Global Media Journal – Indian Edition/ Summer Issue / June 2011
SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF MEDIA AND INDIAN DEMOCRACY
UGC Junior Research Fellow
Department of Mass Communication
University of Burdwan, West Bengal , India
Abstract: The role of media in a democratic system has been widely debated. India has the largest democracy in the world and media has a powerful presence in the country. In recent times Indian media has been subject to a lot of criticism for the manner in which they have disregarded their obligation to social responsibility. Dangerous business practices in the field of media have affected the fabric of Indian democracy. Big industrial conglomerates in the business of media have threatened the existence of pluralistic viewpoints. Post liberalisation, transnational media organisations have spread their wings in the Indian market with their own global interests. This has happened at the cost of an Indian media which was initially thought to be an agent of ushering in social change through developmental programs directed at the non privileged and marginalised sections of the society. Though media has at times successfully played the role of a watchdog of the government functionaries and has also aided in participatory communication, a lot still needs to be done.
Keywords: media, social responsibility, democracy, Indian media, Indian democracy, public sphere
Democracy in general terms is understood to be a form of government which is subject to popular sovereignty. It is essentially a rule by the people which is in contrast to monarchies or aristocracies. One of the crowing glories of the democratic system is the freedom of expression and the space that is provided to views from different sections of the society. A democratic system can run to its utmost potential when there is wide participation on the part the general mass which is not possible without people getting informed about various issues. Reliable 1
information resources are an important constituent of any democratic society (Habermas, 2006). This is where media steps in.
Mass media in its different forms have influenced human life in the present century. They have primarily provided information and entertainment to people across countries. Print media, being the leader over a considerable period of time has now got competition from Television, which is reshaping many of the social responses. Radio apart from providing news and views has also developed a flair for entertainment, thereby getting a lot of acceptance. There is also the new media with internet being its flag bearer. Internet has indeed made it possible to disseminate information and ideas in real time across the globe. However, among all these developments there is a cause of concern. Is media really fulfilling its social responsibility? Is a booming global mass media posing threats to the democratic way of thinking? In it posing challenges to a country like India where media has a greater role to play rather than merely providing information and entertainment?
Media and Social Responsibility: The Normative Argument
The normative view of the press argues that the conduct of the media has to take into account public interests. The main public interest criterions that the media need to consider include freedom of publication, plurality in media ownership, diversity in information, culture and opinion, support for the democratic political system, support for public order and security of the state, universal reach, quality of information and culture disseminated to the public, respect for human rights and avoiding harm to individuals and the society (McQuil, 2005). The social responsibilities expected from media in the public sphere were deeply grounded with the acceptance of media as the fourth estate, a term coined by Edmund Burke in England. With the formation...
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