Media and ‘Sense of Proportion’

The media is expected to be fair and neutral

Media and ‘Sense of Proportion’
Media and ‘Sense of Proportion’

The Media is expected to exhibit scientific temper and be responsible

By ‘sense of proportion’, we mean the relative importance of different things that matter in any given situation. For example, when Nero was playing the fiddle while Rome was burning, we say he badly lacked a sense of proportion.

The sense of Proportion is one of the important attributes sadly missing in much of our public discourse, the main culprit for this being our media, which is expected to educate the public.

Electronic media need BREAKING NEWS, 24 X 7 X 365 and enough topics to fill their prime time discussion time slots to get high enough TRP ratings which directly contribute to their revenues and profits. The stakes in filling up all time slots with enough news and views to report are very high.

I never liked media being called ‘presstitutes’, but on such issues, media is making a poor case of defence against this accusation.


Since so much of attention-grabbing news won’t be available normally, media try to convert every trivial issue doing the rounds in social media into topics for BREAKING NEWS, followed by views of everyone who matters (and who don’t) on the subject, followed by prime-time debates. If the subject pertains to BJP/ RSS/ rightwing activism, all the better because these topics will draw high TRP ratings.

As a result of reporting without a sense of proportion, if reputations of people in important positions are tarnished, national interests are compromised, faiths and value systems that a majority of people hold very dearly to their hearts are trampled upon, molehills are made to look like mountains, people’s views are subverted, untruths are surreptitiously dished out as unassailable truths,… who cares?

In the interest of brevity, let’s see just one example.

Tarun Vijay, a 55-year young former Editor of Panchajanya (an RSS mouthpiece), and a former Rajya Sabha MP from Uttarakhand has been championing the cause of Tamil and Thirukkural, in Parliament and outside, with a missionary zeal, unmatched even by Tamil MPs. He visits Tamil Nadu frequently and meets Tamil leaders from all political parties. He fought heavy odds and against several sadhus while he tried to install the statue of Thiruvalluvar in Haridwar, purely based on his own efforts, with nothing to gain in return

Once upon a time, the media was expected to be fair and neutral; it took the true and honest news to the people, didn’t exaggerate, and when it expressed views.

Tarun also courted controversy when he was attacked by a mob for leading a group of Dalits to the Silgur Devta Temple near Dehradun and was seen bleeding profusely from injuries from his head and ears. The mob also damaged his car.

So, in sum, Tarun has been a genuine champion of Tamils and Dalits,.

However, recently, when he was interviewed after mob attacks on African students in India, he disagreed that Indians are racists and said, “If we were racist, why would we live in the entire south…Tamil, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra? We have black people around us.” Sure enough, it was an insensitive and politically incorrect statement to make, as it stereotypes South Indians as black and North Indians as white.

But all of us are prone to such faux pas. When a non-Tamil with the strong pro-Tamil background like Tarun makes an occasional faux pas, wise people will let it pass, or at worst, chide him in private. But our media kept lambasting Tarun for a few days. When Tarun visited a University in Pondicherry to deliver a talk, students associated with ‘very tolerant and liberal’ political parties protested vociferously, almost threateningly, against him.


We haven’t heard any voice of support for Tarun from the media, liberals, Dalit or Tamil activists. Compared with how much he has been trying to do for so long for Dalit and Tamil causes (which won’t get him any personal benefits), was the one faux pas so unpardonable?

This is not an isolated instance when our media has exhibited a lack of sense of proportion. It has been so with most of our media most of the times because they have no scruples, no sense of fair play; they only need TRP ratings. This is the media we hail as the fourth pillar of democracy. When all they do is to resort to rabble-rousing and use every trick under the sun to get more sales and profits for their business, why glorify them as a pillar of democracy?

When one odd group of rowdies in some city/ town misbehaves with Africans, women, or transporters carrying cattle, instead of just asking the police and the state governments to act, we are made to perceive that the entire country is full of such incidents all the time, and we are told we are all racists, gang-rapists, gau-rakshaks (and what have you).

Once upon a time, the media was expected to be fair and neutral; it took the true and honest news to the people, didn’t exaggerate, and when it expressed views, it was clear these were the writer’s/ editor’s views, not gospel truths. No longer so. Today every media house tries to claim ‘Exclusives’ of everyday mundane news items, outshouts each other, and requests you not to go anywhere else, and their news & views are not necessarily what’s happening in the world, but what they want us to believe.

