Who owns our news?
And why you should be concerned with it.
Who owns our news?
Think about it.
Almost all of what we what we believe is shaped by the news; our perspectives on the world, our opinions, our ideas, our faith (or lack of it) in the government machinery. Everything.
But what if the messenger itself is biased?
Newspapers are penetrating our country like never before; while USA and the UK have seen drops in readership, our broadsheets have kept on increasing in circulation by leaps and bounds. TOI (Times Of India) is the world’s largest read English daily, for one. As for the news channels, the speculation surrounding the nation’s most loved (or despised) anchor is enough evidence of the clout that they possess. And I have not even begun talking about the regional dailies and news channels. These are the ones whom we turn to; after opening the Whatsapp forward, finding the Breaking News on Twitter, or liking the post on FB, we look towards the news channels we trust and the newspapers we believe in. For it is their word and analysis that tells us what to believe in, and colors our idea of black and white, right and wrong.
But who owns these newspapers and news channels?
Do they earn? How much do they earn, and from what? Are they getting a profit out of this, or are they reporting losses? Does a Tata, Birla, Ambani own any of our news providers? Does the CEO of the company tell the editor what to print, or to leave out a specific story?
Of course, many will tell that the business side is kept different from the editorial side. But doesn’t that seem a tad naïve to assume? Our newspapers and channels effectively play judge and jury, both, these days. They tell us the debate, and tell us which side to pick. And if that doesn’t convince you…
The holding companies of these news outlets are registered as companies. The basic duty of a company is to give ever-increasing returns to its shareholders. Add to it the fact that most of the news you consume is supplied to you by media houses present across categories (print, TV, etc) and languages (English, Hindi and regional). At what point does the search for profits overlap with the ethical presentation of the news? At what point does a story get dropped in favor of an advertiser? Ask a TOI reader, and he will tell you after how many ad pages is the front page discovered. Ask a Times Now viewer, and he will muse on the fact that a supposedly non-profit university had the money to sponsor its biggest show and take almost half the ad spots on its channel.
I, for one, would love to believe that the ads and the news stories are separate entities altogether. I, however, refuse to be naïve enough to take it as a fact.