With the MMRDA grounds in Bombay not quite turning out to be the Ram Lila grounds of Delhi, and with the Lok Pal bill floundering in Parliament, it is time for introspection in the media of the media’s role in the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement.
Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, at First Post:
“At the 2011 CNN IBN Indian of the Year awards, Anna Hazare candidly admitted that it was the media which was responsible for his rise from a regional figure in Maharashtra to a national icon. ‘If your cameras ‘had not followed me everywhere, who would know me?’ was the activist’s honest response.
“There is little doubt that over the last nine months, Hazare’s advisers used the media quite brilliantly. Prime-time press conferences, made-for-TV spectacles, social networking campaigns: Anna Hazare did benefit from saturation media coverage.
“Yes, some of it was high-pitched, and, yes, some journalists did become Anna cheerleaders. But to see Anna as purely a media phenomenon would be a misreading of the mood on the street. Crowds were attracted to Anna not because the TV cameras were there, but because he appeared the antithesis of a morally bankrupt political leadership beset with a series of scams….
“In the end, both the state and Team Anna mistook the medium for the message. Team Anna saw the frenzied coverage as its main weapon, forgetting that democratic politics is not a repetitive television serial, but a tortuous process of negotiation and conciliation. The state, on the other hand, failed to recognise that cacophony will be part of a media environment in which there are more than 350 news channels and several hundred OB vans across India.
“The media will be a loudspeaker of grievances, not just of Team Anna, but of many other protest movements in the future. Strong leaders will not be swayed by the noise, a wise civil society will seek legitimacy beyond the camera lens.”
Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine, in the International Herald Tribune:
“The Indian news media generate public interest through two distinct kinds of stories — the reporter’s story and the editor’s story. In 2005, when Parliament passed the Right to Information Act, it was the result of a long and difficult process of influencing public opinion by reformers and persistent reporters.
“The anti-corruption movement, on the other hand, was an editor’s story from the very beginning, from the moment Anna Hazare arrived in New Delhi in April, sat on a wayside with his supporters and threatened to starve to death if the government did not create the Lokpal.
“Television news quickly converted Hazare into a saint who had arrived from his village to fight the corrupt authorities in New Delhi. On the first day of his fast, there were no more than 300 people around him, but the cameras framed the fast in such a way that it gave the impression that something big was going on.
“The television news media, which are largely headquartered in New Delhi, had very little understanding of Hazare, who is from Maharashtra. Until last April, his influence was confined to rural parts of Maharashtra. By the time the anchors asked the important question — “Who exactly is Anna Hazare?” — it was too late. They had already proclaimed him a modern saint, and he had amassed millions of supporters in a matter of days. As it turned out, Hazare is not a man the urban middle class would normally call a saint.”
Also read: Anna Hazare: 17 interviews in 11 hours
How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna
The ex-Zee News journalist behind Anna Hazare show
Ex-Star News, ToI journos behind ‘Arnab Spring’
Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?
There are 2 sides to every coin. Similarly, stating that Anna Hazare was a media creation is akin to megalomania on the part of the media. At best, the Media might have played a pivotal role in his rise to fame. That much is far too obviously true, beyond any shade of doubt. It was the media that introduced him and brought him to each and every home.
The other side: Anna Hazare is part of a consortium of reasonably powerful people – or at least people who have experienced power, and have worked in the government at high levels like Kiran Bedi, Kejriwal etc. There are other influential backers as well as a coordinated effort going on – almost an organisation. This is evident in their statements, the very fact that finance was arranged smoothly at every turn etc. Further, it is also possible that media interest was created by the IAC organisation, which is pretty media-savvy.
But the clincher: the turnout and the support of the masses, the way the effort went viral on the net, the mass base enjoyed by the IAC movement, the overall frustration of the people – especially the middle and the lower middle class – belie the claims of the media. As per my memory (correct me if I am wrong) the net campaign pre-dates the media furore. And, to re-iterate: the mass support brought out people who never ventured out of the comfort of their homes – engineers, doctors, businessmen etc.
This point cannot be overstated: the white collar worker was rarely a visible part of mass movements. In the IAC campaign – or Anna Hazare campaign if you will – these professionals were the one on the streets. I personally know of a production manager who had taken leave and had taken part with wife and kids in the campaign…
Is it not a fact all controversies are creation of Media, especially visual Media?
What a newspaper prints and what a television newscast runs is,by definition ,subjective.What is news?In the end,news is what news gatherers say it is.
Anna Hazare is the creation of the Congress. He played the necessary role of the opposition that the BJP intentionally avoids.
It was politics at its best. It will be even more interesting after the UP+ election …
Of course, he was. I have been saying so since the day when this brigade made their first appearance at Jantar Mantar.
The media in modern india is like The Almighty. (Almighty as in the bestselling book by Irving Wallace)
thank god the Almighty’s of the media have failed in their attempt to devalue our democracy, and foisting on us a regime of senseless puritanism (drinkers will be whipped, kind of puritanism).
It is the destiny of India to be a liberal democracy. Who cares about the Almighty’s of the media!