Media – Fourth Pillar of Democracy or a Pet Dog of TRP?

Do you know which hospital Amitabh Bachchan was taken to or what color of clothes he was wearing when he tested positive for COVID-19? Do you also know what drugs Deepika Padukone and other Bollywood actresses were taking? Well, of course, you do! Otherwise, how will the media do justice as the fourth pillar of democracy? 

Judiciary, Legislative, Executive, and Media are considered to be the four pillars of democracy. It was Thomas Carlyle who called media the ‘Fourth Estate of the Realm.’ Media, being the fourth pillar of democracy helps in delivering all the information to people with respect to the state.

In layman’s terms, media is a bridge between people and state, its main objective is to inform the public about all the activities happening around the world. It enlightens us about all the diverse social, political, and economic activities happening around the world and acts like a mirror that shows us the bare truth and harsh reality of life.

But wasn’t the news media, be it in print, TV, or radio style, concerned with educating viewers of impartial news without censorship or manipulation? Instead what we observe these days is media’s yet another attempt to achieve higher TRP. It is rightly said that media is a two sides weapon. An accountable media can raise the nation to heights by providing robust support for its growth, whereas, an unaccountable media can cause turmoil in society. 

Role of Media in generating Public Opinion

India is a democratic country where the media plays an important role. It indeed is a modular and mirror of vox populi, meaning the voice of the people. With media, it has become a lot easier for anyone to gather information on public issues and personalities which include politicians, celebrities, and individuals involved in the entertainment industry, and because people like to add that extra spice in their lives they form personal opinions based on what was brought to their knowledge. But media does have a positive impact on public opinions or at least it was seen in the movement led by Anna Hazare. The Indian media willingly became a party, or rather a partner in the Jan Lokpal Bill campaign such that the channels started offering Anna Hazare intense coverage.

It is necessary for the media to report in a fair and impartial manner. They can understand the consequential significance of events taking place around them and report problems with an unbiased and dispassionate form. Thus, it is important for them to put all facets of events to the notice of the public. Ignoring the same results in considerable harm to society, as covering some aspect of the tale contributes to the development of incorrect and prejudicial public opinion.

Media hardly a Watchdog; A flawed Fourth Pillar

Jim Morrison once said that whoever controls the media, controls the mind. This quote never made more sense until today. The media which is actually known as a watchdog has now turned into a pet dog waiting for the bone. For Indian media, taking advantage of an actor’s untimely death is more important than a quarterly GDP decline of (-23) during the pandemic. For Indian media, what drugs Rhea Chakraborty was dealing with is more important than the nation’s growth.

Today, generating TRP has become more important than democratic rights and health issues. Interestingly, burning issues like the sinking economy, arbitrary actions of the governments, questionable verdicts, coronavirus pandemic, and national security have become less important. 

You switch on your television and realize that there seems to be no COVID-19 pandemic, no one has managed to invade our territory and obviously, India is doing too well with the economy and crime rates, isn’t it?

There were days when our default channel to watch the news was Doordarshan, but today we are spoilt for options. It is always better to choose quality over quantity, but can someone help the news channels understand this? In order to reach a higher TRP, to attract more audience, and eventually raise more revenue, these channels have neglected journalism ethics. In a quest to achieve higher TRP, news channels have willingly agreed to promote their paid ideology. 

The question is why do we have legislative bodies when the media has to give their own judgment? 

In accordance with the due process of law, a person accused of any crime shall be punished only after a due investigation has been carried out, but what we see is that the news channels have themselves become the investigating officer and the judge. For example, in the case of the late actor, Sushant Singh Rajput channels like Aaj Tak, R Bharat, and others have accused Rhea Chakraborty of doing black magic on the deceased.

Source – TSP YouTube Channel

Ironically, Raja Rubbish Kumar (name changed) out of nowhere decides to interview Rhea Chakraborty and air that interview on channels like Aaj Tak and India Today. What for? For enlightening people with Rhea’s side of the story or to manipulate people and generate TRP? Well, it is for you to decide. 

