Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On the Media and Poll Coverage...

There seems to be some disconnect between the perception by the media professionals and the reality insofar as the reportage on elections are concerned. That the media, in many instances, has gone wrong in their reading of poll outcome is a fact. And it is a different matter that they do not care to express any regrets after it emerges that they called it wrong.

I am raising this now in the context of the media reportage on the elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Delhi and Jammu & Kashmir. I do not see, in any of the reports, the extent to which the outcome of the polls in these state assembly elections being determined by the massive rise in the prices of essential commodities. The reports, for some reason, restrict the concerns to the appeal by personalities from various parties or to concerns such as the ATS investigations into the Malegaon blasts and the impact of the call for election boycott by the Naxalites in Chattisgarh or the All Party Hurriyat Conference in Jammu and Kashmir.

Well. A simple explanation to this tendency among the media professionals would be that they possess a sense of clarity and are convinced that the elections, which happen to be the most important aspect of political democracy, cannot be allowed to be fought on mundane issues of day to day concern and hence it is imperative to enlarge the scope and the concern to ideological concerns. This will make those belonging to sects that bask under meaningless debates and engage themselves in debates for the sake of it happy.

The point is that the media professional, physically located invariably in the national capital, is by and large immunized from the reality that marks the various other parts of the country. In other words, the culture of contract employment and the mobility that has come to mark the employment opportunities in the media industry in recent years – you do not find a reporter stuck in one newspaper for a lifetime any longer – has meant this alienation from the reality. And the rise in prices of essential commodities is not considered an election issue to the reporter because his wage levels are such that he is not seriously affected by the issue.

Hence, the reporter, begins to look for issues that dominate the discourse in the context of an election. He is, then led to think and believe that the people of Madhya Pradesh, having voted the Congress and the BJP repeatedly in the past few years, will throw up a surprise this time. He or she, then begins to look for the third alternative and finds it in the BSP! Well. The sociology in some parts of Madhya Pradesh that border Uttar Pradesh is such that the BSP has emerged a force there. The same is true of parts of Chattisgarh. And this was visible as early as in 1993 itself. But then, the BSP’s presence as a force is restricted to a part of Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh and not across the States as it is in Uttar Pradesh.

The media professional, somehow, refuses to see this aspect and lands up with reports that the BSP’s march to power at the Centre can be seen in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh now! In Rajasthan, similarly, there are small parts where the BSP may strike a decent percentage of votes thanks to Mayawati’s overtures to the Gujjar community. The media professional does not point to this and simply perceives that Mayawati is not just a regional leader now and is expanding her base into the other States and can hence be counted as another contender to the Prime Minister’s job.

The irony of this disconnect between the harsh reality and the perceived reality is most pronounced in Delhi. In the run-up to the assembly elections, the media’s focus is on the campaign trail of Rahul Gandhi, V.K.Malhotra and Mayawati. The voters in Delhi, we are expected to presume will be guided by the charm of one of these leaders rather than the price of onion, potato and Thur Daal! Well. Let it be recalled and recorded here that the BJP lost elections in Delhi in 1998 because Sushma Swaraj, as Chief Minister, failed to contain the price of onion in the capital city. It may be remembered, in this context, that Delhi happened to be one of BJP’s citadels historically.

The point is that when the media professional gets detached and disconnected from the harsh reality so much, his relevance as a pointman in the democratic scheme is lost. And when the media thus loses its moorings and relevance, it makes bad news in the real sense of the term.


Blogger Communist said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:26 PM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

This self proclaimed communist is getting beyond decent standards of debate and his tendency to dictate is crossing the limits of absurdity. He is now getting into throwing insinuations and calling me a recipient of bribes. I am putting this now for two reasons.

One, let him show the courage, if he has any, to identify himself and declare as to what he does. His own profile does not show any such details. In the event he does not do that, I have the means to find him out and deal with him.

Secondly, he must realise that his attitude, tone and tenour are doing harm to whatever he claims to represent. I mean, let me make it clear that this is NOT what a communist is.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Communist said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to have been some heat generated already. i simply want to say that while the media persons are indeed out of touch with reality, the BSP's rise is very real. in fact it is so real that even the otherwise ignorant media cannot but take note of it.

6:24 AM  

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