CHENNAI: Addressing the current landscape of television journalism, political leaders underscored the need for a transition towards more substantive and issue-centric debates, steering away from the prevalent focus on entertainment and sensationalism. These discussions took centre stage at the 13th ThinkEdu Conclave 2024, hosted by SASTRA University, in Chennai on Thursday.
Dharanidharan Selvam, national spokesperson for the DMK, expressed concern over the declining quality of television journalism, emphasising that channels should not merely cater to entertainment for those seeking political perspectives.
Speaking on the second day of the conclave on the topic “Prime Time Party Time: The TV Warriors”, chaired by senior journalist Kaveree Bamzai, Selvam highlighted the need for television debates to concentrate on pertinent people’s issues.
Aiyshwarya Mahadev, national media panelist for the Indian National Congress, echoed these sentiments, attributing the systematic deterioration of TV debates to the inclination to cater to primetime viewers' preferences.
“While many would prefer discussions on pressing issues like rising inflation or human rights concerns, the broader market seems more inclined towards sensationalised topics, such as events at specific places of worship or individuals taking dips in rivers. Regrettably, these sensationalised narratives often become the primary focus, with political angles seamlessly woven into the discourse,” said Mahadev.
She also disclosed that she and the Congress party refrain from engaging with certain television channels and anchors, citing a commitment to avoiding participation in media that promote hate.
Narayanan Thirupathy, vice-president of the Bharatiya Janta Party in Tamil Nadu, shed light on the unequal representation in Tamil television channel debates, asserting that some channels deny space to his party. “In a constructive debate, it is essential to allocate equal space for both sides of the argument. Unfortunately, in the context of Tamil Nadu, such equitable representation is notably absent,” he said.
Kovai Sathyan, the official spokesperson for the AIADMK, accused the DMK of practising ‘double standards’ by allegedly influencing editorial decisions in TV channels owned or run by the DMK and its affiliates.
“Individuals impersonate economists, health experts, and other professionals in the Tamil media landscape. There is a pervasive presence of sleeper cells affiliated with the DMK. Regrettably, channels lack the autonomy to freely choose their topics; this is the prevailing reality,” he said.
Mahadev raised concerns about the challenges faced by media houses questioning the ruling government, citing instances of FCRA regulations being revoked and journalists facing severe scrutiny.
“Media houses are facing the revocation of their FCRA regulations, with 80 journalists subjected to intense scrutiny. Journalists are being booked under the UAPA, and in Jammu and Kashmir, the Public Safety Act is wielded, allowing the detention of individuals without access to a phone for weeks,” said Mahadev, adding that this alarming reality for journalists and media channels today underscores a stark choice: either bow to external pressures or face the consequence of having one’s back broken, either voluntarily or involuntarily.