Mass media is a system used to communicate to the general public, a technology which reaches the masses, forms opinion, creates trends, sheds light on social issues, inculcates in individuals belief system and codes of behaviour to integrate them into the society.
Mass media creates what Antonio Gramsci referred to as “Common sense” which is not the same as “good sense”. “Senso commune” which translates into sense held in common. Gramsci in his notebook reflects on the almost insidious nature of this common sense, “it’s shifting and almost often contradictory nature”, how it becomes accepted beyond question.
Mass media in the 21st century is that tool which creates this “common sense”. A world where 4.4% (311 million people) holds 32.3% of the world’s wealth, while the 95% (7 billion people) own 28.4% of the wealth, mass media has become a tool to control the minds and make money out of it.
The media follows a propaganda model as described by Noam Chomsky and E.S. Herman which instead of acting as check on political power are infact in bed with them:
The media constructs or manufactures consent. They are used as instruments to keep the masses in line and maintain the status quo of the 1%.
There are 5 filters which according to Chomsky is applied on the news:
1.The size , concentrated ownership and the profit driven orientation of the mass media:
They argue that the dominant mass media outlets are large monopolistic companies which operate on profit thus they cater to the financial interest of the owners. Critical Journalism loses its top priority and is replaced by anything that guarantees viewership and Profit.
90% of the American media is controlled by the 6 media conglomerates : Comcast, News Corps, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS. In context of India we see the 5 Indian news media houses- Essel Group, Reliance Industry Limited, Star Group, Sun TV and Sony pictures network.
During the Cobra post operation 136 reveals, the bigger the media house the greater was the willingness to carry promotion for Hindutva agenda for large sums of money. Big giant houses like Times of India, India today, Zee news, Hindustan Times and Dainik Bhaskar were on the list of Shame.
This shows that what drives the organisation is not truth over power. But money over truth.
2.Advertising as the primary source of income of the mass media:
Media costs millions. The cost is more than what can be paid off by the customers. Here is where the advertisements come in. Companies, brands require an audience to sell their products to. Thus the media not only treats us as customers to cater too.
We are more importantly the products they sell the Advertisers to – Audience. To put it in perspective: 2018 broadcast audience research council (BARC) between November 12 to 16th reported 22,099 insertions (ads that aired on TV) by the BJP.
The party ranked 1st, followed by Netflix.
Journalism cannot be a check on power because the system encourages complicity. Complicity with the government, the brand’s, the paymasters. The mass media is drawn into symbiotic relationship with the Power’s that be. This is because the media needs a steady flow if raw material for news.
The Government and Corporate sources are seen as easily recognisable and credible sources of news. This exclusive scoop stories, expert opinions builds the news “narrative” and create the bias.
“Those in power and those who report on them are in bed with each other”
Indian context two names – Sambit Patra and Arnab Goswami. And Navika Kumar’s guiding light.
Flak refers to negative response to a media statement. If these goals are produced on a large scale they tend to be costly to the media. Flak is a means to keep in check any journalism which aims at challenging the power structure. They are swiftly pushed to the margins through various agencies.
Whistleblowers are hounded and discredited. The stories are trashed and the conversations diverted. In the Indian context, this means of controlling journalism is not so subtle anymore. From direct gags on journalists, to assassinations being carried out, raids being carried out on news channels which run news criticising the government policies.
200 serious attacks in journalist between 2014 to 2019, according to a study titled ‘Getting away with murder’. India is 142nd in the list of press freedom.
5. Creation of an Enemy Target:
To manufacture consent, one needs an “Other” the enemy or opposition. This is the fear psychosis that works in creating a target. The common Enemy is the diversion – Communists, Immigrants, Muslims, Jews. This common Enemy is the bogeyman, the ghost who’s lingering presence helps construct a public opinion.
In the Indian context, the common Enemy are the Muslims, the Mughals, the Pakistanis. Whether it be pinning the Corona cases on Tableeghi Jamaat incidence. Calling it the Corona Jihad to changing names of Mughal museums and roads because servility to the barbarians is unthinkable.
The otherisation of the Muslim community. Their de-humanization to the extent that even getting a house is an uphill task. Lynching are so common that no one bats an eye. There’s passive acquiescence when a primetime airs Muslim students cracking UPSC as UPSC Jihad.
In conclusion what happens is the news we get is tailor made to maintain the status quo. To keep in power the ones on power. The news cycle is meant to titillate, is meant to keep you glued to tales of macabre. Whether it be a suicide / murder or it be a good looking actress fighting the state over an illegal property.
The news is meant to divert issues from topics of concern :
- Corona cases
- Healthcare in shambles
- Law and order problems
- Political activists being arrested
- Parliamentary sessions not being televised
- Opposition being gagged
- Neutral institutions compromised.
These are news untouched because they don’t serve the interests of the ones in power.
Hence it becomes the civic duty of a citizen to be informed, question and invest in small scale, local, glocal, independent media houses which are public funded and uphold the integrity of journalism.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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