(This lecture was delivered by Mr. Sandeep Bhushan, an Indian television journalist on 5 April 2018)
Mr. Sandeep Bhushan started his lecture by outlining the difference between Indian electronic media, specifically the news channels, and the print media (newspapers). He then further stated the principal matter is to cover the various beats which in fact gives a clue to the terms of engagement between the journalist and political class. The very act of interaction or taking a sound bite of a politician signifies an equation which is essential to power. He remarked that it is a central phenomenon as far as the news channels are concerned.
Differentiating the print culture and electronic media, he argues that print media works differently as it is a comparatively older profession and have many sets of protocols. Thus the print culture has a degree of autonomy and independence which electronic media does not possess.
He further focussed on the editorial pyramid in Indian televisions. He elaborated the term ‘editorial pyramid’ in terms of it being a system in news agency in which reporters are at the bottom and editor and star anchors are at the top. Irrespective of the hierarchical pyramid power structure, they all should ideally have the access to some political leaders to gather news. This is called ‘access journalism’. From the perspective of accessibility, he moved on to the larger issue of accountability in journalism. He recounted the development of accountability journalism in the early 20th century in America and how great reporters and journalist challenged big companies and corporate houses by filing investigation stories.
He is of the opinion that speaking truth to power is the mandate of an accountable journalist. Unless having the access to the politician, the 24×7 news channel cannot sustain. In fact, ‘access journalism’ acts quite contrary to the mandate of the accountable journalist. The breaking news culture is cited as a case in point by the speaker. He explained how the culture of breaking news on Indian news channel in the race of TRP is quite prevalent and how the story is produced in the newsroom, and not gathered from the field.
He concluded his lecture by focusing on the growing ‘studioisation of news’ and how monoculture as a phenomenon is promoted in the newsroom. He remarked that the journalists are told to “play with a news” for the whole day and beyond, in tandem with the TRP game and propaganda.