Western media news hegemony is undermining India/Global South

The colonial physical boundaries may have disappeared for India and much of the Global South. But when it comes to delivering the international news globally, a small number of western-based and oriented news organizations essentially have a colonial-like control. It is far from helpful in getting a factual, non-biased and meaningful analysis out to the […]

The colonial physical boundaries may have disappeared for India and much of the Global South. But when it comes to delivering the international news globally, a small number of western-based and oriented news organizations essentially have a colonial-like control. It is far from helpful in getting a factual, non-biased and meaningful analysis out to the world and even to Indians themselves on their country. Additionally, the Modi government, despite its stellar successes has especially been the unwarranted target too often from this western media hegemony that at times shows a shallowness and real lack of understanding or sufficient concern of the nation’s true political, multicultural, religious, security and economic needs and perspectives and enough context. It is due time for meaningful steps to push more concretely for a global media that better parallels developments in multipolarity..

How bad is this problem? Turn on just about any cable connected TV anywhere in the world, outside India. And with few exceptions, you will find no Indian (based) news channel. This is especially the case in hotels where businesspeople frequent. Clearly, if you cannot get your positive message out enough, others will decide (too much) who and what you are and even your future – or lack of one? That can impact the full potential jobs a country gets or how national security and sensitive religious issues are seen both at home and abroad that can even lead to war and gross misunderstandings. That international media influence is generally conveyed, for instance by the ubiquitous “duopoly’ on cable international news of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and America’s CNN that define themselves as the top worldwide deliverers of independent, even verified global news. Unbelievably one might argue, a leading commentator of the former, John Simpson makes straight-faced assertions wholeheartedly about BBC news’ veracity. But it was the BBC that made scorching, well exaggerated incredulous allegations, even in a documentary that the Prime Minister instigated anti-Muslim activities. In fact, the western media is still stirring up dangerous emotions on this and ugly unsubstantiated slants that India’s popular, pro-democracy leader is an authoritarian.

However, while the government is achieving substantial success on significantly improving India’s main metrics and connected international image, it has not been made easy by these international informational “jackals” biting at India’s and Mr. Modi’s heels. Rather, the PM and his top-level team and foreign minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar must fight regularly against a strong countercurrent of the Western media global hegemon with its negative biases, dominating messages. They are maintained in an almost “vice-like” grip it seems at times in delivering their blinkered news narratives on India and so much of the non-West, overall.

Anil Trigunnayat well documents these distortions in “Unveiling the Western Media’s Biases in Reporting on the Global South.” Trigunnayat goes on by writing. “… stereotypes in western media not only misrepresent India’s efforts.” and responsibilities on climate change. “but also perpetuate outdated colonial attitudes. They find it difficult to realise that India can launch a Mars mission at a cost less than a Hollywood film or a Chandrayaan to the finest precision.” This control of a western biased narrative has been going on for years and its smugness was supported in an academic article titled “The Triumph of the West in News Communication”.

Though written in the 1990s is still too applicable, today. The author, William Hachten states while this is changing that such domination has lasted for decades since the end of World War II and especially centered in the USA and UK. More recently, in a 2021 published scholarly writing, Brahma Chellaney acknowledges that the Western media has a double standard in the way India is covered “unfairly”, compared to the way developed countries are, especially on tragedies. Furthermore, the western hegemonic, corporate legacy media and their international branches have shown a self-serving cheerleader approach in supporting liberal interventionism, (at least initially) be it the Iraq to Libya to Ukraine destructive wars, impacting the South often miserably and Indians altogether. The impact of the Ukraine war on the South to irresponsible fiscal and monetary policy fallout from the West on Indians seems like a distant planet to the “rich” world’s media. But these media hegemons have so much time in trying continuously to besmirch the popular and highly successful Narendra Modi-led, duly elected democratic government. This abodes poorly that the Opposition seems to be more open to take their distorted lead from New York, London and Washington than from the Indian people, if ever elected

Now, what is specially needed to offset the Western media behemoth’s negative influence. First, to learn from the history that he Western Media Empire has not been a new phenomenon that the Global South has never tried seriously to mitigate. Under the UN’s leadership of, “The New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO)…a debate over media representations of the developing world, in UNESCO in the late 1970s early 1980s.” (Wikipedia) From the same source, this was part of a wider effort to…”tackle global economic inequality that was viewed as a legacy of imperialism upon the global south.” Such an effort was snuffed out by the West and as it almost did the same to UNESCO, for having the temerity to given attention to the idea that big corporate western media was to dominant and not sensitive enough to Global South issues.

So, in practical terms beyond major global structural ones of the NWICO that the West “brutally’ resisted, what can New Delhi do in coming years? Here is one good start. The Indian government in partnership with sound, made in India players needs to have a news website that looks as comprehensive and attractive as the best ones out there. The RT (Russia Today) format looks exemplary irrespective of some the content’s leanings. That initiative could incorporate the best shows like possibly, Wion, Advantage and even a selection of top western podcasts and interviews that cover issues fairly, deeply and objectively, including on the Global South. Now, is not early enough for such reforms to begin seriously to break up this western media cartel. The current western dominated global media hegemon may not experience the overhaul that UNESCO envisaged almost forty to fifty years back. But the status quo is completely unacceptable. The good news is papers like this one and other media in India are moving in the right direction..

Peter Dash is an educator and was a former free-lance journalist for major western newspapers and now, regularly contributes here on geopolitics.