Md. Shamsul Islam, Executive Editor, Our Time Why we need media watch groups
Aiming at ensuring unbiased media coverage and protecting the citizens from the resultant deception and confusion arising out of certain media coverage, developing media watch groups have now become indispensable for our media industry. This is a real surprise that while the media outlets in our country are flourishing day in day out, no organizations have yet been set up which can help polish the press through providing critical professional and policy advice.
For quite some days, I have been confronting with this issue, tried to highlight it on social media or to a few other academic and professional gatherings. Such groups exist in many countries, including the hoot in our neighboring India, but no such organized groups are found in Bangladesh.
These watch groups keep an eye on the country’s media coverage and educate the audience to use media content diligently. Journalists, on the other hand, also benefit in this way that they remain cautious and get important feedbacks and suggestions.
Take for example the most recent one, what I would call the reporting debacle, when many of our major newspapers confidently published the launching of Bangabandhu-1 satellite without anticipating that the launching might be delayed on technical ground. In reality, it was delayed for one day and the result was: many newspapers were humiliated in the eyes of their readers and were subjected to unprecedented social media troll.
If we take it as a benign case, media’s such negligence – big or small, motivated or not, are not something new in Bangladesh. Media consumers are disappointed and misled in many ways. The absence of any media watch groups, who could initiate concerted campaign to protect audience’s right, has further complicated the situation.
While the satellite channels are booming in terms of their numbers, unfortunately, the viewers of Bangladeshi-made programs are declining considerably. People are hooked on either on foreign channels or on social media. I asked many friends in the media why the people of Bangladesh are reluctant to see our programs and prefer foreign channels which are depleting our cultural authenticity. Interestingly enough, many of them would fail to answer such questions. In fact, we do not also have any answer why a large sum of foreign currency is now channeling out as advertisements to other country’s media or in social media where our own media are struggling.
These issues justify the importance of media watch groups, the presence of which may help identify the shortcomings of media coverage and programs, and can be beneficial for both the audience and journalists.
Sometimes the rivalry between and among the large corporations and business houses influences the media coverage on certain issues, as the media houses have their own financial interests in terms of their ownership and revenue collection. I do not want to name any, but have come to know that some business houses had to incur financial loss when they became the victims to misinformation.
The research done by the university faculty members on media matters may have relevance to influence policy in the longer term perspective. But to make the audience media literate through day-to-day media monitoring, the role of media watch groups is inevitable. We hope that in order to establish a truly democratic media, social scientists and media scholars would come forward to developing such groups to help monitor and identify different irregularities in our country’s media.