April 13, 2012
School of Communication, Coimbatore
Who creates and controls the public mind? Who are the haves and have-nots in media?
Questions such as these were explored by Ms. Somali Chowdhury, Assistant Professor, Amrita School of Communication, Coimbatore when she was invited to speak at the International Conference on Diversity and Plurality of Media at M.C. National University of Journalism in Bhopal.
“The Indian media industry is very powerful as compared to the industry in various other democracies. A significant percentage of skilled Indian labor is employed by the media sector,” stated Ms. Somali.
Examining contemporary Indian society with reference to media industry, Ms. Somali named four separate categories. These included people with or without access to media, people with or without access to the internet, people with or without control over messages transmitted through media and finally people with or without influence over media.
These four categories would correspond to the haves and have nots. The rich were not necessarily the haves, if they didn’t use the internet; they belonged to the have-nots.
Further elaborating, Ms. Somali added, “Aldous Huxley, the famous English novelist and critic, illustrated a rather grim portrait of media’s role in his book, Brave New World. He believed that society was controlled by an impersonal force or a ruling elite, which manipulated the population using various methods.”
“On the one hand, Huxley criticized the role of media in influencing our minds because ultimately the business and political classes controlled what the media barons said. On the other hand, according to another view, the common masses are so bewildered and confused that they need to be controlled by a few taking decisions.”
Asserting that the most common source of information, misinformation, distortion, and stereotypes is the media, Ms. Somali said, “Media should truly work as a watchdog, disseminating relevant information but not become dogs of the classes who have stakes in ownership and control.”
She noted that because of media control and ownership, some privileged channel representatives easily gain interviews, while other sincere journalists struggle for a single glimpse of a prestigious political leader or CEO.
Commenting on a modern phenomenon, she underlined that netizens were eager to participate in information sharing through various virtual social networks daily and around the clock, even though citizen journalists and bloggers did not have direct control over the media.
“Yet their influence is reflected by the fact that favored leading channels duplicate the same news content, indicating an indirect control of media,” she said.