Excerpts of speech at Seminar on "Media and National Integration" organised by the Department of Communication and Journalism, Osmania University on 30th Jan, 2009
It is not just the Indian polity that has become fragmented. The fragmentation is not limited to just poltics. The Indian political system alone, unfortunately, is the system that is exposed of fragmentation. Today, we can see fragmentation in Executive and fragmentation in Media too, but this is least exposed, because it is they who speak about it. Politicians and political parties come out openly when they speak about caste, community, region, sub-region, language, and the list goes on.
Take for example the Executive, is it not the fact that, in bureaucracy various caste, linguistic, regional and sub-regional groups exist. Is it not the fact that in bureaucracy too, and even lower levels of administration the linguistic groups, the regional groups and the community groups exist. There are instances where the political administrators had to take a cautious approach while taking decisions on appointments of Advocate General, Director General of Police, Chief Secretary and various other crucial positions.
Is media not fragmented? Don’t we have newspapers that have caste, community and regional favorites? You have News television channels that, though do not come out publicly but vouch for a particular community, not to serve immediate interests but to serve the larger political interests. You have newspapers that claim to don the role of vanguard and trumpet to be independent yet pursue the agenda discreetly.
The fragmentation of media has become so serious that there are very few visible options left to conclude that a particular media house, newspaper or television is independent. Even if somebody is genuinely independent, it has become very difficult to prove its independence.
Amid all this comes the news value. Commitment towards to the society, …commitment towards the Nation, and finally, commitment towards the National integration. Today every literate home needs a newspaper, when it comes to television set literacy does not matter. Circulation figures and television ratings apart, no media in this country wants to compromises on National Integration. Unity in diversity is the most popular phrase among the netas or neta-turned editor / owners of television channels or newspapers.
Nobody wants to compromise on the Unity of the Nation. Like philosophers say, religions are the path to reach the God, they can be many but the God is one. Media philosophers say agenda (of media) may be any but India is one. Here comes the conflict. How can you have an agenda that is divisive and yet say I am for unity? And nobody is prepared to accept that the agenda they are pursuing is divisive. Nobody is prepared to accept that the agenda they are pursuing disrupts the national integration.
So what do we do? Do we live with it? Certainly not. We cannot afford to accept divisive politics, it can be by anybody, media, executive or the legislature. A cautious editorial approach, that identifies the agenda of those pursuing divisive politics, is the way out. It is only possible when you have qualified independent editors (which again is a point for big debate). Independent editors who ensure that it is always Nation first.