Q: The Tamil TV media shows Man- wildlife conflict regularly and shows the damage caused to property and produce in stark visuals. This creates a negative mind set in viewers about wildlife. How can this be altered /corrected?

Asked by G Dattatri

Answer from Ramki Sreenivasan: The world over, most TV news channels sensationalize everything to get more viewers. While the top English news channels in India are somewhat amenable to reason and persuasion, and responsive to expert opinion, many regional news channels are a law unto themselves. Their viewers have little exposure to nature education. Many regional channels are controlled by powerful personalities or organizations who care little about social responsibility or balanced reporting. Since making money is their primary goal, they are also least likely to send their reporters, editors or news content managers to workshops or training courses on good journalism. In short, this is a difficult problem to crack. However, it should be noted that both, in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka at least, wildlife sensitization workshops (organized by NGOs / forest department) for print media journalists have brought about some positive changes in the way they report human-wildlife conflict. This may help those television viewers who also read these publications to form more balanced opinions. Hopefully, as regional news channels mature, their attitudes to news reporting in general, and wildlife reporting in particular, will become more responsible.

In the meanwhile, conservation organizations have to redouble their efforts to inculcate the right values amongst television reporters and their editors. At the same time, the general public also has to be educated also about the reasons for man-animal conflict through outreach programmes. If more people are well-informed, they will exert pressure on the channels to change their style of reporting. While all this will not happen overnight, a change can be brought about gradually.

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