With the General Election round the corner, the ideal time has arrived for the media to extend their ‘paradigm shift’ to political reportage as well – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
By Bernard Fernando
At the outset we raise our hats to our mainstream media for their current unstinting efforts to protect our country from the fatal COVID-19. In the process, they have inter-alia succeeded in bringing some sanity and discipline to our society especially in regard to the much-desired orderly behaviour at public places. Also, let’s not forget that they exhibited a similar national responsibility in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday massacre by vouching to disseminate only proven information thereby diffusing ethnic tensions among the people. It is also heartening to note that in the wake of the economic hardships and food shortages arising from the current curfew, some electronic media channels have started a new segment to highlight the exemplary deeds and righteous acts of hospitable institutions and generous citizens worthy of emulation, on a daily basis.
Dealing with political matters
With the General Election round the corner, the ideal time has arrived for the media to extend their ‘paradigm shift’ to political reportage as well. For example, the media can highlight the election manifestos and the profiles of all candidates together with their Preference numbers on a district-wise basis. Social media will surely run the extra mile by naming and shaming unsuitable candidates!
However, it is unfortunate that some mainstream private electronic media institutions still continue to gloss over untruthful, misleading and rabble-rousing voice-cuts of political minions in their news bulletins. In the process, they make heroes and demi-gods of satanic politicians. Can children and simple citizens look up to any of such unprincipled political liars as role –models of positive thinking and patriotism?
Many media institutions never filter or care to double check with the affected parties regarding the veracity or the importance of the news items they carry. The responses from the affected parties are deliberately delayed till the untruth is firmly rooted in the minds of the gullible people. As a result, the genuine people are deprived of obtaining a balanced view on any issue. Despite the appealing tag lines they carry, it is amply clear to the people that the questionable behaviour of some media institutions is either due to their greed to enhance their ‘ratings’ by playing to the gallery or due to personal expectations or due to the need to comply with the wishes of their owners or due to a combination of them.
Therefore, this is the ideal time for all media institutions to strike a ‘new normal’ by patriotically applying the following general format and guidelines to their prime time news bulletins and other programs as suggested by the writer much before the advent of the coronavirus.
1. General format:
i) Islandwide local development programs/projects updates (30%)
ii) Inspirational achievements and events (15%)
iii) Religious activities (15%)
iv) Local politics (15%)
v) International (15%) and
vi) Sports, entertainment and weather (10%).
2. When telecasting/broadcasting voice-cuts, ensure that ‘both sides of the coin’ are concurrently aired with equal time coverage to let the viewers/listeners draw rational conclusions.
3. The frequency of the daily night time ‘talk shows’ with politicians should be curtailed and confined to election time like in the past.
4. A code of media ethics and best practices to be issued to all media institutions by the Media Ministry.
5. A better system be installed for selecting films and teledramas for public view.
6. The media gurus to train their students to focus on ‘country first’ when they report.
Since media freedom and freedom of expression are projected as undeniable rights, we exhort on intelligent, patriotic media, politicians and citizens with country at heart to facilitate this much needed change through example.