Media plays vital role in a democratic country like India where public opinion has a major aspect. Media is considered to be the fourth pillar of the society, the other three being, legislative, executive and the judiciary system. It is even said to be a ‘mirror’ and ‘moulder’ of public opinion. In other words, we may say that the public replicates or follows as well as accumulates opinions and decisions through the media and the information displayed by it. People not only obtain real information about public matters from the news media, but also pick up how much prominence to assign to a subject on the basis of the highlighting and priority given to it in the news.
Internet including e-mails and blogs, television, radio and newspapers play a significant role in the formation of outlooks and opinions of the general public. News media highlights the personalities (politicians, people involved in film industry and other celebrities) and issues and common man believes and forms opinion about them according to the news. Today’s picture of media is entirely different. Public can talk about the incidents happening not only in the country but also outside the geographical boundaries only due to awareness created by media.
Media also plays a crucial role in enlightening and educating the people. It can aid public involvement through advocating issues and educating the people. It can aid public involvement through advocating issues and transferring knowledge, skills and technologies to the people. Awareness about various rural development programmes, propagation of family planning etc. could be spread easily by using the media. Media awaken people against many evils prevailing in the society. Apart from this, it covers many students in a single platform through its educational programmes. The impact of media can be seen on the youth also. Youth’s exposure to media has increased evidently in past few years.
The usage of personalised forms of media, comprising text messages and social networking sites has exponentially expanded. It is also contributing to greater awareness of political issues and prospects for public activities. Today individuals not only get information about government from news and websites but also respond by posting their opinions on the news and initiate discussions on various forums or joining groups. They are at ease in forming their opinion about any incident evenly as they learn about them in detail through the media.
We can very well see the positive effect of media on public opinion as media played a significant role in pacing up the movement led by Anna Hazare. Round the clock coverage and upholding the pitch, media ensured that the protests occur throughout the country and there is a mass rage and frenzy. TV and newspapers were noticeably the driving force behind the anti-corruption movement. The Indian media voluntarily became a party, a sort of participant in the drive for Jan Lokpal Bill. It is true that channels have given extreme coverage to Anna Hazare but that’s what happens in case of all major movements.
At the same time, it is important for media to report in a fair and unbiased manner. They should apprehend the consequential importance of events happening around and report issues in an impartial and dispassionate manner. Media should bring all aspects of incidents before the public. Ignoring this point of conduct will lead to severe damage to democracy as hiding any part of the story results in creation of wrong and prejudicial public opinion. For instance, some channels start showing such scenes and images, which are of no importance and have an adverse effect on the mind of viewers. Few media groups have even started daring to produce news on their own. Media often use the phrase ‘from highly placed sources’ to give things a realistic shade.
It is thus important to understand that media plays a crucial role in generating public opinion. It affects the mindset of people and hence it should present the matter in an unbiased way. The information through the media reaches door to door and hence it is the social and moral responsibility of them to present a factual and authentic picture of any incident, without thinking much about money making or profit generation. With such a huge responsibility towards the people, media should be more impartial, sensible and alert instead of just a casual approach towards an event because it is they on whom the general public relies for true information.