What goes around comes around. Seems to be coming true for the embedded media, fondly known as the Godi or Lapdog Media, which is now getting paid in the same coin by politicians and functionaries of the opposition parties as well as civil society groups. Simply put, the chickens are coming home to roost.

These media corporations have silenced several independent voices over the last two decades as they pander to a political party. Those not in consonance with this particular ideology were either given very little space to express themselves or were lampooned and humiliated by anchors in toxic debates. Who can forget the collapse of Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi during one such debate and his demise shortly after?

But of late there has been a role reversal taking place, with these very anchors getting it back from politicians as the poll season is underway and the political cacophony is yet to reach its crescendo.

One of the prominent anchors lost her cool when she was called ‘imandar’ (honest) by Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav during an interview. “I have prepared a list of honest journalists and your name figures in it,” said Yadav, and the sarcasm missile hit home as she fretted and fumed for being targeted in a veiled attack. One may well ask since when has being called honest turned into an invective.

Yadav was at it again when he was being pestered by a reporter from another channel to give an interview to his editor on March 10 when the assembly election results are declared. He coolly asked, “Where is he? In jail?”

Then there was Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi taking on another anchor known for parroting the viewpoint of the central government. When the anchor tried to corner Channi on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent security breach in a tone that was politically loaded, Channi simply told him not to quiz him on the Bharatiya Janata Party pattern.

With all these instances social media users had a field day at the cost of Godi Media where these anchors got trolled and lampooned.

It makes an interesting study as to what has led to this role reversal or is it a role reversal at all.

“When you as a politician are always cornered and not given space to put across your point, what do you do when things cross their limits? As a public representative you are accountable to the people and not to these anchors. That is why the political representatives have chosen to drive home their point and send a message to the electorate that they want to raise people-centric issues but are denied time and space by such media,” pointed out Sanjay Awasthi, a recently elected MLA in Himachal Pradesh who is a keen observer of media functioning.

Awasthi elaborated that with the embedded media going to extremes, these practices can eventually lead to amendments in old laws and formulation of new laws that might not be good for a free press in a democracy. “And who knows, the very same forces that have been using the embedded media to this extent might be the ones to bring about such laws when they see a possibility of being at the receiving end of the very same Godi Media they have helped establish and thrive. Just look at the noises being made on the need to curb social media,” he added.

The politicians have taken to this practice of getting back at the embedded media that was earlier effectively put to use by the farmers during their movement against the three agriculture laws that were recently repealed. Before them it was university students and those campaigning against the CAA and NRC who employed similar tactics to counter the lapdog media’s vilification attempts against them.

But experts in the field of communications have a different take on the subject. Pramod Kumar of Institute of Development and Communication in Chandigarh told this reporter, “It is the case of money that makes the mare go. This entire issue needs to be looked at from the perspective of commercialization reigning supreme even as ethics and norms are thrown to the wind. In the process these media organizations have become subservient and do not refrain even from showing contradictory aspects from the same table. Do you remember that at one point of time people who wanted to see television news with objectivity had taken to watching the Rajya Sabha TV channel as they found it to be much better than others?”

He further raised the question why the same anchors who have been accused to denying space or misbehaving with public representatives have never tried to do the same with political leaders like Mamata Banerjee or Uddhav Thackeray.

“While earlier there was a stigma attached to behaving and working like an embedded journalist, this is no longer the case. Earlier such behaviour and functioning could jeopardize your entire career,” observed Urvish Kothari who is an Ahmedabad based Gujarati writer and satirist.

He further explained, “While earlier there were just newspapers, television and now the internet have added a new dimension to the presentation of news. All these three are different parallel worlds where it is not necessary that something reported in one will be reported in the others. We do not know how the embedded media perceives the backlash as there is also a mutual competition within the embedded media.”

“Things that were earlier moving in one direction are now going multi-directional. How much conversion of viewers the embedded media can achieve, we are not aware. But polarizing views leave little scope for a floating audience,” added Kothari.

The reporters who are part of the Godi Media ecosystem are the ones getting brickbats for the stance being taken by editors and anchors in studios.

“The saddest part is that the cushion that was available to us through balancing stories has vanished. What has emerged is a brazen pro versus anti scenario where objectivity and credibility are nowhere to be seen. People take us to be sellers of news like someone selling pani puri at a roadside stall. They walk up to us and tell us on our face what we will be showing and what we will turn a blind eye to,” said a reporter from one of the channels categorized as embedded media by observers.

He pointed out that the hostility of people, not only politicians from opposition parties and civil society groups, is only going to increase if media outlets do not change their manner of functioning.