Gouri Chatterjee on how the business of news has changed in India in recent decades: from one kind controlled by relatively independent social elites / journalists to another kind controlled by profit-driven corporate moguls (see also this post on parallel trends in the U.S.).
The complete insouciance with which Reliance declared its business intentions vis-a-vis its foray into the media world, and the matter-of-fact manner in which it has been accepted by one and all is ultimate proof of the secondary status of journalists in the news business in India today. Journalists are there to do their owners’ bidding, not to play any meaningful role in society; content is something owners decide while journalists merely execute their wishes; making money is the primary objective of any media organisation, even if that leads to carrying news that is paid for. In this model, the ‘customer’ is given whatever they want, journalistic ethics or standards be damned.
Though this trend began in the liberalised 90s, it has now come to fruition. In newsroom after newsroom across the country, journalists no longer so much as dream of exercising editorial independence without deferring to the wishes of Owner-Ji and his business boys. Instead of deciding the course of news and taking a call on what is or isn’t in the public interest, or taking up cudgels against those who wield power in ministries or in boardrooms, editors are content to be bit players – the errand boys of the business managers who pay their salaries. This is not how professional editors used to be, and owners respected them for being what they were – or so it is said.