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The Financial Express

OPINION

Survival of media


Survival of media

Female journalists see attacks as part of the job, according to a new study, based on interviews with 32 print and broadcast journalists. Asked about emotional reactions they feel when faced with harassment, the women journalists 'tended to say they felt fear, anxiety, and alarm'. The study was conducted by a teacher at the University of Alabama, the US, not in Bangladesh.

In our case, the core issues of journalism as a profession are conspicuously ignored, excepting some public concern expressed through the social media. There is a gulf of difference between the level of professionalism practised at home and how the Bangladesh media is perceived abroad.

This year, the country's ranking has dropped 10 spots to the 162nd position among 180 nations in the Free Media Index prepared by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.

Such external reports, apart from allegations of shrinking space for the media, often give birth to polarised debates on the freedom of the media. And the discussion on the actual state of the media industry and challenges of journalism today ends there.

We've not come across any research or in-depth study - either by media houses or by journalism schools - on why the print newspapers are losing readers and television channels, viewers specifically in the Bangladesh context.

Only global trends and technology, especially smartphone and networking platforms, are blamed, somewhat thoughtlessly, for the decline of the local media. Neither has any exercise been done to find out ways and means to help the media outlets to sustain economically and otherwise.

The discussion of media sustenance has been rather limited to appeal for public sector revenue support and assistance to what is ignominiously called Dustho Sangbadik (destitute journalists).

That is simply not understandable. A newsman is also a bread earner, if s/he is really so, alongside his/her status as a dignified person belonging to 'the best profession in the world'. Something that makes good journalists is lost somehow in our industry.

Even if the external criticisms are entirely ruled out, be it done purposefully, still there are issues facing the media that are not dissected at least for stocktaking of the local industry.

If the people have lack of trust in the media, how could that media expect its commercial viability (without serving its audience satisfactorily)? The question as to why readers and viewers are turning their faces away from the Bangladesh media is yet to be seriously asked.

If the media practitioners can't ask whether the political process or a competitive corporate world would benefit from a weak media, how could journalists and their readers deserve a better situation?

How digital transformation of contents and ads threatens the conventional media is an issue, which, as if, should be resolved by the beneficiaries of the uneven media landscape.

The victims need to raise their voice but it's not possible for the media alone to ask the platforms, which distribute news contents produced by media organisations, to share ad revenue proportionately.

Each nation including the one here must have legal and technological preparedness to compel the platforms not to act as big fish but to play fairly in the national market so that the mass media don't die.

Some governments elsewhere have already taken measures to ensure compliance of the giants with the laws of the land or the bloc like European Union.

In Bangladesh, there has been an indifferent mood prevailing among the journalists for quite some time about the prospects of the media and even future of the profession.

However, the frustration, barely ventilated formally at home, remains a table talk at the newsroom or conversations between friendly professionals. Unfortunately, the collective inaction to stop the decline of the media appears to be a passive hara-kiri.

So, people may be requested to express their views of the media, list a few reasons for the current situation and recommend a set of remedial measures. Solutions may come from those who need the media.

After all, journalism is not any isolated profession of coterie interest while readers and viewers have something to say. Historically dubbed the fourth estate, the media can't survive unless other organs of the state functions independently.

 

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