“Indian media today is afflicted by a conscience deficit,” said Sir Mark Tully, at the inaugural LILA PRISM 2015 lecture on ‘Media and Transformative Governance in the Indian context’. “The media must create a demand for transformative government.”
In the times of tear-jerking, sensational media work, Tully urged the community of journalists to come together and assert their right to objective, transformative journalism. For this, it is important to study and identify areas that need transformation, and do more coverage and follow up stories on those. Quoting the example of Peepli Live, he said the media should also realise the power of storytelling and ally itself with other means of storytelling such as films, literature, theatre, etc.
In this context, Tully stressed the importance of radio as a news medium. Radio is a grossly under-utilised medium. Referring to the ban on radio as a proper news space, he said that the possibilities of the radio as an intimate communication space must be utilised for the dissemination of transformative news content.
The media should be objective, and should not become cheerleaders for anyone. Tully cited how the media went all out to cheer “the anti-corruption movement” and a political party’s “vikas” and “badlav” mantras. Rather than cheering the rhetoric, the media should get down to study the needs of the country and the times and create stories that can drum change in. Columns, especially, must be used for this purpose. He concluded that the ethical role of the journalist in the society must be made a part of the curricula of the institutions that teach journalism.
Saeed Naqvi, who chaired the lecture, said, the media must transform itself before it can usher in a transformative government. The media should retain its independence and towards that, journalists must leave their arm chairs and vow that they won’t write a line without whetting it against live experience in the field. He also said it is disgraceful that media today is not giving enough space to deep reflections on the arts.
Introducing the PRISM Lecture Series 2015, Rizio Yohannan Raj, Executive Director of LILA said, it is very important to bring resources and insights from different walks of life to think about transformative governance. She also mentioned how the media tends to become quite forgetful. She quoted as example how the media vehicles stayed outside the hospital for 2 weeks while LILA’s Trustee Jaswant Singh had suffered a fall last year. On finding that “nothing is happening”, they moved on, and never returned to check on how he has been doing after that. This, and many such incidents, makes one think about the role of the media in the society. Is there a more subtle and compassionate way to be in the media space? Is there a way for the media to become the strongest ally to humankind in its struggle against power, which is, as Milan Kundera said, the struggle of memory against forgetting?
In its third edition, LILA PRISM Lecture Series 2015 focuses on ‘Transformative Governance‘ through fifteen public lectures from August to December, by bringing together 30 thinker-doers from different walks of life as Speakers and Chairs.
Satchin Joseph Koshy
Mark Tully is a renowned journalist and society commentator. Saeed Naqvi has been a major reporter and foreign correspondent for over four decades. More details about the participants and the event here.