Corporate Control over Media Essay

Introduction What percentage of the audience actually trust what they see on television? How many times have you felt that a particular topic is being inclined to a certain political belief? Have you ever come across a situation where you felt that what you were seeing was sort of fabricated to the advantage of the interests of that media? Have you ever felt that you seem to be viewing more hours of advertising than actual media content? These are questions that lingers in the minds of media analysists over and over again.

Objective of Analysis In this analysis, we intend to treat media as a commodity that is being sold to the audience and the media content as a psychological influence on them. It is intended to throw light upon some of the devastating effects of the “business” of media, due to the influence of the corporate control over it. Analysis In the past few days, a brilliant Bollywood film, based exactly on this plundering of the of media world by the corporate society has released, giving rise to a lot of heated discussion in this context.

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Rann, an Amitabh Bachchan starrer has explicitly shown how the media content on any form of media, is driven by its necessity to survive in this rat race. It is a well known fact that media houses have to survive based on its cutting edge advantage over its competitors. It is in this unhealthy spirit that a lot of irrational and unethical practices are adopted by these media houses. This entire vicious circle can be very easily understood. Today, almost all media are owned by huge corporate giants, who have their own vested nterests to reach the public. Though not explicitly obvious to the common audience, they influence the content of what is covered when and how it is discussed. Look at any opinion driven programme on a channel, and you are sure to notice the light in which the opinion discussion goes on. Analyse the advertisements in the newspaper, and then look at the reporting content. If you observe, you will notice, the newspaper will never give negative coverage to its biggest advertisers.

It might sound logical to a commoner, since the newspaper has to survive, it will have to deal with the interests and keep in good company, its clients. But is that even ethical? Don’t people deserve to know what the truth is? Isn’t that the very substance on which media’s existence is based on? Just as the media is owned by a corporate, they also own many other companies and establishments. Thus, the editor of that media, is usually driven by the fact that he cannot show any of the other companies owned by the same corporate also, in negative light.

For instance, while I was working for the City 7 News channel in Dubai, which is the number one English news channel in the region, I was obliged to do a 5 minute story on some jewellery exhibition, which was absolutely not news worthy at all, just because, the show was sponsored by the same group that owns the channel – Bin Hindi. I ethically felt that it was unnecessary for me to do that news piece at all. Similarly, when I was doing a story on the environmental impact of the car garage in a particular area in Sharjah, my story was never let on air, since the garage was owned by Bin Hindi’s cousin brother.

This was something that was affecting real people. But due to the vested interests of the higher-ups, the news never reached the people whom it affected at all! Due to an increased corporate control over the media, we end up at times, not getting the other side of the story at all. We only know, what the media tells us. At times, this is not the real story at all. For most of us, news means the newspaper and even more majorly an hour of news channel watching in the evening. But if what we are watching is being monitored and censored to such a great extent, we would never know the real picture at all!

Today, the very fundamental basis of “truth revelation” of the media, has been drowned by these huge conglomerates that have their own agendas and thus their influence over their media houses. Today, look at Sun TV and Jaya TV. The former is owned by the DMK and the latter by ADMK. Whenever DMK is in power, they keep showing images of the entire Tamil Nadu as a happy state with richness and prosperity. While, the ADMK has Miss Jayalalitha sitting and criticising every move by the prevalent government. Neither of these viewpoints are true for that matter! The real truth, lies somewhere in between! But it is never shown!

So basically these channels are used as mouthpieces for flattering the political agendas of these owner-political parties! Now coming to advertising! It is said in a recent study by the BBC, that 45% of the ads in the television are misleading and exaggerate the product from its actual performance. Look at the recent ad by the Advertising Council of India. It says that if a viewer ever sees an ad that is misleading, or misrepresents a product, they can file a complaint with the office! This is the worst that it can get! They are actually that means, telling the audience explicitly, that they have no control over what goes on air or on print.

They are letting the very audience, who are media illiterate, to judge for themselves, what is wrong and what is right! During my three month internship as assistant director with an ad film maker in Chennai, I was told one thing. The kind of rules that applied to making a script for a client depended upon, whether the ad will go to the theatre or not. If the advertisement is going to be shown in the theatre, then it would go to the censorship board. Or else, if it is to be shown only on the television, then, the advertisement will undergo no form of censorship. Thus, the rules with which the game was played, was different!

Today, we live in a consumerist economy. The advertising on all these media forms, only seems to drive the audience to buy more. It is so bad that, even in the time of recession, the ads started speaking a different language, and still continued to drive the people to go shopping. Today, just as much as fiction and entertainment programming content in the media, has been growing exponentially, there is a growth in the news industry too, blurring the line between both. The audience never sees issues that matter to them in reality, on the news at all! The topics that are discussed, are not ones that make a difference to their lives at all!

They seem to sit and discuss whether Aishwarya Rai’s Pink Corals were complimenting her skin or not, rather than the fact that a particular cornflakes in the market is leading to breast cancer among women. Today, we have to have a campaign called “Jaago India” to make the Indian youth to go and vote for their own country. But how many of the youth actually know what is happening in their own neighbourhood, leave alone the country. There is hardly any unbiased news about the political leaders, their vision for the country, and the relevance of the governmental policies.

As a student, till I joined a J-school, I myself never understood how the political system of the country works like. Till I took up a paper in Defence Journalism, I never understood the way the Indian Armed Forces worked. Isn’t that a pathetic situation, that, in this very country, when we were under the British, we had the maximum number of young politicians who fought for the country and saw a vision and had a expelling drive for the country. The youth seem to be more inclined in joining abroad and studying and settling down in the west, without realising that there is a better future in their own country.

Isn’t this because the media never tells them that! We let some outsider British come back and shoot a movie that so misrepresents the Mumbai we have, and then let him walk away with an Oscar. Is that what Mumbai is all about? Today, the Taj Hotel in Mumbai is kept as it is, and they charge the people exorbitantly for going and seeing the ruins of the 26/11 blast. Is that something we should be so proud of? They seem to be earning more with this showcase than their hotel itself apparently! Did we ever cover this issue in the media?

What is worse is that, these media organizations are slowly merging with one another. Like, today, Google seems to be taking over our entire interaction online, from Gmail to Orkut to Picassa, similarly, these mergers between different media, seem to leave us with no other viewpoints, and seem to all point towards the same direction, reflecting the opinion of the corporate decision makers. With the Hindu and NDTV and Times of India and Times Now, starting off the race, we will only soon be left with a world full of a monocular opinion surrounding us, and expecting us to believe what they say is the truth.

Basically, what matters to the public, what they need to know, what makes a difference in their own lives, is never told to them, and instead, whatever flatters the vested interests of their corporate owners are shown, and has ruined the very purpose and existence of the media world. I would like to conclude by quoting Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Congressman: “We must demand legislation to ensure that the media, where we get both news and views, is open and decentralized, and is the servant of the people and not the wealthy. ”

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