There is a perception in Trade Union circles that the Indian Media does not take them seriously and ignores their activities. It is hence heartening to note that at least some sections of the media have started giving Trade Unions the attention they deserve.
In India, media is the Fourth Pillar of Democracy. In any democracy, the media is supposed to be the watchdog and is expected to play a very important role. People in India generally have a lot of hope and trust in the judiciary as well as the media as they believe that the judiciary and media are not biased and play their role in the national interest without fear. People expect them to perform their duty and boldly point out the mistakes of those in power.
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But of late, people are losing trust in media mainly because it has started ignoring the real news and issues concerning the masses and is mainly dependent on paid news.
Crony Capitalism has encroached on the media and destroyed the morale, professionalism and ethics of the media/journalism. It is a known fact that Corporate Houses make the media dance to their tunes in lieu of paid advertisements. This practice doesn’t stop with the corporates – even governments and major political parties do so to make the media sing their praises.
As a result of this, the truth never comes out and the picture is always hazy. Ultimately the price is paid by the people and democratic institutions directly or indirectly.
Is media –a means of making profit?
“When a newspaper is a means of making a profit, serious malpractices are likely”, Mahatma Gandhi the father of the Nation himself a journalist and an editor once said.
There are approximately 82,222 registered newspapers reaching out to over 250 million readers besides 1148 registered private satellite television stations and more than 100 government channels in India. Besides these, there are numerous regional channels are also available throughout India. Every major newspaper in India also has an internet edition to enable people to read the newspaper online. The number of registered newspapers and TV news channels is increasing day by day. In 2021, the number of registered newspapers and periodicals across India peaked at more than 144 thousand. Today the number of registered publications has increased consistently since 2001.
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An analysis of the news items published in the newspapers or telecast on the TV Channels would reveal that Cinema/ film, Cricket stars as well as their private affairs, entertainment, politics, and Crime grab the maximum coverage while the remaining space is covered by corporate, government or political advertisements. Against this backdrop, it is quite natural that the media ignores the Trade Unions, their struggle, and their press releases.
The reason behind all this is that they are not rich enough to afford the paid news or advertisements and don’t subscribe to such unethical practices.
Apart from this, there are times when the media also publishes mischievous news to create a negative public opinion against the trade unions. After all, one has to accept the importance of Trade Unions in society.
Trade Unions are the only institution which provides a platform for the workers and the toiling masses to unite and organize themselves. This creates a feeling of intimacy amongst the workers and plays an important part in achieving the rights of the employees through their struggle with the government and private sector employers.
Trade Unions help in maintaining cordial industrial relations and better service conditions for workers in different sectors. Trade Unionism is the only way to safeguard the interest of the working class and protect them from exploitation at the hands of employers and management.
Trade Unions improve the economic conditions of the employees which ultimately helps society in its economic growth. Trade Unions fight for housing facilities, children’s education and health care for the employees by putting pressure on employers to construct residential colonies, education institutions and hospitals.
Trade Unions play a very constructive role in protecting women employees against sexual harassment besides playing an important role in developing the skill of the workers and improving productivity. Trade Unions also provide legal support to workers and save them from police harassment and empower them to raise or redress their individual problems and service grievances. Trade Unions also play a major role in preventing accidents in industries.
Hence, it belies reason why and how can the media ignore the Trade Unions which play such a constructive role in helping the workers seeking better service conditions and a better standard of life.
By and large, public opinion today is that the media has become a puppet in the hands of the government and corporates.
I would like to share my experience with the media in this context. The All India Defence Employees Federation conducted 45 days relay hunger strike in Delhi against the government’s decision to corporatize the Ordnance Factories and hand over Defence Production activities to the private sector in 2017. The hunger strike coincided with the Parliament session, so we invited MPs from all political parties including BJP to come to our hunger strike venue, address our workers and thereafter raise the issue in the Parliament.
MPs from Congress, CPI, CPI (M), DMK, AIADMK, NCP, and Shiva Sena came and addressed our workers and also raised the issues in Parliament. Reporters from national dailies and TV channels routinely took my interview as well as that of our President S. N. Pathak but unfortunately never bothered to publish the news about our struggle. When I discussed this with the Chief reporter of a leading national daily, he bluntly told me that your Federation is fighting against the government and corporate houses. They are the ones who give advertisements and paid news to us whereas you pay Rs.5 to purchase our newspaper which costs us Rs.37 to produce. This is a fact. Hence, how can you expect the media to publish the news of your struggle? According to another journalist, a majority of media houses are owned by corporate houses who are fundamentally against Trade Unions and hence, leave aside a few lines, here and there… that too when it suits them, there is no chance of your news getting published prominently.
Based on my experience of more than 40 years in public life as a Trade Unionist and now at the international level as Deputy General Secretary of the World Federation of Trade Unions, I can only conclude that the time has now come for the media houses and the journalists to introspect. The media should come out of the cage in which they have locked themselves up on their own and behave as a watchdog of democracy or else they will lose their credibility in the minds of the common man of the country. This is not only against democracy and the people. Their own existence is at stake as people have already started boycotting the media. If that happens, irrespective of whoever is supplying them with paid news and advertisements will also vanish and ignore them. The nation expects the media to behave themselves and publish the news of all shades and colours, irrespective of their personal likes or dislikes.
The media has a critical role to play in shaping our society by providing information, news, and entertainment to the public. Its primary function is to inform the public about current events, issues, and trends that impact society. Additionally, the media serves as a watchdog of government and other powerful institutions, exposing corruption, abuses of power, and other wrongdoings.
Media can also influence public opinion and shape cultural norms through its coverage of various issues, topics, and events. It can provide a platform for marginalized voices and bring attention to important social issues such as inequality, injustice, and human rights violations. Media can also promote positive values, such as tolerance, empathy, and social responsibility.
In today’s digital age, social media platforms have emerged as powerful tools for communication and the dissemination of information. Social media can provide access to diverse perspectives and promote citizen engagement and participation in social and political issues.
Overall, the media’s role is vital in ensuring a well-informed and engaged citizenry, promoting transparency and accountability, and fostering a healthy and vibrant democracy.