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Conglomerates And Bias In Indian Media

As we see today, most of the mainstream media houses are controlled by conglomerates and corporations whose decisions are driven by personal and commercial motives. They are governed by vested political and economic interests and prey upon the gullibility of the masses. Due to the involvement of such ulterior motives, the people are forced to consume biased news and devoids them of their basic right to information. The corporations are like echo chambers, which are ignorant of the problems of people on the ground.


Most of the mainstream media is controlled by conglomerates formed by elites. Elites are the people who are on a higher pedestal than an average citizen and hold influential power. They belong to families that invest in a wide range of industries other than just the media. We see that the media is one of the most important spheres of influence as it has a wide public reach.


Owning a significant amount of this sector, not only means that they would be able to establish themselves better but also, they would be able to decide what the people consume - be it the music they listen to or even shaping the opinion they hold. Usually, media is concentrated in the hands of a few who might have political ties, mostly due to their financial power. The media houses are backed by such people. It has become almost impossible for independent media to survive in such a scenario where elites established their fortress.


After the Economic reforms of 1991, the media got greater autonomy. This autonomy started to fade when they became dependent on larger corporations for financial backing. This made them lose their autonomy in the real sense. One of the most prominent examples we see today is the Reliance group under Mukesh Ambani who owns and controls the News18 Group, CNN news, and the FirstPost. Another example could also be that of Rajeev Shukla, the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Planning and the secretary of the All India Congress Committee. He controls News 24 with his wife Anuradha Prasad.


A subsidiary is an independent company whose more than 50% shares are owned by some other firm. The other company that owns more than 50% share is called the parent company. However, the subsidiary company still remains distinct from the parent company in matters of taxes, liabilities, and other benefits. Except, the real power is vested in the hands of the parent company which can regulate the operations and working of the subsidiary. In the Indian media scenario, Reliance group is the most prominent parent company that holds News18 as the subsidiary company, holding about 75% of its total share.


The news we watch or read is shaped by people who hold such power. They frame the news in a way that serves their own interests. They may hide something, particularly the truth, so as to save their own reputation. Often they use their financial capacity to shut the mouths of the people, leading to corruption and increasing amounts of bribery in the country. The news that reaches us usually loses its essence and is altered.


This practice also goes against the ethical conduct of the journalists as their sole purpose should be ethical and fair news reporting rather than surrendering to the hands of the elites and the powerful for money. When the news is reported for monetary purposes rather than showing what’s the truth, there appears to be a threat to the right to information of the people. The need for greater TRP and more profit has faded the real purpose of the media. Profit maximization has turned the occupation of journalists into that of businessmen, which clearly affects their moral code of conduct.


When the news is about this media conglomerate themselves, the file against them stays buried and the question never arises again. It is made sure by those people that even a small bit of discussion regarding the matter is avoided. This is done by either paying the media a huge sum of money or by threatening them using political force. Their reputation is given topmost priority and in no way compromised. This is how we know that the media is being corrupted by corporations who make sure that any sort of negative news about them is never broadcasted.


Synergy is when the combined efforts of several media industries are different from their individual effect on individual customers. It is used to convey an ideology or a message by all the media houses because it could not be conveyed individually. When the audience receives the same message from 2-3 media channels simultaneously, they tend to be impacted by it more easily. Synergy works for propagating commercial and political ideologies amongst the people. People invest their trust in the media and easily believe in what is shown to them. When they see some piece of information on many news channels, they tend to buy it, irrespective of whether it is the truth or mere propaganda.


Vertical integration in the media industry refers to the ownership and control of two important entities - the producer or broadcaster who provides broadcasting services and the distributor who helps in the provision of access to the content produced by the broadcaster. Recently, the TV platforms and broadcasting platforms are venturing into each other’s domains, for example, many of the broadcasters also own distribution services like DTH, cable, and satellite channels. This has transformed this industry into a hybrid one.


This ownership of the two major entities goes against the moral principle as it leads to a monopoly in the industry. When the service provider is owned by the producer of the content itself, the people are forced to consume nothing else but the content that is available to them. For example, a cable service might show the channel that is owned by it for free to the viewers. This creates a bias as it narrows down the thought and information that is available to the masses. They fail to consider the unethical side of such a media which destroys the purpose of the very existence of media in a democracy.


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