The passionate viewers of the Times Now channel are having a respite following the resignation of its Edito-in-Cief, Arnab Goswamy. Unconfirmed reports suggest that he may start a channel on his own or head a channel to be launched jointly by the BJP-Independent MP and entrepreneur Rajiv Chandrasekhar and the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. In either case, very soon Arnab would re-enter and engage himself in the game of public bashing exulting the viewers almost to the level of the entertainment the people in the gallery of Colosseum used to have.
His short break from the world of Indian media is an ideal occasion to retrospect about the character of the media in general and newschannels in particular. The social media is splattered with comments that wrap Arnab up with honey over sugar. Of course, those heaps of honey and sugar are not from his fraternity. His contemporaries find themselves dumb-founded and rummaging for ways to boost the rating of their channels. The benchmark fixed by Arnab makes it a tough job for other channels to canvas advertisements as their rating has been plummeting. Still many of them maintain that what Arnab practices is not journalism at all. Here the most pertinent question rises. Is it the journalism practiced by them is the ideal one or near to the ideal? A dispassionate look into the state of present day media would reveal the fact that the difference between them and Arnab is only in terms of the degree of raucousness they adopt. Otherwise all are same except Arnab's braying out taking the viewers to an orgasmic level.
During the hay days of the print media, there was a saying that, in Lutyen’s Delhi rumors were more reliable than facts. It was, to a great extent, proved to be true as many rumors turned out to be political realities in the trajectory of the political history of this country. Those days journalists close to the big leaders would spread out half cooked information on some developments among their fraternity mostly during the evening get-togethers. In the subsequent days those rumors found place in the mainstream newspapers as political write-ups or speculative reports. The leaders referred in the report would carefully study the outcome of such reports. If the responses in the media turned favorable to them, they might own it. Otherwise they would squarely reject it dubbing as factually spurious. And they would not forget to spurt something on the irresponsibility of the media as well. In the post independent era, particularly since Indira Gandhi, the erosion of the credibility of media occurred like this. This got consummated in the start of channel revolution. Since the visuals started communicating itself, the primacy of credibility attached to the media ceased to be a selling point when news was decimated to a mere product.
Saleability, rather than quality, as the criterion of good product - the basic concept of modern management schools - is invaded the news-rooms as well. The recipe of commercial hit movies have essentially been grafted into news stories whether it deals with corruption, manipulation, political rivalry or statecraft or whatever it. The element of conflict in every news item has become indispensable. That converted the channel discussion rooms into one of war rooms and raucousness became the hallmark of channels. Arnab took it to the extreme level. And he has succeeded in creating a kind of hysteria around the concept of nationalism among a good number of urban middle class. When Arnab moves around under Y Category security, could one believe that the 'captive' is Arnab?