue over other when they are happening simultaneously. There has been a report by a renowned journalist about media covering the Fashion Week in which popular designers show their new creations to the elite class, and ignoring the slum demolition that was going on in Mumbai in that week.
Since media will not be interested in covering small issues that involve the lives of ordinary people, many local groups have come up with their own media. This is called local media. Some examples of these are:
Community radio: These are used to tell farmers about the prices of different crops and to give many other valuable inputs to them.
Documentary films: These are low budget films and focus on the real-life conditions of different poor communities.
Khabar Lahriya: It is a newspaper which is a fortnightly that is run by Dalit women in Chitrakoot district of Uttar Pradesh. It reports the issues of the Dalits. It has its reach among the farmers, shopkeepers, school teachers, panchayat members and literate women.
Censorship: The government has powers to disallow media from publishing or showing certain stories. This power is called censorship. This power could be about disallowing a news item, scenes of a movie or lyrics of a song from being shared with the masses.
Publish: This refers to making available news reports, articles, interviews, etc. for the wide audience to read. This is done by printing in newspapers, magazines and books.
Public Protest: This literally translates to ‘protest by the public at large’. In other words, it is the opposition to some issue by a large number of people. It is done by organizing rallies, holding demonstrations, signature campaigns, blocking roads etc.
Broadcast: This term, in this chapter refers to a TV or radio programme that is transmitted widely.