Parle and Bajaj Auto’s Call to Not Advertise on “Toxic” Channels Should Be an Eye-opener for Media

Social Commentary

Parle and Bajaj Auto’s Call to Not Advertise on “Toxic” Channels Should Be an Eye-opener for Media

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Toxic or hate-filled content on news channels has become part of everyday programming. The reason they continue to thrive is because advertisers flock toward them. However, a few socially responsible brands are now taking a stand to boycott irresponsible media and it’s high time others follow. Last week, it was Bajaj Auto that said it had blacklisted some news channels as it did not wish to endorse hate-mongering. Now, Parle Products, makers of Parle G biscuits (one of India’s most loved brands), has announced that they will not be advertising on Indian media channels that promote aggressive and toxic content. Is this the beginning of the end for hate on news channels?

In an interview with Livemint, senior category head Krishnarao Buddha said, “We are exploring possibilities wherein other advertisers can come together and sort of put a restraint on their advertising spends on news channels, so that there is some sort of a clear signal to all the news channels, that they better change their content.” He pointed out that channels promoting aggression and toxicity are not the kind the company wants to put money into as it does not favour its target consumer.

It’s a bold move and has been loudly cheered across social media.

Ethics over profitability. Love kept pouring in for India’s favourite biscuit.

It was Rajiv Bajaj who set the ball rolling. In an interview to CNBC TV18’s Shereen Bhan, the Bajaj Auto managing director stated that the brand would never be associated with anything, that is beyond reasonable doubt, “a source of toxicity in society.”

The move comes amid the “TRP Scam” busted by the Mumbai Police, where it has been alleged that certain households were paid money to keep channels switched on, leading to “inflated” TRPs that didn’t reflect the true picture. The Detection Crime Branch of Mumbai police has arrested owners of two Marathi channels, for manipulating viewership ratings, an official said. Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh had also named Republic TV as one of the three channels involved in the scam.

In the aftermath of the press conference, news anchors started taking pot shots at each other. What seemed like a moment in which the news media would reflect and change its course, turned into a petty slugfest.

Television news has been losing its credibility for years now, but in the last few months, it has hit a new low. Sudarshan News, Republic TV and Times Now have become platforms that fuel hatred instead of dispensing news.

It seems the public questioning is making brands more aware and some have started to pull the plug. It is only when the funding goes dry, that these channels will be forced to mend their ways. Let’s hope the decisions taken by Bajaj Auto and Parle Products will be followed by more companies, and we can collectively tackle this menace. A hate-free media is what the nation needs.