National media on Northeast: A case of economics & misplaced priorities

Devastating floods hit Assam ever year, and we, the people of Northeast, are always left outraged by the ignorance of rest of India.

Flood is one of the most severe disasters affecting people across the globe. India is the worst flood-affected country in the world after Bangladesh, and accounts for one-fifth of global death count due to floods. In India, the Northeast faces severe rain-induced natural crisis every single year as the region brace itself for series of floods, landslides and communication collapse. Yet, no one bats an eye. Is it because of our messed-up priorities? But, how do we priorities in the first place?

This brings me to the priority-setting role of the media. The power of news media to set a country’s agenda, to concentrate attention on a couple of key issues, is a colossal and recorded impact. Not only do viewers and readers obtain information about current affairs, but also determine how much significance to attach to an issue based on emphasis placed on it by the media. Daily newspapers give a large group of signs about the importance of a topic: lead story on page one, other front page stories, and so forth. TV news likewise offers various prompts about the nature of importance: the opening story on the broadcast, time allotment given to the story, and so on. This prompts, repeated day-after-day, adequately convey the significance of every subject. In other words, the news media can set the agenda for people; focus the public’s consideration regarding a little group of issues around which public opinion and sentiment forms.

Insurgency is often blamed for the national media’s lack of interest in the Northeast, for there was nothing to write about except insurgency. The insurgency has also summoned fear among individuals that is also one of the reasons why journalists limit to cover the stories related to Northeast.

The Northeast region is encompassed by Himalayan range and small hills. Because of which, the region hasn’t seen much development. The Northeast Indian states have the lowest Gross State Domestic Product (GDSP) among Indian states. This makes the portability of news troublesome. The locale doesn’t have sufficient assets that can truly help transport news due to poor communication and transport facilities.

The metro-driven media has never paid any heed to Northeast, or any other remote parts of India. The national media goes over the edge when a woman is assaulted and raped in the capital, but the rape and murder victim in Manipur never got an equivalent reaction.

Further, it is said that it’s not the media to blame but the lack of marketing opportunities. The media concentrates on just those things which can bring them great viewership and in turn the highest TRP. The most reported issues from the Northeast states include crime, politics, insurgency, disasters, and law and order. With the national media, particularly the English media, losing enthusiasm for crime or human interest stories that don’t concern the wealthy; they intentionally ignore most of the population since it is felt that India’s urban and high society couldn’t care less for such things.

But should this stop the national media from covering the Northeast? As far as I am concerned, no.

About Anamika Shaivya


Anamika Shaivya is an International Relations student at the University of Essex. A student by day and a reader by night. She did her schooling from Guwahati. Find her on twitter here: @anamika_shaivya


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