India rightly congratulates itself on its dogged free press, which in many ways is superior to America's these days, though the latter is feted more often. But it occurred to me today that we may be missing the point. If the point of the free press in a democracy is to educate the people so that they can vote, our focus on the English-language media (OK - I concede that maybe it's MY focus, hence the title of this post) is misguided: Essentially, it's like looking at the Atlantic, the New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books to talk about the state of the media in America. Because just as those hallowed intellectual rags don't reach the heartland, India's English-language press doesn't reach the voters.
America's intellectual press -- even a comparatively "mass" market outfit like the New York Times -- recognizes this, so it spends a good amount of its time and space analyzing and deconstructing the real mass media. But India's myopic focus on its tiny middle class (not intellectual, but also not important as a voting bloc) has prevented any attention from falling on the sources of information that "the people" do receive.
So, my question is: What's happening on Hindi TV?
I'm the wrong person to write this, because I don't understand enough Hindi to tell you. But my impression from the bits and pieces of conversations I've listened to -- mostly from people who hardly watch Hindi news, either -- is that the Hindi channels cover most of the same stories that the English channels cover, only with a slightly more salacious style, and perhaps a few less scruples. I'm curious whether someone can tell me, however, if the Hindi channels do anything different on issues like the killer Blueline buses--where English TV just tries to jerk our heartstrings for the poor folks who get run down. Apparently it is common knowledge that these buses are owned by mafia types with connections within the government -- ripe fodder for investigative journalism if I ever heard it -- but when the English press decides this is worth looking into, nobody really cares, because the readers of the English press don't ride the bus and don't vote in large enough numbers to matter. If the same thing was divulged on Hindi TV night after night, including the names and addresses of bus companies and their political patrons, I suspect matters might be different.
Then again, maybe that's happening already. If so, I'd like to know about it.