The level of noise in the news-media, both print and electronic, has continued to increase over the past few decades, and, now it appears, that, the noise has overpowered the signal.
In this era of information society, the transmission of information is the key and the mode of transmission has a vital role in the dissemination of information. The mode could be, mouth to mouth, print media, electronic media, semaphore signals, or even smoke signals. However, what matters is the fidelity with which the signal is transmitted. Whatever be the communication system, the signal is likely to get distorted and pick up noise along the way, as ideal physical systems exist only in theory but on the ground it is another story.
In the very first lecture on the design of communication systems one is told that in no physically realizable system, distortion or noise can be zero, and, that for high fidelity transmission, the parameters to be optimized are the distortion factor, and, the signal to noise ratio. This holds true even for the oldest system, that is mouth to mouth voice communication. When A conveys message to B through C, if C can not hear too well, or, speak too well, the message gets altered, but unintentionally, it is system distortion. On the other hand, if C decides to add to the message, it is intentional and is noise.
The news media today is an interesting example. The report of every happening initiated by the cub reporter,or,the stringer, in its upward journey, passes through several hands, coming from different backgrounds, with different work experience, therefore, each with a different level of understanding, before landing on the Chief Editor’s desk. The report is already altered, but unintentionally. This is simple system distortion, unavoidable in any physical system.
At this stage, where the Chief would normally send the report for publication, after grammatical corrections, if needed, the situation has changed dramatically over the last fifty years. Now the Chief, having 6/6 eyesight, is made to put on colored lenses, varying from light pink to dark black,as per,the current policies of the management,to view the incident reported and edit accordingly.This is where the facts are being pushed out,and,irrelevant material is being added which is noise.Noise in information pollutes the mind which is a far more serious condition than a polluted lung.Lung transplants have been successful but brain transplants have not even been attempted.
The level of noise in the news-media, both print and electronic, has continued to increase over the past few decades, and, now it appears, that, the noise has overpowered the signal. The news channel is now just a views channel and the information society is being gradually turned into a misinformation society. This is a dangerous development for a free country. In the words of Mark Twain, here is the dilemma of the times,” If you do not read a newspaper you are uninformed and if you read the newspaper you are misinformed”. It is true that there are many news channels and newspapers to choose from but all have been afflicted by the corona of noise with no vaccines in sight.
(Dr H C Pande is Vice Chancellor Emeritus , BITS, Mesra)