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Viewers can figure out if a media house is agenda-driven: Smita Prakash, ANI

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In a conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, Prakash, the Editor of ANI, shares her views on the manipulation of media freedom by industrialists, politicians and fixers

In a freewheeling live conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, Smita Prakash, Editor ANI has said that that media in our country is owned by industrialists, used as a tool to wield power and further their business interests. She was speaking at the Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.

“Media is a service. Why are industrialists interested in media if not to wield power and furthering their business interests?” she asked as she added that if a media organization becomes a tool to wield power it loses its viewership. “Viewers are smart to figure out that the media house is agenda-driven and it doesn’t work and last long. If it is only a tool, it is a temporary phenomenon.”

Prakash said that even in the US, media is owned by big-league businesses and not NGOs as they do not have the financial strength to own them. “You need the money of the industry to sustain media. There are very few self-sufficient houses, which are totally run by media”  she said.

“Unfortunately, media is used as a tool by politicians, businessmen, fixers. Should there be a cleanup? I think it should be self-regulated. It is there in every industry.”

Prakash said that through the years, media has been manipulated by all governments and there have been watershed moments across generations when media has been crushed whether it was during the emergency, the Tehelka tapes or the Radia tapes.

“Every time media learns from its experience and pushes back. It has been done by every government. Every political party in opposition talks about media freedom and also points finger at the media and does the same when coming to power. If a political party has been in power for a long time, there is a sophistication in the way it does as it has already has built an ecosystem around it whereas smaller parties that have not been in power for long are in a hurry to cultivate media and push media much more.”

While speaking on the recent arrest of an editor-in-chief of a news channel, she said despite the odds, he has a huge fan following. She added that journalists in tier I, II and III  cities as also in smaller cities and villages of Maharashtra are also under tremendous pressure. She said that those who cover the Naxal belt and the sand mafia, their stories never make it to newspapers.

Responding to question on how the power of social media can be maximized without crossing the line she said it can be harnessed only through laws. “Facebook and Twitter are news organizations without reporters. Social media has shaved off the arrogance of traditional media and humanized those demi-Gods. It has removed the aura of big-shot journalists as any fake or plagiarized news gets huge trolling. Though it is very difficult to handle this was necessary’ she said as she added that while laws are needed and still falling in place, we are in flux stage right now. She also observed that as media evolves with technology only those who keep innovating will survive. “If you resist it, you will get swallowed. Journalists must adapt to evolving technology and not time code  their work.”

On being asked if the truth is ever being told on news television, Prakash said people have to figure out which news organization has maximum firewalls before they put content out and which paper is true to its word to get different viewpoints and not give one point of view.

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