The test of every system is whether under it the standard of living of the masses is rising or falling. The same applies to the Indian media too.
If freedom of the media is helping raise the standard of living of the Indian people, it is a good thing and must be supported. If, however such freedom is keeping the Indian people backward and poor it is a bad thing and must be suppressed.
It follows that freedom of the media has by itself no value, and it will have value only if it helps improve the lives of the Indian masses. And the lives of our people will improve if scientific ideas are propagated and backward and unscientific ideas like casteism, communalism, and superstitions are combated.
Today the Indian people are facing terrible problems---massive poverty (it is estimated that 75-80 % of our people are earning 25 rupees a day), huge unemployment, sky-rocketing prices (vegetables cost about Rs. 40 a kg. ), lack of any proper healthcare for the poor people, child malnutrition (about half our children are malnourished), farmers suicides (about 47 every day for the last 15 years, making a total of about 250,000 a world record of farmers suicides ), etc
And yet our media (particularly the broadcast media ) devotes 90 % of its coverage to lives of film stars, cricket, and glamour. A few years back the Lakme Fashion parade was covered by 512 accredited journalists, at a time when the farmers who grew the cotton worn by the models in the Fashion Parade were committing suicide one hour's flight away in the Vidarbha region. Only one or two journalists covered those suicides locally.
Is this a responsible way in which our media has been behaving ? Is not our media behaving like the French Queen Marie Antoinette, who when told that the people have no bread said that they could eat cake.
Amitabh Bachchan's 70th birthday, Kareena kapoor's affairs, Sachin Tendolkar's 100th century, Rahul Dravid's retirement from cricket, Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna's death, Rakhi Sawant's swayamvar, etc-----these are depicted as the real issues facing the nation, not poverty, not unemployment, not price rise, not healthcare, not malnutrition.
Several T.V. channels show astrology, which is pure superstition and humbug, and therefore tends to perpetuate backwardness of our people. In my opinion there should not be any freedom to show such superstitions.
The corporatization and crass commercialization of the media is no doubt largely responsible for this irresponsible behaviour. While corporates may have a legal right to own and run the media, this freedom has to be coupled with responsibilities. There cannot be freedom to to defame, incite religious, caste, regional or racial riots, , extort and blackmail, hold media trials, practice paid news, etc Hence a balance has to be struck between freedom and responsibility.
A section of the media has misunderstood me and depicted me as some sort of tyrant who wishes to muzzle or gag the media at the behest of the government, when the truth is that I have been throughout my one year as Chairman of the Press Council fighting for media freedom, and raised my voice of protest against attacks against media freedom and media persons, whether in J&K, Maharashtra, U.P. , West Bengal, Karnataka, etc. I strongly criticized the arrest of the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, and the threat of a senior politician to break the camera of a journalist.
At the same time I have been constantly advising media people to act responsibly and in a manner which will benefit the Indian people. This they can do by spreading scientific ideas among the masses as scientific thinking is the only way out to solve the country's huge problems.
I regard the Indian media as Hanuman, and I regard myself as Jambawant. The Indian people are Lord Rama, and it was the duty of Hanuman to serve Lord Rama. However, Hanuman forgot his powers and duty because of the curse of a sage. Like Jambawant, I have been reminding Hanuman (the media ) of its duty to Lord Rama (the Indian people ).. The Indian media has to serve the Indian people, and if it does so it will win the respect and admiration of the people.