Damage to the Fourth Estate

The Fourth Estate a.k.a. the Media is permanently damaged with a badly dented reputation for integrity.

I am referring to the leaked tapes of conversations between powerful people. You can take a look at the Outlook Magazine website and You Tube, should you have the time to listen in on some pretty insipid conversations, but with enough pointers to damage every influential person’s reputation. We have seen careers go down in the Government, Politics, Corporate, Banking, and now the Media.

If a lobbyist can have so much impact all across our elite society in New Delhi and around the country, even to the extent of “king-making” – I mean the appointment of ministers to the Central Cabinet, and also have “connections” in the Media to influence stories, then you have guessed it right – our society’s moral barometer has disappeared in total. The concern that I have, is that of any taxpayer. Let me not take the moral high ground, like many people have done. The issue is the impact that all this lobbying has had on government’s coffers, as well as on Corporate coffers.

While it is not apparent, this is what lobbyists in Washington, D.C., have been doing for ages – divert business to Corporates, especially in the defence segment, influence the thinking on the Capitol, push for corporate-friendly legislation especially in the so-called “bad” industries, push the agenda of a specific Senator, et al. So, for any American, all this is normal “dirty” business in Washington.

But, in India ? Lobbying is not as widespread in India, the lobbying efforts are mostly undertaken directly to propel oneself into stardom with the decision-makers in most cases. Most Chief Ministers drive their own parochial agenda to their own benefit. So, it is truly surprising that a one-woman army has effectively created a lobbying industry from nowhere and has achieved super-human proportions just in a span of a few years at the most. Truly amazing.

Well, the point here is that how could the self-righteous Indian Media be impacted by lobbying ? These are the folks who have successfully unearthed such scams in the past and even in the recent past. How could they let their media be influenced by lobbying, going against the very roots of ethical journalism ? How could a senior journalist of repute, could even indulge the lobbyist and promise to talk to someone in the government ?

I am not naming names, but it is clear for everyone to see for themselves the extent to which journalism can go to pander to lobbying. Even some famous editors have been caught on tape. The mystery remains – who leaked such sensitive tapes ? Very damaging content, which could break relationships permanently and could even lead to electoral defeats in the months and years to come by. The Opposition Parties are not going to give up – they might even “translate” these tapes to Hindi language and circulate !

Let the Media Publishers and Owners take a very hard look at their own houses first. I am surprised there is no public reprimand of the journalists and editors who were caught on tape so far, and I am also rather surprised that there has been some kind of TV silence after the leak of the “media” tapes.

Time to clean up the act and regain lost confidence and reputation. I have stopped looking at NDTV or reading India Today ! But Outlook is surely in my radar !!


Vijay Srinivasan
18th December 2010


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