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Times of Tata ad: Is the foundation of journalism in jeopardy?

By Prachi Mishra

Media, an integral part of our democracy, a forum of unbiased public debates, has reached at an abysmally low point today. Instead of providing a platform to voice public opinions and concerns, it represents the objectives and interests of the upper-class. Today, the newspapers and news channels work with the sole motive of ‘raising the moolah.’

One recent example of the corporatization of media is a webpage by Economic Times, titled as ‘Times of Tata,’ dedicating an entire page to the Tata Group. The article states:

The archives show profoundly how the Tata created history and how the Times’ publications published it. It has always been thus: the creators of history and its chroniclers have always lived together in a symbiotic and close relationship. The following pages contain just a clutch of reports and stories of the Tata group in the Bennett Coleman publications. Obviously 28 pages are not enough to do justice to the groups’ relationship, that has endured over 150 years.

The webpage illustrates the emergence of Tata as a leading business empire and the step by step coverage of its journey by the Times publication over the years. What could be more unprincipled than a leading newspaper wallowing in the glory of its relation with the esteemed business group and revering it by publishing articles about it? Is there any scarcity of social or political issues in our country, which require more attention that this newspaper, owned by Bennett Coleman and Co. Ltd., has divulged into such thoughtless form of journalism?

The Times of Tata

This is an example of the rising trend of paid news in media. Most of the newspapers today publish stories in favor of a particular company to which they are aligned. In a research conducted by Dilip Mandal and R. Anuradha published in Media Ethics, it was found that the board of directors of a number of media companies comprise of representatives of big corporates. It was reported that the board committee of Jagran Publications includes the managing director of Pantaloon Retail, Kishore Biyani, McDonald India’s MD, Vikram Bakshi, and Mirza International’s MD, Rashid Mirza, along with the CEO of media consulting firm Lodestar Universal India, Shashidhar Sinha, and the chairman of the real estate firm JLL Meghraj, Anuj Puri. The board of directors of HT Media, which publishes Hindustan Times and Hindustan, comprises of K. N. Memani, the former chairman of Ernst & Young, and the chairman of ITC Ltd., Y C Deveshwar. Several other media houses also possess big industrialists as their board committee members.

It’s not an unknown fact that all the big corporate companies are in cut-throat competition with each other. Therefore, in order to lobby their own business interests, they use the platform of media. Even if the journalists want to report the truth, their stories are edited beyond recognition ultimately presenting a biased view.

The Indian media has tasted a huge commercial success in the last few years; however, this success has come at a price of the decline in the standard of journalism. This closeness with the corporate sector has caused confusion in the media towards its priorities. Rather than becoming a forum for the public opinion, it caters to the vested interests of the top-notch business companies. The webpage by Economic Times reflects deplorable state of journalism in India to the forefront.

 

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