An Open Letter to Assamese Electronic Media Groups

Posted on August 7, 2013

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Why being a media student I fear joining the Assamese media industry?

Even before I start writing, I would like to make one point very clear. I am not inclined to any political party or group. I am just a media student at the University of Delhi, who happens to hold a deep concern for the media scenario in his state. It was mandatory for me to mention my non alignment with any political group because almost all the electronic media group in Assam is somehow associated with political parties, at the ownership level or reporting level.

I remember those days when we used to wait for 7.00 pm in the evening to get out daily news. Programme Production Centre North East (PPC NE) used to be the only source of news in the whole region. The private electronic media in the region is relatively young and just 10 years old. But within this small duration, the industry has managed to pull off one of the most sensational and shameful act of the media history in India. Yes, I am referring to the infamous Guwahati molestation incident.

I remember when I went back home after taking admission at the University, I was questioned by a lot of people. Why did you take honours in Journalism? Do you plan to be one of those morons who happen to run with a camera? It was very intriguing for me to realize why my parents were so reluctant to allow me to take up the course. The answer to that was the fact that people in Assam might fear journalists, but hardly ever they respect them, particularly the broadcast journalists. One of my father’s acquaintances went up to the extent of saying that these days unemployed or left out bunch of youth take up the profession of journalism. Certainly, BA Journalism (H) holds no intellectual value in the state of Assam.

But if we give a deep thought at the whole of this issue, we find that this perception of the general public on media is in fact the result of the act of industry’s own people. After the molestation incident, the criticism that flowed did away with all the credibility of media in the intellectual Assamese society. It is a different matter that general public, or the rural public holds an all together different perception of the industry. They happen to follow the ‘hypodermic needle theory’ of communication and digest whatever is thrown at them. The point of concern here is that, we can distinguish between the right and wrong, but they can’t. For example, two news channels go for the same political scoop, and at the same time present the news in two different angles. This creates a diversion of opinion in the public, creating mass confusion.

Also at times, certain things are reported or presented in such a way which it should not have been. People fail to recognize it, but even then it is the responsibility of the news channels to refrain from such acts. For example, at times we find reporters using daily slang words while reporting. And even worse, the editing team puts on air footage with very very informal terms which should have been censored.

These are still minor offences, at times we find reporters bulging into private spaces where camera is not even allowed.  Audience fail to understand this, but it sad on the part of the media institutes to not mark a line between what to be done and what not. People digest whatever is directed at them which may be because of the fear they hold in their mind. Fear, what fear?

This friend of mine happens to be with one of her colleague chit chatting inside their car. All of a sudden some reporter turns up with his camera and started recording their footage. At that point of time, they had no idea, how that footage would be used. The reporter bulged into their personal space and recorded them. When they resented, he proclaimed his power of media creating a fear in their mind.

Even at the production level I find a very casual attitude being used. Use of words again happens to be an issue and so is the use of music. There have been instances, where at the time of presenting serious news, some cheap Bollywood music was used. There is a very fine line between being sarcastic and being stupid. Our local satellite channels miss that line by a long way.

The most probable reason for all these abnormalities might be the lack of proper training of the reporters. I believe my father’s friend was very much correct when he said that unemployed youth, when left with no other option take up journalism as a career. And in the race of TRP and in an environment of available cheap labour, our channels take them in. Untrained person, when provided with the power of camera, tend to do things which they should not have done. These channels now have reporters in the remotest corner of rural Assam, which in a way is good, but the youths employed at such regions have no sense of news reporting. Yes, I am just a student, yet I can make out the outrageous mistakes made by them, and the undue advantage taken by them in the name of media.

Today if somebody asks me if I would go back to Assam and join the Assamese media industry, I am afraid, I would say no.  There might views that would say that I must go back and change the scene. But the current scene is such that I fear going back. I would say that media scene in Assam at this point of time is infested, and anyone who moves into the system acts according to it. And not to mention the political influence over the channels, top leaders from both Government and opposition indirectly or directly owns news channels in the state.

In the end, I would like to just like to repeat that, at this point of time I fear to join Assamese media industry. And I urge to the people who can actually change the scenario to please do so or they would end up losing many useful human resources.

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Posted in: Media Eithics