Funny is when media for the sake of generating TRP chooses to publish stories when Muslims die in riots, but at the same time fails miserably to do the same when two Sadhus and their driver were lynched in the Palghar district of Maharashtra on 16th April 2020. Let’s not forget the 26/11 attack and how Burkha Bhutt (name changed) sensationalized the events and put lives at risk by identifying on live television where the hotel guests might be located. Media houses have stooped so low that they are willing to risk national security and privacy

Corruption in Indian media in recent years has reached far beyond the corruption by particular journalists and media organizations. Newspaper publishing houses, TV news channels accept grants to print or broadcast information in favor of specific individuals. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that journalism in our country is facing a major crisis. The media houses have taken a corporate turn in the race of sensationalism and TRP. Compliments to the media house for they’ve made people like Azaadi Kumar of JNU (name changed) and CD Patel of INC (name changed) a night-time star. News that benefit in generating TRP are shown in multiple loops, while the news that actually deserves the public’s attention is ignored. When it comes to coverage, the media gets selective. Pratyusha Banerjee’s suicide was considered more important for TRP than Assam’s floods. 

News channels manipulate the facts and present them in such a manner that they attract more responses as hate and negativity are sold faster than truth and positivity. Over the years, power and money have become an important factor, a person in power holds control over the news. Unfortunately, the media, as the country’s political fragmentation, is also split into anti-government, pro-government, and rightist groups, with each entity attempting to force its own partisan viewpoints on serious national problems and sometimes resorting to the grim work of its rivals.

The growth of the media has led to the narrowing of the public domain, resulting in the dissemination of elitist views. The Indian media has now become the government’s B squad. It is able to create such pranks in society and to enliven the already charged climate of political war games. As hard as it is to imagine, basic media awareness of personalities is the main thing that drives elections.

Some tough questions that we should ask today from ourselves and from the sure, there are standout moments, there are some excellent journalists, extremely competent and skilled editors, and outstanding journalists, but the smoke of TRP-driven media seems quite speedy to cover up the bright side of Indian media.

There are questions that all of us need to ask from ourselves and the media, such as-

  • In the past decade, how much has the media helped to educate viewers about the critical topics that matter?
  • Has the method of reasoning of people been democratic or regressive?
  • Is the media-driven by TRP losing its higher moral grounds and compromising on ethics?
  • Is the Indian media really autonomous?

Since when did the allegiance to the master become more important than the loyalty to the country and its people? Since when did allegiance to the lord becomes more important to the country and its people than loyalty? The questionnaire would only get lengthier and heavier if were to debate. But, since we are not competent enough to yell and threaten on national television, we cannot debate. We cannot argue, because for us poor matter and not affluent. 

We aren’t talking about political parties but about our country and thus, we cannot debate. It is difficult to argue that the stature of the Indian media has sunk like a pack of cards.

It is easy to jump to conclusions and before you jump to any conclusion concerning this matter, recall what happened when you turned on your TV to watch the news, did you appreciate the fanaticism, the commotion, and the actions on the news channels? Or did you manage to change the channel and the medium of entertainment? Is it really the national media that needs to be blamed here? 

Because if you joined in the fun, you sure have to share the blame. An increase in viewership and TRP is why these news channels are able to retain such content. For every evil there is a good, for every seller, there is a buyer, therefore it is necessary to evaluate ourselves first as the change begins from within and one cannot sell things that do not have buyers. 


The fourth pillar of democracy is Media. It is like a mirror that uncovers the exposed reality and brutal elements of life. 

Indian media’s worst kept secret is that the TRPs can be and are fixed. But this unethical trend has spread so far and wide that today switching on our TV to watch the news has proven to be a curse. Distortion in viewership patterns has led to the content crisis in no small measure. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that TRP manipulation is now a criminal investigation, that we desperately need a news ecosystem that is free of the toxic daily diet of deception and defamation, of violence and character assassination.

Know that TV news isn’t a big boss reality news show where the worst behaved person manages to win. Nor can a news studio become a courtroom where the anchor is either a judge, lawyer, or an executioner. What we need is a clean- up and this involves news measurement systems too. True TRP is equivalent to television’s respect points, which is earned by doing solid fact-based journalism. 

The questions that lie in all our minds is where is the Media that served as a watchdog of the government and carried out every update of the actions of the state, keeping us well aware of the day to day activities that took place in and around them? Where is the media that reported on issues such as abortion, child care, domestic abuse, and sexual harassment? It’s about time the media starts working for the people and not for generating TRP ratings. 

Editor’s Note
Media as the watchdog has played an important role in every democracy in the world, and more so in India, the largest democracy in the world. Throughout history, media has been recognized as influential, patriotic, and trustworthy in the socio-economic, and political climate of the nation. However, with the growth of TRP and the paid news environment in the recent few years, people’s trust in media has taken a significant hit. This article discusses the outreach of crony-capitalism in the media (for example: taking money or favors from corporate houses, government, political parties, big organizations, etc.), and how it is destroying the professionalism and ethics of journalism.