Electronic Media is like that magical potion that can either make an archangel out of you or relegate you to the ranks of Lord Voldemort by corrupting your mental faculty; depending upon the concoction it’s made up of. It is this feature that makes this medium a blessing as well as a bane to the society. Assam also, over the past decade or so, has had its own share of positive experiences and bummers with its rapidly booming electronic media. With a plethora of regional channels under its belt, the industry has undoubtedly left a lasting impression on the people’s minds. But, alas! Like everything else, this too has a flip side. And to top it off with a violent wave of alarm; this flip side, in a bid to make a fast buck, has been let loose.
PAST Vs PRESENT
Going back in time, we see Doordarshan as the only regional channel in the state that broadcasted Assamese news. In fact, it was the only source of visual linguistic communication available in Assamese at that time; and also the one that was admired and revered by a slew of people due to its sheer credibility and unwavering authenticity. Be it the ever-gracious news readers or the production crew behind, every bit of what they did was head-and-shoulders above the hyperbole, heedlessness and lack of refinement that characterize the larger part of the electronic media of the present times.
CURRENT ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN ASSAM
The trend of privately owned media channels in the state got triggered with NE TV (now defunct) springing up in the year 2004. Ever since then, the electronic media space of Assam has been trod by many regional channels. Moreover, the advent and the subsequent success of the DTH industry all over the state gave a Midas touch to the growth of these channels in the form of an incredibly wide viewership. But, the million-dollar question is – Have they done considerable justice to the viewers? Have they been able to mete out information in a responsible and dignified way? The answer is a dismal ‘no’. Barring a few shows and programmes, a larger chunk of this industry has cut a sorry figure for itself, let alone delivering on its central purpose.
- THE ALARMING SIDE
In a never-ending vicious battle of scoring brownie points over each other and flashing scoops, the regional news channels are frequently seen shrugging off their moral values; that too with stark nonchalance. That infamous and disgraceful instance of a leading news channel drawing parallels between a skimpily dressed Assamese girl and an ape not only drew a substantial quantum of flak and disapproval, but also made a monkey of the state’s media industry on a national level. I still remember my Mumbaikar friends telephoning me and having a good laugh about it, leaving me all flummoxed and embarrassed.
Another disappointing feature of these channels is the different political allegiances they have. If one channel enjoys the patronage of the ruling party, the other binds itself to the cause of the opposition. This arrangement often corrupts the very essence of news reporting, as the viewers get subjected to conflicting views on the same important piece of news; thereby clouding their judgement and keeping them from the true nature of facts. Furthermore, as an insult to the injury, these channels bamboozle the otherwise ingenuous people of Assam into buying their half-baked or unverified stories by blowing things out of proportion. With their trademark overenthusiastic tone and meticulously laid out layers of exaggeration, they surely rack up TRPs; but, mislead the viewers for the worse.
- SAVING GRACE
The only redeeming content on offer are some weekly or daily soaps that are aired on the entertainment channels. While the likes of ‘Beharbari Outpost’ have become popular among the youth and elderly alike, serials like ‘Borola Kai’ have been instrumental in promoting the renowned Kamrupi dialect all across Assam. With light-hearted scripts aided by stellar performances, these soaps do offset the damage done by the news channels to a small degree.
EMERGENCE OF A DETERRENT
The phenomenal rise of social media, however, has started reining in the unchecked appetite of the regional news channels for TRP. The channels have, time and again, found themselves on a sticky wicket after their fallacious or cooked-up reporting got exposed on social media. To give an instance, when a girl from Dibrugarh University was wrongly and contemptuously declared being ‘raped’ by a top-notch news agency recently, many netizens took to Facebook to render the news false, while lambasting the agency for the offence.
The news channels of Assam should always pass their content through the strainers of authenticity, necessity and morality before airing them. They should help create forward-thinking people; and not the ones blinded by parochialism.
Managing Editor, Bordoisila Media