3rd write-up in the series - MEDIA AND INDIA’S ANTI-CORRUPTION JANLOKPAL MOVEMENT
Continued from: http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/2012/01/media-and-lokpal-anger-and-frustration.html)
MEDIA AND LOKPAL: ‘ANGER AND FRUSTRATION VS OBJECTIVITY’ CONCEDES TO THE MAD RUSH FOR TRPs (
& MEDIA AND INDIA’S ANTI-CORRUPTION JANLOKPAL MOVEMENT (http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/2012/01/media-and-indias-anti-corruption.html)
Some analysts have written about the brilliant media management of Team Anna members but very few wrote on how weak Team Anna has been on the campaign management front. Anna Symbolism that scaled up phenomenally needed a strong support system of committed people to work with and advise Anna Hazare. And most of these had to be social workers from across the India with grassroots lineage. The agenda was to have a transition from media and social media to the ground activity away from the media glare. That did not happen. Anna Hazare looks to have lacked in vision and so his team. Instead of working to have this transition to the next phase, the so-called Team Anna chose to play it more in the virtual workspace of communication platforms thinking they will keep on outsmarting the politicians based on the urban middle class support, the chunk that inhabits the mainstream media psyche in India, the chunk that is not so agog with the theme of following same lineage in the long run.
Poor thinking indeed! And it is ironical given the fact that some of these activists had worked for the RTI Act. Unlike the Lokpal, the RTI was a long fought campaign by the activists and started from a Rajasthan village. The reporting and writing and the fight around the issue began locally, started growing up with the support network of grassroots social workers from other parts and accordingly had a mapped up coverage space in the local media; took decades to grow up in the national conscious (media as well as the people), and so by the time the fight reached to its culmination with the RTI Act in 2005, the awareness was qualitatively significant. RTI Act is a powerful tool today being used even in small town and villages. Why working on this model didn’t come across Arvind kejriwal?
It was indeed a failure by Anna Hazare and his team in relying excessively on media to continue their fight at the stake of the ground work needed to strengthen the movement. Their brilliant media management indeed proved to be an exercise where they made them so easily available to the air waves that it simply resulted in an overdose. Add to it the controversies of Team Anna that followed later on, and we have a perfect recipe of a campaign management disaster. The current episode of the over four decade old Lokpal fight began in Delhi, spread with the youth hooked to the social networking sites, took the urban middle class in its fold by the August 2011 thrust, and is on the way to fizzle out by January 2012.
Days following day of Anna Hazare’s symbolic victory (April 9, 2011 and August 29, 2011) saw a sharp decline in TRPs and share of news channels. It had two direct repercussions. As there was much juice left even in the post-fast proceedings, the media managers had to maintain the high pitch of the coverage. How could it be done? They needed events and reactions. They got that easily thanks to the government and Team Anna.
Government started playing is shoddy dodgy game with backtracking on promises, digging up cases of Team Anna members and a scathing verbal attack by its spokespersons. That prompted Team Anna to engage in the verbal duel and here they lost the edge. The government achieved what it wanted with Team Anna members exceeding their limits while counter-reacting on the allegations.
This rich fodder did help media get eyeballs but it harmed the anti-corruption movement in more than one way.
The sharp decline in the share of news channels just a day after Anna Hazare broke his fasts indicated a sort of fatigue already in the audience. It was indicative that it needed and so the public needed high adrenaline action of twists and turns only when the finality of the fight of the moment was not known. After that when a roadmap was laid, they needed a stable phase of less chaos and more disciplined action to see the groundwork in progress to scale the road that they had helped found. It was more akin to be on the road to build it and they needed sincerity from those whom they had supported irrespective of any considerations. But continued controversies and no extension of the groundwork, being filtered out with minute details through a story hungry media dented much of the goodwill.
What ensued afterwards (post-April 8, 2011 and post August 28, 2011) only eroded the trust base. The overexposure not only added to the fatigue but it also brought before the public the weaknesses of Team Anna. The movement had started with a bang and spread rapidly with word of mouth and media and social media support. But once the chaos of the flying feelings was over, it was all back to the rational thinking and so the mounting glare of scrutiny on Team Anna. No one had doubt about insincerity of the government. That is an established fact in the democratic republic of India. Yes, but the common man needed to know about his new-found group of representatives, the ‘civil society’. And April to August events, if not demoralizing, were not even encouraging.
What saved the face was an idiotic step by the insincere government that arrested Anna Hazare and suddenly there was an outburst of public outrage on this mean attitude by its elected representatives. So it was again on the streets, in the parks. And so were there the omnipresent eyes, the media crusaders.
But there was a vital difference between April 2011 fast and August 2011 fasts, and so between the post-April 8, 2011 and post-August 2011 phases.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/