ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN ELECTIONS IN INDIA
In our times we have seen media influencing public opinion to a great extent. Electronic media has taken over the print media in molding the thinking of the people as the press can influence only educated masses whereas television politically influences even the uneducated sections of society through its audio-visual effect. Television, radio, cinema, internet are the main modes of electronic media that provide information to the public at large. Media covering political rallies, political events, election campaigns of political parties, speeches by political leaders reach people living in villages and even in remote areas through television and the internet. Electronic broadcast media politically educate millions of people the world over. Political news reports on television have created direct contact between the political leaders and the common masses. Good quality of election news by electronic broadcast media is very important as a large number of voters rely more on television news as a primary source of information about election campaigns and candidates.
MEDIA’S INFLUENCE IN ELECTIONS IN INDIA:
During the time of elections, media houses run various political debates and discussions which have a great influence on the people watching such debates and form their opinion from such debates and then cast their vote. However, we know that today press has become a business as it provides biased information to the people. Both electronic media and print media show news supporting a political party or rich business class people as the media houses receive huge funds from them for showing favorable news.
Media is not only an important intermediary between voters and political parties but also a source of political information for the voters. Although the media should be neutral, unbiased, impartial in disseminating political news to the people today media in India has become nothing but a puppet in the hands of powerful people. Most of the mainstream media channels show coverage of election campaigns as per the instructions of the powerful people giving huge funds to media houses. These powerful people decide what is to be shown to the people at large and what is to be hidden from the public. If any media house refuses to receive a bribe to show biased news they start receiving threats calls and messages and are pressurized by their superior authorities to broadcast news as per the whims and fancies of these powerful people. In recent times we have seen many news reporters who gave the real ground report of the election campaign and fake propaganda were either being thrown out of their job for showing the truth or were forced to resign from their jobs. Such news reporters resort to the internet by making and posting news report videos for showing the truth to the people and openly criticize the government for not working for the common masses who voted for them but working only for the benefit of the rich business class people.
In India, many illiterate poor voters who have zero knowledge about the work done by the candidate in their area blindly depend on television news channels covering political campaigns and speeches of political leaders. These news channels either show hate speeches or run fake propaganda against a particular community. They divert the attention of the people from real issues like unemployment, poverty, poor education, and health facilities to the Hindu-Muslim agenda. Common masses watching such news reports are greatly influenced by this kind of fake news factory. A political party makes its own IT cell that makes fake videos to spread hatred and instigate communal violence and disturb peace and communal harmony especially when the elections are going on.
Further, during election time not all candidates are given the same amount of media coverage. Thus, people cast their votes not as per the caliber of the election candidates in their area but as per the image created by the media of various political parties and political leaders. Today in India most of the media is busy hiding the failure of the government in fulfilling its promises made at the time of elections. Television media doesn’t run debates on issues like the criminal background of various election candidates, political parties spending huge amounts of money on election campaigns and advertising, actual work done by the candidates for the people, the Election Commission not punishing the political leaders who violate the rules for election campaigning.
In a representative democracy like India, it is very important to examine the quality of political information given by the news media to the voters. As television has enormous potential to influence the voter’s various rules and regulations have been made to control the coverage of election by the media. In India, not the media houses but the powerful political parties control how their campaigns are reported in news bulletins and make sure that the media channels only broadcast news that portray them to be the only strong political party in the election. Thus, projecting a good image on television has become a key for successful election campaigning.
Many journalists even launch personal attacks on the character of election candidates by using abusive language thereby lowering the dignity of their profession. This at times even leads to candidates stop appearing in the election campaign to avoid the question that is a direct attack on their personal life. This makes that candidate lose the election even before a single vote is cast.
Today in India election campaigns have become media campaigns. Television-dominated campaigns have increased the cost of election campaigning. Various political parties hire media experts, advertising agencies to portray a good image of their party’s candidate and make him more popular. This has resulted in the professionalization of campaigns. Many news channels are paid by the political parties to show more of their election candidates, to establish their good and positive impression on the minds of the people.
Moreover, most of the interviews given by political leaders to news anchors are also scripted in India. Questions and answers are all written and given to the political party leader to be interviewed well in advance so that he doesn’t say anything in the interview that might injure his or his political party’s image in the eyes of the people. Thus, today political party leaders simply must be good on television no matter how bad they are in serving the people.
Today in India, most of the media instead of acting as a watchdog has become a mouthpiece of the government or a particular political party. Instead of running neutral, free, and fair election debates by political leaders media shows scripted and biased debates and discussion. Instead of focusing on the real issues of our country like poverty, unemployment, inadequate health, housing, and educational facilities news anchors show reports promoting religious hatred and disharmony. In India, there are very few television news channels and mainstream news reporters who focus on real issues on which elections should concentrate. Thus, we can conclude that television as a main source of election information should scrutinize the work done by the candidates standing in the election, monitor the counting of votes, and report results of the election. Instead of working for the rich powerful people media should work for the common people of India.