Mainstream channels biggest threat to mainstream media: Anurag Thakur

Describing mainstream channels as the “biggest threat” to the mainstream media, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur has said that real journalism involves “reporting news without fabrication” and giving platform to “all sides to present their views”.

Addressing a gathering at an event of Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD) in New Delhi on Monday, Thakur said news channels run the risk of losing credibility by inviting guests who are “polarising” and “spreading false narratives”.

“Are you going to show visuals that grab eyeballs and inflame anger or show restraint and project visuals in context to showcase the full picture?” Thakur said, stressing that broadcasters are faced with a set of choices that will determine the ways to redefine content in television news.

He prefaced his remarks on the state of television news by saying that the Covid-19 pandemic threw up challenges while also provided opportunities not just to reinvent journalism, but also to redefine the media as a trusted source of news and information.

“Real journalism is about facing the facts, presenting the truth, letting all sides the platform to present their views. In my personal opinion the biggest threat to the mainstream media is not from the new-age digital platforms but rather the mainstream media channel itself. If you decide to invite guests who are polarising, who spread false narratives, who shout at the top of their lungs, the credibility of your channels go down,” Thakur said.

The decisions that determine the guests, tone and visuals of a show define the credibility of a channel in the eyes of the viewers, Thakur said, suggesting that provocative presentations may help grab eyeballs, but eventually viewers “will never trust your anchor, your channel or brand as a trusted and transparent source of news”.

“So, my question to the broadcasters present here today is this: Are you going to watch the narrative be defined by soundbites, or will you define yourself and set the terms for guest and channel? Are you going to watch as the younger audience switches and sweeps through the shrill on TV news or are you going to bring back neutrality in news and discussion in debates to stay ahead of the game? Are you going to show visuals that grab eyeballs and inflame anger or show restraint and project visuals in context to showcase the full picture?” Thakur said.

The minister advocated the need to preserve professionalism instead of compromising values in the face of fierce competition. “I strongly believe that journalists are duty-bound to report news without fabrication, despite temptations to compete with those who propagate false news,” he added.

In a statement, the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting said that during the event, Thakur also presided over an award-presentation ceremony.

“The Appreciation Award for 2021 was conferred on Radio Television Brunei. The Appreciation Award for 2022 was shared by the Ministry of Economy, Civil Service, Communications, Housing and Community Development, Republic of Fiji and Fiji Broadcasting Corporation,” it said.

Established in 1977, AIBD is a regional inter-governmental organisation servicing countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) in the field of electronic media development. It is hosted by the government of Malaysia and the secretariat is located in Kuala Lumpur.

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