Thanks to media the middle class is far more involved in public protests than ever before. SMSes, candlelight vigils, online petitions have become the new way to participate in a protest. Though earlier in public protests media coverage did matter but its role is paramount today.
The trend started recently when in February, as news of the acquittal of all accused in the Jessica Lall case spread, middle class did something new. When a TV news channel asked people to send SMSes in protest of this mockery of justice, thousands of people from across the nation sent overpriced SMSes to four digit commercial numbers in protest. Even the print media played an important role by following on these stories and keeping the middle class engaged. And even Bollywood played a part! The movie Rang De Basanti persuaded the youngsters to get out of their house and protest for a cause. A month after the release of the film, a crowd gathered at New Delhi's India Gate to protest against justice denied in Jessica Lall case and held a candlelight vigil, a la Rang de Basanti.
This trend is certainly on the upswing, it started with protests against the injustice in the Jessica Lall case and since then, the middle class and the youth have used protests as the new way of forcing the government to give in to their demands. However, though the media has mobilized the masses to fight for their cause, at the same time it can be seen that today the protests have become more about attracting the media. Almost every cause that has an effect on the public has received coverage from the media. In fact, protests are becoming more inventive. Face painting and artfully designed placards make for striking images on the TV screen and photo features in the media. If the celebrities can be roped in, it almost always ensures a front-page photograph in leading daily newspapers, and TV coverage by news-hungry 24x7 news channels. But only the protests which use publicity attract the media. During the storm of media reports around the anti-quota issue, while student doctors and engineers garnered all the headlines and front-page photographs, it was rare to see any coverage at all of the demonstrations carried out in favor of quotas for OBCs.
But i wonder has the media really brought the otherwise indifferent middle class to fight for their rights? And what about the biased role of media-why do only high profile cases arouse media’s interest? And is media actually supporting the public cause or are these just the new ways of sensationalism and garnering more readerships?