Oppn boycott: A wake up call for the media

| SEPTEMBER 18, 2023, 12:10 AM IST

The INDIA bloc of Opposition parties earlier this week formally announced that they would be boycotting and refusing to take part in debates run by TV channels that they have perceived to be partisan and decidedly biased towards the ruling party and its agenda. The move has set off an intense debate especially among journalism circles especially at the national level that have termed the move variously as being undemocratic, of an attack on the freedom of the Press as well as an attack on the freedom of speech in the country.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera went on to say that the ‘boycott’ was more of a non-cooperation movement against the said TV channels and countered criticism by saying that the party, unlike the ruling government in certain instances, wasn’t really stopping anyone from doing anything or taking any journalists’ rights to express their views, but was instead only deciding not to participate in a game where the dice is clearly loaded against them.

Looked through this lens, it is difficult to see how the decision by the joint Opposition block parties is any kind of assault on a democracy or a democratic institution and anyone who argues otherwise is being insincere. A political party or a group of political parties’ decision to participate or not participate in a debate on a TV channel is their prerogative and in refusing to participate, they are sending out a message that they do not wish to give the platform the false sense of impartiality that they are seeking by inviting a member from the Opposition to be part of the debate.

Several channels have been indulging not only in impartial debates that only seek to amplify agendas and government’s point of view while also in some cases indulging in hate speech without any consequences.

The Opposition’s decision not to participate is akin to refusing to play a game where the referee does not believe in fair play or in a contest where the prize selection process is pre-decided to favour certain contestants. The party that refuses to participate may stand to lose whatever little chance they have of winning the contest and giving the Opposition a walkover, and making them vulnerable to the charge that they are refusing to participate because they cannot win. However, more than that it delegitimizes the contest and thereby ensures that the platform loses value.

It is this feeling that has left the TV hosts worried that even the pretense of credibility and of being a fair platform that their shows had is no longer there. In fact most sections of people have been expressing disapproval of TV debates and shows that are reduced to shouting matches leaving the viewer clueless and confused.

TV networks and hosts need to introspect and use the boycott as an introspection opportunity to regain some of their lost credibility by being impartial in the true sense and doing what news media is supposed to do -- hold power to account and be a sensible watchdog instead of running campaigns and agendas.

Share this