With the multiplication of channels on the idiot box, and every Tom, Dick, Jane and Jenny reading news bulletins from teleprompters describing herself as a journalist, our tribe is fast losing social respect.
Moreover, the fact that the country’s largest and most prosperous media house whose flagship English language multi-city newspaper editions are awash with full page ads, openly admits that it is in the market for paid news, hasn’t helped to abate the rising tide of public hatred, ridicule and contempt for the so-called fourth estate.
But perhaps the greatest disservice that latter day journalists have rendered to this once respected profession is the extent to which even the most thundering sound and fury editors and television news anchors have transformed into government choristers. One consequence of this development is that even as there is widespread distress — floods, droughts, riots, deep rural poverty, lawlessness because of inadequate police personnel and law courts — there’s a deafening silence about slashing runaway government expenditure, budgeted at a humungous Rs.5.08 lakh crore in 2018-19, which consumes over 20 percent of its annual revenue. Yet journalists and yelling heads on the idiot box who protest, are rare birds.
Rare, but fortunately not extinct. Writing in the Sunday edition of the New Indian Express (August 5), Shankkar Aiyyar, a talented journo pushed to the margins of obscurity, highlights the monumental waste. According to Aiyyar on March 13, the Lok Sabha passed the Union budget 2018-19 of “over 30 departments with 200 amendments, including a bill to hike MPs’ salaries, in 30 minutes without any discussion” — a “cost of abdication or price of non-scrutiny” he calculates at Rs.97,300 crore per minute. Despite such profligacy with public money, one can’t recall any op-ed writer or media maven (EW is an exception) dissecting the economy calling for curtailment of wasteful government expenditure. Little wonder our once-admired tribe is fast losing public respect.