Media Obsession with Trivia: Happy New Year!
Our media’s obsessions with the past are now fully manifested in ‘The Year That Was’ or ‘Highlights of 2015’. After all, this year is now coming to an end and what better than to dredge up old news, old photographs, old cartoons, old statements of old leaders and fill up the pages of newspapers and the screens of the electronic media. After all such ‘copy’, to put it in journalistic jargon, is already available and for hacks it does not take much time in copy and paste jobs, so that they can get to their favourite pub, friend’s home, bar or in short their favourite watering hole, having submitted their pieces. This being the traditional season for merrymaking, even editors and the high and mighty editors-in-chief’s understand that there is no better way than this to spend with one’s favourite drink(s) in hand and to hell with the current news, breaking or otherwise! Let the reader’s re-read news already reported and at times mis-reported, analysed and presented!
Even the sub-editors are delighted, for all they have to do before rushing off for that much awaited and hankered-for drink, is to create the same old layout. The Minister of Information and Broadcasting is also happy, if not merry, for he needs the maximum amount of revenues to pour in, to keep his friend and fellow traveler, the Minister of Finance in good humour, so that the forthcoming budget somehow gets balanced. While the finance wizards have done their damndest to squeeze the military by neither giving full OROP, nor sufficient emoluments in the 7th Pay Commission, it would be a blunder if they still want to squeeze them more. Maybe the money spent by our vast army of media persons sitting on their bar stools will generate additional revenue for the finance ministry! With the mood the Finance Minister is presently in, no one can really predict the catastrophes that will befall on the unsuspecting Aam Aadmi, if the revenues do not pour in!
Therefore, in the closing days of 2015, we are undoubtedly in for all the political, economic, financial, sports, entertainment news that we have already read about and seen on the TV channels. Even the comics (the Americans call them ‘funnies’ for some strange reason that only yanks can understand) seem to be repeats. Did you see the smiling photograph of the once happy couple who are now under custody awaiting punishment for allegedly being involved in the murder of their daughter that is amongst the collage of photographs of the happenings of the year in the last throes of its gasping days! One newspaper has even placed the photograph in a heart-shaped frame – how sweet!!!
The Page 3 beautiful people are also not behind as their photographs, having been retrieved from the library/archives, are also duly plastered to ensure that they remain in the news, although it may be old and not so palatable news! The travails of Bollywood movies that went a cropper are juxtaposed with those who amassed wealth, so that the sufferers should have a sordidly weepy New Year, while those that did well and amassed a lot of money fly off to exotic locales at the expense of the poor producers. Yes, that is how it happens when the movies are hits.
The sports pages are full of the matches we lost or where our renowned cricketers made fools of themselves or made yet more records. Records in cricket are never-ending, while the other sports have to be content with only wins and losses. Unfortunately, there were either no cricket scams or they were kept securely under wraps, so there is not much to report on this front.
The financial and economic sectors, dismal as they are, are also finding space and bytes because the media is so obsessed with the past that it is much easier to cull the old news than what is likely to happen next year. I think that the rationale is that we have a whole new year to get back to business. So, why waste these merry/happy days in such mundane issues as news and that too financial/economic news!
Our media being independent, unbiased, fair and full of truthful reporting (ahem!) and also being self-regulated (as they never tire of saying), why are people like me queering the pitch, especially during these happy days when it is bonhomie that should prevail. As far as the media is concerned, why not continue to see ‘repeats’ and thank God for small mercies!
Our Prime Minister, of course, does not speak about or reflect on the past, except when talking about the Indian Military-their unwarranted obsession with OROP; always asking for modernization of the forces; lack of reforms in higher defence structures, which have remained frozen for decades; appointment of a CDS, which seems to be the biggest bug bear with our netas of all hues; or how they have been done down with the 7th Pay Commission. As an example, he only talks of Swach Bharat of the future and cleaning the Holy Ganga, or about ‘Make in India’, ‘Stand up for India’, ‘Start Ups’ and so on during his periodical ‘Mann ki Baats’. There is no mention of when the country will be liberated from the reservations and subsidy syndromes. Yet, all are focused and forward looking to the next couple of years. However, our media is loath to take the cue, for there is comfort in old news, in old views, in old photographs; and in old analyses. So, we are in for ‘repeats’ during the next couple of days if not more.
Maybe it is too late for our media to make amends in the few days left for this year to end, but maybe - just maybe; they may take heed and shed the past at the fag end of next year. It is always a good thing to look ahead and be futuristic than dwell on the past that has done and finished its good or bad deeds. If I was a business person, I would say forget the losses now and look forward to a brighter future with profits, instead of repeatedly recalling and crying over what has been. That is history.
Let the historians dwell on them while the Fourth Estate focuses on the future. It is eminently more important to think about what will happen next year. How will the states going in for elections, for example, pan out, or the recently resurrected India-Pakistan Dialogue? Whether the Indian Military will say ‘enough is enough’ next year and dump their long-standing stance of being apolitical and subservient or will it start flexing its muscles? In my view, these are the future scenarios our media should be thinking of.
I wanted to end this piece on a positive note, but I am reminded of that old adage: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride”!