LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two- Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “Laws, Public Policy and Media” was held on the 19th of June, 2023 by Shr Udit Mishra, Deputy Associate Editor at The Indian Express.
The chairperson for the programme is Professor Vibhuti Patel, who is a distinguished visiting professor at IMPRI, and Panel expert Shr Udit Mishra.
He speaks about the media landscape that has changed dramatically over the past 2 decades with the advent of social media platforms and most recently artificial intelligence. With these new forms of media taking centre stage, previously popular forms of media such as magazines, have been largely discarded as sources of news or information.
He even mentioned the reduced dependence on TV news with time, and more emphasis on social media platforms for regular news updates such as Twitter. The advancements in artificial intelligence, he states, would seriously affect media outlets and the role they play in influencing public policy.
His complaint with the media in contemporary times is its shift in focus away from reporting facts, and towards influencing opinion which ultimately results in a change in government. Mr Mishra expresses his dissatisfaction with those media persons who try to shoulder the responsibility of changing governments as the hallmark of responsible journalism, whereas the only pursuit of the profession is to report facts as they are.
He mentions the role that media plays in reporting ground realities by going to various places, but sometimes in the pursuit of sensationalism, the credibility of such stories becomes questionable. In the wake of this era of fake news and sensationalism, Mr Mishra encourages fact checking and reading sources and understanding credibility better.
Professor Vibhuti Patel then posed a question to Mr Mishra about the role of news media and media outlets in electoral politics and the subsequent effect they have on election results. He acknowledges that the media plays a vital role in influencing public opinion, and not adhering to its noble aim of serving the public interest. The term public interest itself is multifaceted, but he argues that it means to largely pursue the welfare of most people. Often times however, he points out, that the interest of small lobby groups are served at the expense of the larger public.
Regardless of personal opinions and ideologies, he states that interacting with the public on this stage has no room for subjectivity, only facts. And often, the business-like environment in which media outlets are run, there is hardly any room for objective reporting, as these truths are often not conducive to hear. He emphasizes on reducing the sensationalism aspect of news reporting by being more proactive, but today’s media is more focused on reactive news stories which go back and forth but fail to address pressing issues.
Along the same lines, he mentions how the media has been misguiding the public as to what the underlying issues are, but not addressing or acknowledging them. Taking the example of the Nirbhaya case of 2012, he mentioned how the media focused on the incident in isolation, but did not touch upon the underlying policies which could take effect in preventing such incidents, it instead only focused on punishment instead of prevention as well.
He mentioned certain statistics about the labour force participation rate of women, and its decline since 2004, which he stated could be one of the reasons why women’s issues are not proactively raised and addressed. Issues such as street lighting, better quality public transport and education also need fixing, which would ultimately result in a reduction in such incidents. These issues should be addressed more often by the media, not just as a reaction to incidents but also proactively.
Mr Mishra speaks about the importance of public policy and public sector undertakings in the functioning of the economy, giving the example of public sector banks which have the most amount of branches, ATMs, loans to the agricultural sector, and further credit dispersed by them for infrastructure projects across the country. These important social welfare functions are provided largely by the public sector companies, whereas the private sector has greater focus on increasing efficiency and profitability.
Another very important point was touched upon by him, wherein he mentioned the subsidies received by Indian farmers as part of social security schemes in the country are merely ‘band-aids’. This means that while the underlying farmer distress problem continues to grow, the temporary and surface level solution is to offer meager amounts of stipends on a monthly basis. These amounts are low, and only manage to keep the farmer waiting for the next cheque instead of a concrete long-term solution.
Arjun is a research intern at IMPRI.
Youtube Video of Inaugural session for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship Programme: https://youtu.be/fT0XLKGJ6LY
Read more session reports for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship: