Friday, June 18, 2004

Media as a Business

On one of the forums, we were having this discussion about how manistream media often misleads its readers. Someone countered, that since media is a business, it will "naturally" first focus on serving its masters/shareholders...

The following is what came to my mind - thoroughly enjoyed writing this scenario:))

"...should I believe the fanciful role of media/press as an "institution" which upholds/ protects the basics of the society - or be realistic and accept that it is just another "business" which takes care of its shareholders/masters by serving the more lucrative customer segment??

While the former is what it was meant to be (a pretty archaic concept, actually), the latter - media as business - holds so much more potential to think and write about. I mean, if media is a business, it will really blossom if it really gets designated as a 'business'. The potential - and entertaining - ramifications will be immense:)... it will be great fun!!

For instance, if media is designated as a business, it will surely ensure the transparency of motives behind a news, if not the transparency of contents. So:

- since "news" will become a consumable "information" product, then like any other consumable item, it will become mandatory to describe its ingradients (like on a bottle of coke - how much sugar, caffein, etc.). So before actually watching/reading the news, we, the consumers, will know percentage-wise ingradients - facts, opinions, deceptions, sensationalism, etc. - the "news capsule" contains:0)... the media companies will be able to offer the customer (who is the king) a variety of choices, such as "low-facts/high-sensation" news or "customised-to-your-prejudices" news or "only-for-the-feeble-minded" news etc.

- there will be no need to unnecessarily get constrained by factual details in generating the news (imagine the launch of a news media channel/newspaper: "Bringing To You, First Time In The World, "The Synthetic News"!!" - wow! what a breakthrough!!!)... and the regulatory authorities (e.g., FCC and Prasar Bharti, etc.) will be able to issue A/U/X kind of certificates (as they do for the movies) to news, e.g., "not recommended for secular/ activists/ republicans/democrats, etc." kind of certificate. There can also be disclaimers to news such as: "This presentation by Collin Powell to the UN Security Council is based on "intelligence" supplied by CIA/ Pentagon - any resemblence to reality is purely coincidental" etc. In fact, there can even be Statutary Warnings: "Watching this News Item is Injurious to your Pre-conceived Notions."

- more entreprepreurial and innovative media companies will be able to make and supply customised news. Depending on customer choice, like the toppings on the pizza or concoctions at Starbuck, if one wants Iraq "liberated", you get it; if you want it "invaded" that is also in the menu;)... and even WMDs can be made to be found, if that is what the customer wants!!!... Other businesses (e.g., governments, etc.) will be able to sponsor the news (or even do co-branding), e.g., the whole world can be shown to survive only on Coke or Pepsi - Similarly, NGOs will need to sponsor (if they have money) the news that 2/3 of the mankind does not have drinking water... etc. etc.
[the greatest advantage of this kind of arrangement will be that all these objections about the "integrity" of news media will become a non-issue;0)]

- Just to complete the scenario, this whole thing can be facilitated by Ministry of Truth, which will give "1984 George Orwell Awards" to the most successful channels...

...Coming to think of it, much of this is already happening, though stealthily, since unnecessary moral/ regulatory restictions are being placed on the entrepreneurial spirit of the media companies...

what we need is greater deregulation of the media industry, and let the market drive the media... "