CAPITALIST MEDIA : MYTH AND REALITY

There are four main factors that influence the content of mainstream capitalist media in our time . The interests of the private investor or the owner , the interests of major advertisers who help the media to generate profit , the interests of official and non official sources of news and last but not least , the personal tastes, political , social and cultural biases of the journalists. Also influencing the selection and display of news is what has hitherto been considered and published as news by the capitalist media .

The commercial mainstream media is a product of the development of printing technology as a part of the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the early nineteenth century. Since then , breakthroughs in Technology have produced Radio , Television and now the Cyber Media . But whatever be the nature of the mass media,the basic factors that influence commercial media content have not changed in any significant way .It continues to be profit driven , perspective driven and precedent driven. They therefore remain basically anti – working class and anti communist.The ‘paid journalism” currently being discussed in India is only a demonstration of the crudest form of capitalist media practice .

The alternative media that supports the working class and other anti – capitalist forces can not match at present the t commercial corporate mass media in either resources or reach. The massive investment needed for starting media establishments and the huge readership/viewership with high purchasing power that bring in high advertisement revenue are still beyond the capacity of the alternative media. That is why there is increasing monopoly trend , both horizontal and vertical in the capitalist media itself . When even small capitalist players can not survive in the media world, one can imagine the heavy odds faced by a communist daily Deshabhimani and a progressive TV news channel like People.

The Internet offers a a limited democratic space for alternative media through individual bloggers , progressive chat groups and e publications .In former Soviet Union and Socialist Eastern Europe and in existing Socialist countries like China , North Korea etc, the ruling party held / hold the monopoly of the mass media . This does not provide a real sustainable alternative to the capitalist media, especially in a country like India where the working class and its leading political contingent , the CPI(M) is committed to freedom of the press and multi party democratic government.

All this does not mean that we have to sit idle before conditions for the overthrow of capitalism mature . There is also something progressive in the historical evolution of the capitalist media which we can take advantage of to interrogate hegemonic media practices and also develop alternatives to it . The concept of ” LEGITIMACY ” has played a key role in the present day capitalist media . To win the trust of the largest audience that include oppressed workers,the media owners and news managers had created the institution of the ‘ independent ” Editor and ‘professional ‘ journalists who were supposed to deliver objective and balanced reports unaffected by the four influences described at the beginning of this note .

This attempt to win legitimacy has turned out to be a myth. The diversity of perspectives and opinions that the ” free ” capitalist media promise never materializes. For instance ,a newspaper like Malayala Manorama claiming to be independent will not permit publication of a report or analysis that will help the CPM.There is a growing homogenization of the anti CPM media in Kerala though each TV channel / Newspaper claims to be free and independent. Most mainstream capitalist newspapers and TV channels are speaking in one voice against the CPI(M). If you do not read the Deshabhimani or watch People TV channel regularly , even a CPM sympathizer is likely to be brainwashed into supporting the RSS or the UDF.

Yet as already hinted , the self professed claims of “independence ” and “objectivity” and ” balance” and “accuracy” by the capitalist media give us an opportunity to critique them from the side of the people ,even as we try to improve the content and increase the reach of anti capitalist publications like the Deshabhimani , Deshabhimani Weekly , Chintha Peoples Democracy , The Marxist ,Yuva Dhara and Student. We should also develop media awareness and media literacyespecially among students , youth and women .

We should also in the specific context of Kerala work side by side for the organizational strengthening and electoral success of the CPI(M) without which all the efforts at media criticism and building up of an alternative media will turn out to be a mere academic exercise.

N. Madhavan Kutty