Media’s love-hate relation with politicians won't change


MUMBAI: Earlier in the day the comment about the “media being sold” by Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal hit the headlines. And it was just apt for NDTV editor Vishnu Som to kick off the session – Media as Opinion-Maker – which he was anchoring at the recently concluded FICCI Frames 2014 by posing the first question to the AAP representative Shazia Ilmi, who was in the panel along with Minister of state, IT and communications and shipping, government of India Milind Deora, BJP Maharashtra state unit president Devendra Phadnavis, Reliance entertainment chairman and FICCI convergence committee chairman Amit Khanna and All India Trinamool Congress representative and member of parliament Derek O’Brien.

So, Ilmi was asked if it was right on Kejriwal’s part to shun the media as it was the media who made AAP. While she agreed that the media had been friendly to AAP, she also pointed out that it was left with no choice than to cover AAP as many others were doing it and the interest also lied there.

Deora, however, presented quite a friendly take about media as he remarked, “When someone chooses to be a politician you are placing yourself under scrutiny. It is extremely immature to talk about media being fair or unfair.”

As the discussion continued, many topics from the importance of “social media” in the general elections to the issue of BJP Prime Ministerial candidate avoiding an “one-on-one” talk with media came up.

In fact Modi took a fair share of the time during the discussion. From his style of promoting himself to his recently devised campaign “Chai Pe Charcha” formed a major part of the conversation.

“Modi believes in one way communication,” was the remark made by O’Brien to which Phadnavis retaliated by stating that Modi may not be talking to media but he is talking to the people through ‘Chai pe Charcha’.

O’Brien didn’t miss an opportunity to take a potshot at the Congress also when he wittily remarked to Deora that it was the Congress’ Mani Shankar Aiyer, who gave Modi the lollypop by calling him a ‘chaiwala’.

Even Ilmi thinks that Modi must come out and answer crucial questions as to what are his views on important policy decisions that need to be taken rather than just show his ‘model of Gujarat’.

The discussion turned towards censorship when Khanna said that our country lacked a concrete form of a regulator such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US. “We have the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which does not actually have the mandate to regulate broadcast or content,” he said.

We are standing at the brink of a media convergence occurring right in front of eyes but O’Brien says that it won’t be just social media that will be impactful in the future. “The mobile will be an important tool in the hands of every person in this country,” he said while also highlighting the fact that the real action was happening in regional media.

Media in the country is no longer a form of public service. It is a combination of that and a business, which Som admitted himself. “If one is looking to the media as the sole repository of honest investigation of truth then unfortunately it does not exist currently,” he said.

The one point that all politicians agreed was that they needed the media as much as media needed them and both the media as well as politicians were seeking to increase the level of engagement.

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