Tuesday, August 5

Mass Media And Its Responsibilities

The extent of reach which Mass Media in this digital age commands, is truly amazing and eye opening; both in terms of viewership and the ability to influence a person’s thinking. But why do I get the feeling that Mass Media is misusing this power, misleading people, creating unnecessary hype to increase circulation numbers. With absolute power comes great responsibility. Mass Media has acquired absolute power, but lacking in the responsibility department.

Let me explain, using an example, why do I have this grouse against Mass Media.

By “Mass Media” I am referring to the most common form of news outlet, the newspaper, which includes both print and online versions. Recently the G8 summit in Japan had concluded, with pledges on the food and oil crises and climate change among other things.

As usual, the summit received its usual share of media coverage. But a few publications such as The Daily Mail and The Washington Times had a completely different take on the proceedings. Food crisis was one of the major issues that was addressed at the summit. But these two publications took it upon themselves to bring it to the public notice that the leaders and the dignitaries gorged upon a 18-course banquet which they had apparently found it hard to swallow.

The headline from The Daily Mail screamed “Summit That's Hard To Swallow - World Leaders Enjoy 18-Course Banquet As They Discuss How To Solve Global Food Crisis.” The article has pictures of the leaders enjoying the extravagant banquet, the menu and a picture of malnourished group of people as a contrast. The article, written by James Chapman lambasts the G8 summit members for treating themselves to a lavish banquet while urging the world to stop wasting food and combat rising prices and a global shortage of provisions. The sarcasm was pretty obvious as you can perceive from the following quotes from the article:

“The world leaders sat down to an 18-course gastronomic extravaganza at a G8 summit in Japan, which is focusing on the food crisis.”

“G8 leaders discussing the world food crisis in Japan raise their glasses ahead of an 18-course dinner.”

Dominic Nutt, of the charity Save the Children is quoted saying, “It is deeply hypocritical that they should be lavishing course after course on world leaders when there is a food crisis and millions cannot afford a decent meal. If the G8 wants to betray the hopes of a generation of children, it is going the right way about it. The food crisis is an emergency and the G8 must treat it as that.”

Here are some excerpts from The Washington Times article:

Lentil soup and a crust of bread as the first, second and third course at a recent G8 summit in Japan might at least have conveyed the impression the leaders of the world's principal industrialized nations were focused on a fast-unfolding food shortage engulfing the entire planet.

Instead, the convivial summiteers feasted on a six-course lunch at a five-star lakeside hotel on the island of Hokkaido, followed that evening by an eight-course heartburning dinner, from Kyoto beef shabu-shabu, to dicey fatty tuna, to clams floating in Shiso, to broiled prawns in Tosazu, to salt-grilled rockfish, to milk-fed baby lamb to G8 "Fantasy Desert," all washed down by wine and champagne vintages from all over the world. To then make global food security a top priority was a tad Pecksniffian.

Year in and year out, the G8 meet in a bucolic setting pleasing on the eyes that tends to act as a soporific on the part of the brain that allows summiteers to anticipate global crises.

In Japan last month, the Eight Big Ones agreed to reconvene in 2009 on the Mediterranean island La Maddalena, nestled in the Straits of Bonifacio between Corsica and Northern Sardinia, one of the last untouched beautiful spots in the world. But they could save their taxpayers a bundle by canceling their reservations now and videoconferencing instead - twice a year.

My grouse is that why focus on trivial issues such as the food that was consumed and the location of the G8 summit. Why not focus on the critical issues such as food and oil crisis, climate change and so on. With the reach that these publications posses, they can put it to good use by spreading awareness on these issues. But instead they chose to focus on the food which the leaders consumed, the menu and gripe about the exotic locations in which the G8 summit would be held in the future.

What did they expect? The world leaders would assemble in a dingy hall and hammer out a solution to the crises that are afflicting the world, munching on plain bread. C’mon. It’s a three day summit where the Head’s of Nation’s assemble. Is Japan to blame for treating them to a “royal banquet?” I believe Japan just upheld its tradition by showcasing its culture and generosity by playing a perfect host to the G8 Summit.

Am I wrong in saying that these publications could have done better? Is my grouse un-justified? Am I biased? Are my views shortsighted?

Source: The Washington Times, The Daily Mail.



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. @ Rocksta,

    Good one bro...a much needed on too..infact on my way to work today i was thinking the same...as how the power of the media is being misused in the name of mere sensationalism.

    The fact remains that the leaders of the summit could have done without meals lavish to such an extend that the ever critical eye of mass media would fall upon it.Nevertheless as u rightly quoted "WITH ABSOLUTE POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILTY"

    Yes, the media has ultimate power but what is even greater is their influence over human minds..If channeled properly , it could become a key factor in development of nations...Sadly the competition between media giants have lead them to low levels with regards to quality of news..be it newspapers or news channels..as we saw in the recent Arushi murder case, to name a local issue..sensationalism and TRP ratings is what they really care for.

    Lets hope things change soon.If the media can prioritize their duties, no change can be too late..

  3. Niyad,

    You have just hit the last nail on the coffin buddy.

  4. I agree with you both that Mass media is misusing its power... Recently i read an interview with Rajat Sharma, the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of India TV. I was aghast when i read him saying that the Arushi murder case had increased his channel's TRP ratings for a continuous 5 weeks! And throughout this week of high TRP, all they would show was cooked up rumours of the murder! SICK! I think there are ways through which TRP ratings can be increased, but this is inhumane.. The government should curtail the freedom given to the media for its misuse and fine these channels heftily.

  5. Very true. Mass media is lacking a sense of social responsibility these days.

  6. @ Shilz and Guruvardhan

    Can we do something or is that we have to just silently bear it?

  7. If we can really think about something useful that can be done, den dat will be amazing. I am with you. I will see if I can get any idea, but if u already have any idea den, have no doubt, I'm with u.

  8. @ Rocksta, Shilz, Guru

    I've heard a wise man say that this is the age of the pen. Not the sword. This is the age of thoughts. We'll use writing which is a very strong tool...especially against media..beat them at their at their own game..gain more coverage..start slowly but sincerely..let the word spread...I'm sure the likes of u guys can come up with awesome stuff..count me in..whateva it takes...

  9. I agree with u Niyad, Pen is mightier than sword!


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