When lines between the social media and mainstream media especially news media are obscured, the audience will find no difference between the two, creating an imbalance in the media ecosystem
Shamim A. Zahedy
What is wrong if a television channel broadcasts a music show performed by none other than the owner of the channel itself and, moreover, who is not an accomplished singer himself or herself?
What is the harm if a television channel only telecasts speeches live by a particular politician, who happens to be the owner of the station?
What is the fault if a newspaper only publishes success stories of a certain business conglomerate, which owns the newspaper?
What is wrong if the media outlets make business with considerable amount of viewership and readership for the coverage of the events in question?
Is all hell breaking loose? Yes. Diluting the dark with the light is a dangerous proposition indeed. It is breaking the system or process, blurring the line between what is acceptable and what is not, obscuring the institutional practice by individual whims, replacing decency with decadence.
There have been many people, men and women, who give a try to their singing and dancing aspirations on social media such as Facebook and Youtube, giving no harm to “accepted media” run by professionals.
There have been so many social media celebrities, sometimes controversial though, for being distinctly different from the mainstream. They are the absolute products of the social media and have no relations whatsoever with the mainstream media.
In Dhaka, at least there is one CEO of a business organization who has acted in a drama based on his personal life. The professionally shot drama starring also his wife was found on social media. It is okay and none can question his integrity for trying his luck in acting. And it is up to the audience whether it likes his drama performance.
Contents in social media often simultaneously created and verified by the same person are left for audience review. In an almost one-man army affair, the content will for sure pass the verification and hit the social media.
Unlike the social media, the traditional or the mainstream media are run by professional editors who in reality allow the audience to read, listen or watch what they deem to be appropriate and proper, like asset managers who manage funds for individuals and organisations, making timely investment decisions on behalf of their clients.
In the cases of the television channel broadcasting its owner’s music show and the other TV station telecasting its owner’s speeches live or the newspaper publishing success stories of the owner’s business conglomerate, the editing and broadcast standards will be compromised.
TV stations do have pre-view committees or broadcast standard cells to endorse any special programme to be aired; newspapers have editorial and ethical standards to follow.
Can the editing and broadcast standards authorities overlook owners’ ‘requests’?
When the mainstream media outlets’ standards are compromised, their status is reduced to the level of mere social media posts.
When lines between the social media and mainstream media especially news media are obscured, the audience will find no difference between the two, creating an imbalance in the media ecosystem comprised of newspapers, radios, televisions and social media apps. That is the danger of blurring all lines.
The fact is that every form of media has its own unique selling proposition, be it print, radio, television and the social apps. And this difference has to be protected to ensure diversity.
Think of the age-old Chinese theory of Yin and Yang. The principle of Yin and Yang, as Ancient History Encyclopedia says, is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light and old-young.
The two ‘opposites of Yin (dark side) and Yang (bright side) attract and complement’ each other, meaning both the sides are dependent on each other.
The black is needed to understand the white, without the white the black will not exist. If there is no ugliness, there will be no beauty; beauty is not beauty if ugliness does not exist. The love exists only because hate exists and vice versa.
Again all the good and bad are not eternal, rather relative, what is good in one society can be regarded as bad in another society. One appreciates a painting while the other disparages the same painting without proving each other wrong or right.
To speak of social media, get one good reason to speak in favour for it. In true sense, social media give voices to the voiceless and underprivileged. Without approaching the bureaucracy anyone can vent his or her opinion: a real freedom. With freedom comes responsibility, though.
Rise of alternative media?
In the times of novel coronavirus global pandemic, when everything is shut because of the lockdown, forcing everyone to stay indoors, many newsmakers such as politicians, sport celebrities, acting icons and political analysts resort to social media to tell their stories.
Even though they can turn to mainstream media, the newsmakers themselves now through their Facebook or Youtube accounts connect to their audience. The contents are genuine and popular.
Bangladesh’s cricketing icon Tamim Iqbal has made a foray into the business of talk show hosting, bringing his fellow cricketer guests from around the world. His audience is glued to mobile phones, computers and big-screen smart TV sets.
Politicians and political analysts are joining the shows hosted by non-mainstream hosts from home and abroad, sometimes speaking their minds about something what they are not ‘allowed in mainstream media’. Audience shows immense interest.
With time passing a new type in the media ecosystem will surely evolve. But the purity of every type of media has to be protected to strike a balance.
The writer is the Executive Editor of The Independent. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
First printed :
30 May, 2020 09:03:06 PM