Ramon Magsaysay award recipient and veteran journalist P Sainath has called for introducing media literacy programme at the school level to make mass media more accountable.
Delivering a lecture on "Emerging trends in the Indian media" at Kurukshetra University on Tuesday, Sainath said in the absence of awareness, people were subjected to rampant misinformation and slanted campaigns in the mass media.
"From advertisements to news contents in electronic and print media, the Indian media has a huge credibility deficit. Therefore, it is important that people since younger age are exposed to look at media critically by understanding the nature, techniques and impact of the mass media," he said at an event organised by the Institute of Mass Communications and Media Technology.
He said that while the digital space was important tool for information dissemination, a user was open to breach of privacy due to its monopolistic policies.
"People should be informed that copyright ceases to exist on various social media platforms as the company policies publicly says that photographs etc posted on it could be used by these corporate for any commercial activity without any prior approval of the one who posted online," he said.
Sainath had rolled out People's Archive of Rural India (PARI) early this year from where people could use the content for non-commercial purposes with a simple acknowledge with the website.
Webportal covers subjects involving near-end tribes, endangered skills and poverty-struck people from stretches of the unexplored and least reported villages.
However, Sainath said that paid news, selective blackouts of news events, massive reduction on news gathering from the spot and reporting without analysis were among the key challenges before the Indian media.
He said that Paranjoy Guha Thakurta had emerged as the best investigative journalist in the past one decade but his book on in-depth probe on Krishna-Godavari gas deal was ignored by the media.
He criticised the television channels for conducting slanted debates on frivolous topics.
"Social reformist Raja Ram Mohan Rai was the first Indian owners of a newspaper called 'Miraat-ul-Akhbar ', a Persian publication founded in 1866 and since beginning his journalism was driven by issues like sati, child marriage, widow re-marriage. But the modern media is discarding prevalent social issues of poor Dalits and tribal community as down market as "it makes no interest in its audience," he said.
Considered as an authority on rural reportage, Sainath said that rural India is such a rich territory to provide rich content for journalism. "Nearly 83.30 crore population lives in villages, who speak in 780 different languages and their issues are completely missed out by the Indian media. In a small village in Tripura, only seven people now speak in 'Saimar', a language bound to die out when its speakers do, leading inevitably to the loss of a generation of tradition, knowledge and native wisdom. Mainstream media must start covering such subjects," he said.
Sainath blamed the Indian media and political class for being indifferent on farmers' suicides.
"As per the official data, more than three lakh farmers committed suicide from 1995-2014 the market-driven Indian media has almost blacked out on it," he said.
He said that biased caste system also reflects in the newsrooms and the Dalits and tribal hardly find any senior positions in the various media setups.
"There is a dire need of democratization of media where women could have an important role at various fronts," he said.
Sainath said that an independent public broadcaster should be promoted to give space to the marginalised sections of the society.