Thiruvananthapuram: Even as the three pillars of democracy -- legislature, executive
and judiciary -- come under routine scrutiny and churning, the
fourth estate in Kerala, however, has few occasions to look inward
In the country's most literate state, there are frequent
complaints of laxity in the media, of falling standards. With
television growing in leaps and bounds, there is a proliferation
of sources of information and entertainment. The rigour of
reporting and depth of analysis have however eroded.
The thumb rule remains that age old adage: "The early bird catches
As the size of the media industry swells, there is also greater
concern for bottom lines.
There was a time when the newspapers in the state could be counted
on the fingers of one hand; no more so. The finer aspects of
journalism have taken a back seat, as the number of journalists
There are now four national English newspapers with local editions
here; more than a dozen Malayalam newspapers vie for readership,
and there is also a phenomenal growth in the number of television
channels. Close to a dozen TV channels engage in stiff competition
to grab eyeballs.
The advertisement pie, the major revenue source for the media, has
unfortunately not grown in tandem with the growth in the media
As across the country, the print media is forced to take a back
seat because erstwhile readers are now mostly viewers, getting all
their news reports from TV rather than the morning newspaper.
There is 'breaking news', 'exclusives' and the so called 'impact'
of the earlier 'breaking' or 'exclusive' news, running in loops
through the day. Critics point out that the fundamentals of
journalism have been ignored, as TV journalists engage in fierce
Only recently, a TV channel aired a private conversation of a
retired judge in a controversial case, raising a hornet's nest.
While the matter then provided fodder for the Left opposition's
attack, there was surprisingly little comment on the propriety of
airing a private opinion, and the culpability of the media in such
There are debates galore on TV - the Malayalee is known to be
loquacious. The debates however appear a little skewed, as a news
item could find the time dedicated to it to be disproportionate to
its importance; or an item of public interest might get little
Invited guests sometimes have to hammer their point home, as
anchors rush to silence them with the mandatory commercial break
or warning of time constraints. Guests who differ with the anchor
may be taken off the air quickly, or barraged with loaded
The anchor has the last word, silencing the whole debate with the
plea that time has just run out.
Politicians across different parties complain that TV channels
routinely edit their speeches to make them rather more 'juicy'.
Controversy rules. TV footage thus serves up more heat than light
on any issue.
As the electronic media steals the thunder from print media,
newspapers too are learning a new set of tricks.
There are now more exhaustive reports and greater attention to
news analyses. Newspaper editors function with the certainty that
the readership need not be informed through the newspaper, as TV
and internet have already performed that task by the time the
newspaper arrives in the morning.
Newspapers in the state thus lay greater emphasis on news from the
smaller towns, and display large, attractive pictures.
Most newspapers also have a daily special supplement with city
news, richly illustrated. News reports are written lucidly,
jocularly and with empathy.
Readers have been taking to the social media to express their
opinions on the media in the state, and many of the opinions
expressed are far from being positive.
As the situation appears to be one of flux with little reason to
think much change will happen in the near future, there is need
for introspection. While being fast with the news, it is important
for the media to also reflect what is accurate, without being
Kerala has a mature readership accustomed to in-depth analysis.
Without much-needed introspection, there is likelihood that the
credibility of the whole industry will take a drubbing, from which
it would be hard to recover.
Sanu George is Kerala correspondent of IANS. The views expressed
here are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.