New Agency is in deep crisis, all in the name of balance!

NewsBharati    29-Jun-2020
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You really don’t have to publish sides when one side is 'Fascism'. China having an expansionist policy is looking to peep into and power the media too. Journalists are taught early on in their careers that they must always be fair and objective and strive to get 'both sides of the story'. Essentially, it means that they should not inject bias or their own ideological or other kinds of views when they report something. Besides, they must get a response to, let’s say, an allegation. This is called being balanced. But what if a media house does it all but strongly glorifies only and only one side of the story? Is that what we can call being fair?
We all know that State broadcaster Prasar Bharati threatened to cancel its subscription to the Press Trust of India (PTI) over the news agency's recent interview with China's ambassador to India, who said India was the aggressor in the June 15 skirmish in Galwan Valley. The state broadcaster, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in its letter PTI said the agency was undermining India’s territorial integrity by dispensing news that is detrimental to national interest. But do we know the real truth?
In the interview published on Friday, the Chinese ambassador Sun Weidong was quoted as saying “The onus is not on China. The Indian side crossed the LAC (Line of Actual Control) for provocating and attacking the Chinese troops. The Indian forces seriously violated agreements on border issues between the two countries.” However, PTI had emphasised that Sun’s opinion is similar to China’s stand on its border clash with India, which India has rejected already. But when the ambassador shared this interview in the official website of the Chinese Embassy in India, it only had parts of the interview where the ambassador explains why the fault lies on the Indian.

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The notion of ‘balance’ is often carried to ridiculous lengths and is a fig leaf for the absurd convolutions to project a particular point of view. Balance then becomes the cover for false equivalences that news agencies deploy to show professionalism and to allow voices of hate, prejudice and plain bigotry. Prasar Bharati is the parent body of state-owned All India Radio and Doordarshan. Prasar Bharati has clearly noted that the news agency’s actions have been contrary to values that it upholds as a public service broadcaster, especially those listed under section 12 of the Prasar Bharati Act, 1990.
Thus, the broadcaster adds, it may no longer be tenable for Prasar Bharati to continue with PTI’s services. Section 12 2 (a) of the Prasar Bharati Act mandates that the public service broadcaster, in the discharge of its functions, be guided by the objective of upholding the unity and integrity of the country. The aforementioned senior Prasar Bharati officer said that the broadcaster had raised editorial lapses committed by PTI earlier as well, saying they had flagged the alleged propagation of wrong news that harmed public interest. "There have been several instances over the years. Some have been highlighted to them in meetings,” the officer said.
Registered in 1947, PTI started functioning in 1949. The agency is run by a board of directors and its day-to-day administration is headed by a chief executive officer. It has a huge domestic and foreign reach. According to PTI’s website, the agency employs more than 400 journalists and 500 stringers and puts out more than 2,000 stories and 200 photographs a day. PTI has exchange arrangements with several foreign news agencies to magnify its global news footprint, the website states. With such a huge reach, how fair it is for a 'prestigious' news agency to report parts of the actual interview that specifically narrate the thread against Indian Army?
That’s what it is, entertainment, and dangerous at that, all in the name of balanced journalism. These are instances, too common, unfortunately, when the notion of balance is made a mockery of by news agecies who actually may believe they are being professional. The question to ask here is, why debate the issue in the first place? The Indian Army lost its 20 soldiers during an hours-long brutal hand-to-hand combat in the Galwan Valley on the night of June 15. Knowing and confirming it from a US Intelligence Agency that China had deliberatrly ordered the attack on the Indian troops, what makes PTI believe the dubios statements and put them in the public interest after unnecessary filters?
In the present climate, with polarised politics and social views, with growing intolerance amongst people, the media can and should be a beacon of hope for not just liberal, secular and democratic ideas, but also to ensure that extreme views don’t get into the papers or on television. Instead, the media in India has become part of the problem, either enthusiastically participating in whipping up of hatred against the vulnerable, or behaving in a mealy mouthed way by allowing the worst elements a free run of valuable time and space on their platforms.
Entire generations of journalists and media houses are growing up with the idea that they are performing some kind of valuable service, they have few role models to look up to, since their own, 'boss like' media agencies, who should know better, are either sold out, ideologically committed to bigotry or are wishy-washy, without firm convictions. Either way, Indian journalism is in a deep crisis, all in the name of balance!
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