For example, the news is not about Tarun Vijay, a non-Dalit and non-Tamil, Dalit-supporter and Tamil-supporter who made a faux pas in his speech (if at all this is news enough to be told), but it is about a racist RSSwala. Are our media not twisting facts to rabble-rouse, raise passions, and keep this news churning for as long as it can?

One-off criminal incidents keep happening all over the world, all the time. Though police should prevent and control them, such incidents can’t be stopped altogether till we change the mindset of ALL the people. We should be objective and deal with them as just law and order problems and not call our entire society names.

And, worse still, such news reports are most often not even verified; where they show videos as proof, they even disclaim that they don’t vouch for these videos. Yet, celebrities are asked, “Blah, Blah, Blah…This is what happened. Do you think we are racists?” These celebrities may not even have heard of these incidents, and they would be expected to give their instant reactions; they won’t even be given the time to reflect. If the expected or politically correct answer is not instantly forthcoming, they are called all kinds of names. So, most of them would end up responding with politically correct views.


Media is expected to exhibit scientific temper and be responsible. As to how many of the reporters and editors understand a scientific methodology is anybody’s guess.

Research Methodology (the subject that deals with how to do scientific and social research) teaches us how to test a hypothesis as true or false. Typically, a large number of occurrences of an event are required before we can make generalizations about the event with a reasonable level of confidence. With media, esp electronic, the number of instances required to make generalizations is just one, and the confidence level while generalizing is 100%. None of the liberal worthies ever complains about this.

I never liked media being called ‘presstitutes’, but on such issues, media is making a poor case of defence against this accusation.

In this age of increasing political participation, media hype and powerful of social media, when people tend to make judgments of situations in split seconds, our schools should teach children how to be objective and develop a sense of proportion. They will need this attribute in the world of tomorrow because our media will only exhibit a lack of sense of proportion increasingly.


Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

Ganesan Subramanian

An Engineer-entrepreneur and Africa Business Consultant, Ganesan has many suggestions for the Government and sees the need for the Govt to tap the ideas of its people to perform to its potential.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Except for equating the TV Chennels with the rest of he media such as the radio and the printed newspapers in every example he has given of a loss of the sense of proportion, compliments are must be given to author Ganesan for his forthright views of what has become an utterly irresponsible behaviour of those whocan instead create an informed and well calibrated information world. The Comments of Ravi, shiv and shilpy are smart and sharp —clearly indicating that we do have people around who have a sense of morality, of what’s right and wrong. The problem, as I see it, is the 24-hour TV channels chasing tRPs and profits. It’s rather a total insensitivity to what the common man — reader or watcher— wants and expects the media to keep him informed and/or entertained. For example, while at least one TV Chanel does not have a news programme with bare facts given out imaginatively with a smile or a sadness, covering a gamut of our country’s happnings — be it politics, sport, culture or science. And the rush for creating controversies is sheer madness most malicious and condemnable. Even debates are run with noise, noise and more noise, the anchor simply refusing to intervene by shutting out the microphone of the ceaseless shouter. Let’s get back to the old days of, say, All India Radio, to the essential news format, say, half and hour every day five times a day, musical programmes, stage dramas, children’s programmes etc and you’ll live a much better life while the politicians and so-called anarchic debaters can cook all the shit they can anywhere else except in or on the media— be it the mainstream, audio-visul or the social kind.

  2. I may not fully endorse views of BBC. It is a 24 * 7 news channel with good rating. They do not bring out Breaking News every other second. People watch it for their documentaries and other programmes. It is because our news channels lack imagination and creativity they think that noise brings in TRPs. Breaking News has broken the back of media

  3. Well brought out Mr Ganesan.What is happening in this world is that those who are in a position to do something – Politicians,Media,Judges,Police,Administrators are influenced by vested or crooked groups and these corrupt groups are external governments,Industrialists,powerful religious groups especially chrislamists,leftist international mafia,law breaking thugs like drug runners,arms merchants,money launderers and so on.In this kaliyug of greed,lust and poor morals how many of these people in influential position will remain honest? Many of these influential persons have become a target and have become a prostitute available to the highest bidder.Media is a part of this set up.At least there is a social media to give voice to expose them..Imagine the days before internet.We have to make do with the crooks running toilet ,ht,hindu,anand bazaar or tv media.

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