Published on September 29, 2007
However, it is unclear exactly what these responsibilities should be. Mostly, we follow a typical routine of reporting what's going on from day to day, but without knowing if some of these reports are damaging society.
Most people in the media would say they discharge their responsibilities to society by reporting what society is interested in. The problem with this response is that we cannot know for sure whether our reports cover what the public is interested in or if they cover what we think it should be interested in. Equally important is the way news is delivered to the public.
It seems that TV stations are more concerned about their ratings than society's wellbeing. Too many of their reports dwell on the negative side. What's needed are programmes that cover the same stories, but from new angles that are more conducive to society's interests.
A TV programme on Tuesday took a prurient approach to the schoolgirl trend for dying pubic hair and wearing skirts without underwear. It was news because a girl involved in accident was left lying unconscious with her skirt flapping open. The anchor badgered an eyewitness to give details about the scene.
I can't see who could benefit from an in-depth description of the craze - the media should have been more interested in what drove the students to dress so provocatively in the first place. Media responsibility in this case would have meant talking to psychiatrists and those in authority about what we should do to limit the influence of this foreign fashion on our kids.
Speaking as a member of society, I'm even more unhappy with the reports of crimes on TV today.
The first portion of most Thai newscasts is allocated to national news - often big political events. Following that comes social and economic news. Among it all there's usually a fair sprinkling of shocking crimes. But, vying for more viewers, some channels are offering hourly or late-night news updates. To my surprise, nearly all the reports included in these "extra" news programmes are crime-related.
This implies that crime can happen anywhere in society and that it's at epidemic levels. With all the focus, which often includes detailed discussions of criminals' exploits, I can't help thinking that the media are responsible for the growing crime rate.
Crime used to be committed mainly by adults, but nowadays the perpetrators are getting younger and younger. There was a report this week of a 14-year-old viciously attacking and wounding a younger boy. The attacker was so young that it had me thinking about just what was going wrong in our society.
Hopefully, there'll be more research done on adolescents in the future. I'd be interested to know how many hours of TV they watch, and the typical content of the programmes they are exposed to. This would prove whether my theory is correct, and point us in the right direction for dealing with our children.
And it could also show the media steps to take if they really feel "responsible" for society.
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