When the entire community of primetime anchors scream, “The nation wants to know!” what they actually mean is – “Our channel needs to earn!”

Voices Friday, June 06, 2014 - 05:30
By Aniket Krishna You knew the secret all along. When the entire community of primetime anchors scream, “The nation wants to know!” what they actually mean is – “Our channel needs to earn!” We don’t need to know why Narendra Modi chose not to wear a Muslim cap or the raison d’etre behind Arvind Kejriwal’s choice of residence. We would rather hear Modi’s administration speak about the rising concentration of wealth in Gujarat, on the transparency of their campaign finances and the nature of the jobs they intend to create. Sometime back Arvind Kejriwal made a stoical statement on a Google hangout session with Rajdeep Sardesai. When asked by a member of the audience to clarify his position on the reservation policies in the Indian education system, Arvind replied by saying that the Aam Aadmi Party will make sure that the quality of education delivered in public schools is at par with their private counterparts. I would love to know how does Arvind intend to solve this problem. Will he pay the teachers more? Who selects these teachers? Why can’t these teachers then buy their own selection? Even if he pays them more why can’t they still teach privately? What systems will he put in place to prevent teachers from seeking the banker’s salary by participating in a free market? If not prevention, then how does he plan on retaining them? The reluctance on the part of our politicians to make sense is fuelled by the anchor’s inability to tolerate sense. The politician may choose not to answer the relevant questions, but that doesn't mean we begin to ask only what they are prepared to answer. The great circus trick of our primetime television news channels is to turn the non-news into ‘THE NEWS’ by asking the ‘tough questions’ instead of the ‘sensible tough ones’. But why do they do this? Why do they succumb into producing the most mind numbing content at times? A simple explanation lies in the fact that they aren't really news channels at all! They are mediums for advertising revenue and their primary purpose is to capture user attention for the bombardment of agenda – political or commercial, though usually both. As business ventures they pick a niche, call it ‘current affairs’, develop a product with great market fit and proceed to blast anything within that realm to grab our attention. This is not evil, just smart business and the only way out. You see, the truth is that we the consumer have stopped paying a single nayaa paisa for news and the only ones who could keep this industry alive were the corporate advertisers. Let’s recall Piketty’s Eco-101 lesson (Read- Economics 101 – The Piketty Way) here, for the customer now is not you and I, but pockets with greater concentration of capital that seek control of the information flow in order to suit their own needs. Till today the debate has hinged around ‘alternative business models for the main stream media’. Should you and I start paying for content again? Should the state levy a mandatory tax on us for an independently run Doordarshan? All this boils down to what Thomas calls ‘society’s imperative task’ and this viewed from his side is part of the larger question – how do we break the tendency of capital concentration’s disastrous effect on society. The Way Ahead From Piketty’s point of view there are a few things that we can start doing. A progressive global wealth tax that taxes all the capital above a certain threshold held by a single entity irrespective of the nature of liquidity, say at 2% per year for wealth above 2 billion euros (INR 8390 crores). Let’s debate it on India @ 9. On the media front, a capital donation to a channel prepared to hire the most trusted editors in the news business, could provide us with an interesting analogue of what certain philanthropists are already doing in the west. One could then experiment with charging the consumer for this high quality content. Let’s debate it on super prime time. We could also revisit the old report on the restructuring of Doordarshan to morph it into a BBC like structure. Let’s debate it in the open and on the floor of the house. Last but not the Least – The surrender of Capital I was privileged to receive an invitation to attend the annual day of Akanksha, an education focused NGO based out of Mumbai. As the lights went out and the show began, the kids from the surrounding municipality schools took us on a journey of joy and belief. As I sat there, mesmerised with their performance, something beyond Piketty’s outstanding academic work started making its way into the brain. That ‘equal opportunity’ and ‘social mobility’ aren’t restricted to one’s ability to land up a job in that fancy glass building next door. In their highest avatars, they are merely platforms for the younger generations to truly express themselves. For, societies move forward with tremendous energy when individuals are given the freedom to do what they truly love and when the rate of return on capital isn’t as significant as the return on investment in humanity. Don’t agree with me? That’s fine. Let’s debate it at 21:00. Aniket Krishna is an entrepreneurial mathematical epistemologist by profession, training and nature. The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.
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