The aftermath of the Cobrapost sting on multiple media houses has let out the worst kept secret of Indian journalism out in the open. It was not a surprise though, as every sane person living in the country knows that something is wrong with news channels the moment one switches on TV. There has been a transformative shift in the way media channels operate in the last couple of years. Sensationalism is the new norm of prime-time debates, and TRP is the parameter to evaluate the channel’s success. Instead of scrutinising the government’s policies, some anchors (and channels) choose to act as propaganda tools for the government deliberately. Headlines flashed regularly do not just express specific news; instead, they articulate a particular sentiment. Adjectives such as ‘bold’, ‘patriotic’, etc. are used to describe any little decision the government takes. When there is nothing left to defend the government, the channel chooses to entirely ignore the issue at hand, or attack the opposition for no reason. While embedded journalism is the new mantra for success in the Indian media landscape, it has already been highlighted enough by various voices. What is alarming the absolute apathy shown by citizenry when it came to raising their voice when the sting became public.
One would not expect mainstream media to do this job, as in this case, it is itself the culprit. There has not been any trending hashtag in social media that talks about how these channels have sold their soul for monetary benefits. Except for a few digital platforms such as the wire or scroll, no other credible (if there is one) media platform has openly raised its voice for the Cobrapost sting. What is even more shocking is that no political party has raised its concerns after the Cobrapost revelation. As multiple media houses in the videos released, agreed to propagate “soft-Hindutva” for a sum of 25 to 500 crores. While at the face of it this appears to be a massive scam, then why is it not a part of public discourse?
It is hard to find a singular reason that can explain our silence. One factor that contributes to this silence is the way mainstream media functions in India. While in the United States a media channel sometimes brazenly attacks its competitors on various issues. The media in India functions like a cooperative when it comes to catcall each other. I am not suggesting that all media houses are involved in shady deals with one another. There are opposing voices within mainstream channels like Republic Tv if they can be grouped into one such category. This is why channels such as the NDTV which was a media house not named in the Cobrapost sting, has covered this story meekly.
In the end, the credibility of the fourth pillar of democracy is down the drain at this moment. While mainstream media has undoubtedly failed to do its job, the apathy shown by citizenry has sent a clear message; that we do not care. The revelations made Cobrapost’s Operation 136 are just the symptoms, the sickness is the state of our democracy.