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  • Writer's pictureAnilesh Kumar

Farmers Protest: How Media’s Touch Harmed Modi’s Midas Touch in Communication

Updated: Jul 3, 2021

Image Courtesy: ET

For the first time, the government appears to be a victim of media’s lack of credibility

If George Gerbner was alive today, he might have had to rethink about his classic ‘Cultivation Theory’ in relation to the farmers’ protest in India. Professor Gerbner had proposed that heavy television consumption leads to susceptibility to its messages. In other words, those who watch television frequently, start to believe that the world is just (good or bad) as the TV shows. Contrary to this proposition, the agitating farmers in India provide a compelling evidence that people might not develop a cultivating attitude because of heavy watching but question both the content and the context displayed 24*7. The agitation of the cultivators is also a culmination of their resentment against, cacophony, callousness and chimera of public service by the media. However, to be fair to Professor Gerbner, his study was in relation to TV channels, my argument is with regards to news channels. The key question here is – who has failed to communicate? Is the government or is it the media or is the government failing because of the media?

Time’s Up For Communication Through Broken (News) Channels?

It is hardly arguable that Prime Minister Modi is one the best communicators among his peers and currently there seems to be virtually no one for the top job who could challenge him in conveying messages. The 2014 election victory of the ruling BJP was as much talked about its clear mandate as the clear change in the style of election campaign armed with technology ensuring the delivery of its poll promises. The images of huge LED screens across the country are so vivid in the minds of the people that one synonymises tech-oriented campaigns with PM Modi in this country. Remember, it was not done out of a compulsion of a pandemic but a sincere pursuit of power for which communication was paramount. Currently, the same team is floundering to facilitate its narratives and the obvious question is – Why? News presenters are screaming through the roof vouching for the noble intentions of the government, yet people continue to ignore their messages – Why? The answer lies in the way a large section of the media has conducted itself in the recent past. Take any random announcement by the government as an example and you will notice that those in power (barring a few loose cannons) have been speaking with much more responsibility and fastidious care than those in the media.

Example: PM Modi never said that his government was going to inject 20 lakh crores in the economy. A simple google search will bring the speech for you to find that he had never mentioned the package as a single package designed to uplift the economic mood but claimed that the steps taken in the past and the announcement by the RBI combined with the new offer would stand around that amount. However, the media presented it as if the government were going to lose the string of its purse and the poor people were going to benefit from it overnight. In the absence of the results claimed by the media, people are bound to be desperate and develop a sense of despondency which can have serious political and electoral consequences.

Similarly, while the government raised concerns of over a potential hijack of the protest by those with vested interests, media did not wait a day to discredit the entire protest by calling names, making sweeping generalisations and looking for conspiracies. The long and short is that the dwindling reputation of media is falling at a rate of knots and it is high time that it tried tying back. One potential solution for the government might be to go back to how it started i.e., address the people directly. At a time when the media suffers a huge trust deficit - as people could be seen holding placards with messages against news channels - the government should attempt to communicate for its own credibility. Overreliance on over enthusiastic journalists is clearly damaging PM Modi’s Midas touch in communication.

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