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400-plus news channels of India come under attack for sensationalism

With many news channels turning into ‘noise channels’ in their race for TRPs, media and communication professionals need to introspect over the need for responsible communication, experts at a conclave said.
Participating in deliberations in the two-day Global Communication Conclave that concluded last night here, media and communication professionals raised questions relating to journalistic ethics and corporate and public relation professionals pressures on media to garner space.

Rajdeep Sardesai

Organised by Public relations Council of India (PRCI) in association with the Press Club – Mumbai, the conclave focused its discussion on the theme of Responsible Communication, dealing with aspects related to media, corporate, social media and GenX.
TV news anchor and editor-in-chief of IBN 18 network Rajdeep Sardesai was candid when he said: “My son does not watch news channels. He gets his news from the Internet.”
When a delegate to the conclave observed that some news coverage reminded him of jokes, Rajdeep said: “watch news channels if you want to cartoons” as the gathering burst into laud laughter.
“Breaking news is breaking down and in sensationalizing the news, we seem to be losing sense,” said Rajdeep.
He admitted the intense competition among 483-odd news channels in the country, and over 150 channels waiting for clearance, keeps journalists on their toes which at times results in output editors flashing the news even without cross-checking just because a rival channel broke the story.
He said he failed to understand the growing one-upmanship since viewers do not watch all the channels at any given time. “They may at most have two TV sets at their homes and cannot be expected to watch twenty news channels as we do in our studios,” he said.
Senior journalist and Chairman of Press Club Prakash Akolkar expressed distress over some managements asking journalists to indulge in paid news and raise funds for their news channels.
Another media veteran Kumar Ketkar pointed at the vanishing thin line between private and public lives and intrusion of TV cameras into almost every aspect of lives of people. Media would have forced even Mahatma Gandhi to resign had been alive today.
Bangalore-based TV personality Aparna Narayana Swamy said the race for TRPs has unfortunately spread to regional media as well and some television shows cross boundaries of decency.
Dealing with a question whether political parties are using media to suit their needs, Mayank Gandhi of Aam Admi Party said today’s politics is all about messaging their audiences and that there was nothing wrong in them using the news medium.
Conclave chairman and media professional B N Kumar pointed out any one with a mobile camera and the Net connection is a potential broadcaster and, in this context, responsible communication assumes added significance.
Senior journalist and President of Press Club – Mumbai Gurbir Singh, who anchored a panel discussion on Corporates pointed out that increasing corporate pressure on media for coverage and some attempts to ‘kill’ the news that does not suit them are some of the challenges that media professionals face today. He said the emergence of the alternative media in terms of social media and blogs opened up new means of communication which corporate must take into account as the voice of dissent cannot be suppressed any more.
Young participants in a discussion on the role of GenX felt that those posting on social media must also do so with a sense of responsibility. But most them did not like the idea of having their parents on the same page as it could leave to disastrous situations. “Our tastes, choices and style messaging differ a lot due to a huge generation gap,” said a girl participant.
PRCI also felicitated achievers in the fields of media and communication with its prestigious Chanakya Awards. Rajdeep was named the Mediaperson of the Year.

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