The heat and dust of elections 2014 seem to have caused many people to completely lose their perspective, not least the media. Over the last few days, we have seen the amazing spectacle of a disproportionate amount of time being expended on the issue of a senior politician’s impending nuptial plans with a former television anchor. The media was abuzz at the propriety or otherwise of this, just as it did over the completely irrelevant issue of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’s marital status. If that was not bad enough, we saw an amazing spat over whether Narendra Modi had actually likened Priyanka Gandhi to his daughter in an interview. Sinister motives were discerned in the fact that this portion was deleted by the State broadcaster. Ms Gandhi replied with the rather obvious fact that she was the daughter of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The media then read many subtle and not-so-subtle nuances into this statement. And it does not end there.
In reply to Mr Modi having said that he used to be on good terms with the political secretary to UPA chairperson and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, the latter went blue in the face saying that he had but a passing acquaintance with the Gujarat CM. Again, the State broadcaster was accused of having engaged in dirty work at the crossroads. It beggars belief that the media, instead of focusing on the ethnic killings in Assam or the aftermath of the Chennai blasts, or indeed the more substantive issues in this election, chose to pick up these non-issues and run with them. It amounts to a waste of time and space and is to insult the intelligence of the public. In the case of Mr Patel, it is entirely possible that the political secretary to the chairperson of the coalition in governance is required to speak, indeed fraternise, with various chief ministers. But the media have attached such importance to Mr Patel’s denial that the whole thing sounds suspicious.
Granted the media have often been made a scapegoat by politicians. But its principal role is to guide the public towards a greater understanding of the real issues of the day instead of frittering away valuable time by focusing on such trivia. They are not short of subjects that they need to do this. The media have no business to accuse the political establishment of trivialising public discourse, as is often the case, when they themselves are willing and active parties to this. This will do nothing for the media’s credibility in the long run.