Posts Tagged ‘Airtel’

BARKHA DUTT on the allegations against her

27 November 2010

After lying low for a week following the Outlook* and Open magazine cover stories on her conversations with the lobbyist Niira Radia, the NDTV anchor Barkha Dutt has provided her version of events, rebutting the key charge that she played any role in passing on any message to intercede on behalf of a particular minister or portfolio, or to lobby for the disgraced telecom minister A. Raja.

Below is the full text of her defence, carried on and courtesy of NDTV.com:

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By BARKHA DUTT

As a journalist, whose work has been consistently hard-hitting and scathingly critical of the ongoing 2G scam and the former telecom minister, I am astonished, angered and hurt to see the baseless allegations against me in sections of the media this week.

While there is no doubt that journalists must be held to the same exacting standards of accountability that we seek from others, the allegations in this instance, as they relate to me, are entirely slanderous and not backed by a shred of evidence.

The edited conversations between PR representative Nira Radia and me have been headlined to suggest that I misused my role as a journalist to “lobby” for A. Raja, a man I have never met.

While this is completely untrue, I can understand the anger and anguish that such a misrepresentation can create, among viewers who rely on me to report honestly and impartially. And I would like to address some of the questions raised by these edited transcripts.

The tapes seem to add up to hundreds of hours of conversations between Nira Radia and people from different backgrounds, including scores of well-known journalists and editors from all the major media organisations (TV and print) in India.

Despite this, much of the commentary has been strangely selective in its focus. And quite often, vindictively personal. Consider, for example, that online it is being dubbed “BarkhaGate.”

I cannot speak on behalf of any other journalist on the tapes. Framed in the backdrop of a larger media debate, every journalist’s conversation on these tapes must, of course, be evaluated on its own merit. So, speaking only for myself, the insinuation made by the magazines are preposterous.

By definition, the insinuation of “lobbying” implies either a quid-pro-quo of some kind or a compromise in how I have reported the story. As anyone who has watched my coverage of the ongoing 2G scam over the past year would know – to suggest either is entirely absurd. (Attached below are links to several shows hosted by me on the 2G scam over the last two years.)

In several different statements, I have already challenged two newsmagazines who first carried the allegations to establish any proof of a quid-pro quo or a bias in reportage.

I know that neither charge stands the test of any scrutiny.

For those perplexed by the ongoing debate, it could be useful to understand the context in which these conversations took place. The few, short conversations took place in the backdrop of cabinet formation in 2009, when the DMK had stormed out of the UPA coalition over portfolio allocation.

In this instance, Nira Radia, was clearly plugged into the inner workings of the DMK, a fact we only discovered when she rang up to tell me that the news flashes running on different news channels were incorrect; the stalemate between the DMK and the Congress had not yet been resolved.

She corroborated her claim by saying she was in direct contact with the DMK chief and was in fact with his daughter, Kanimozhi. We talked about news developments within the DMK and the Congress and nothing I said was different from what I was reporting on TV minute-by-minute.

Ironically, the one sentence being used to damn me, “Oh God, What should I tell them”, is in fact two separate sentences, neither of which are related to A Raja or the telecom portfolio at all. When transcripts are edited and capture neither tone nor context, the message is severely distorted.

The phrase “Oh God,” was nothing more than a response to a long account by Nira Radia on a DMK leader, T.R. Baalu, speaking to the media without sanction from the party. The excerpt, “What should I tell them,” was in response to her repeatedly saying to me over several different phone calls, that if I happened to talk to anyone in the Congress, I should ask them to talk the DMK chief directly.

As a matter of record, I never passed on any message to any Congress leader. But because she was a useful news source, and the message seemed innocuous, I told her I would. Ultimately, I did no more than humour a source who was providing me information during a rapidly changing news story.

AT NO STAGE WAS I EVER ASKED TO PASS ON ANY MESSAGE TO INTERCEDE ON BEHALF OF A PARTICULAR MINISTER OR PORTFOLIO.

NOT ONCE, WAS I ASKED TO “LOBBY” FOR A. RAJA. NOT ONCE WAS I ASKED TO CARRY ANY MESSAGE REGARDING HIM OR ANY OTHER APPOINTMENT.

Anyone who has bothered to read the entire transcript of these conversations instead of just the headline, would notice that the conversation is essentially a journalist soliciting information from one of the many people plugged in – something all journalists do as part of newsgathering. And as journalists, we also often humour our sources without acting on their requests.

The only “benefit” I ever got from talking to Nira Radia was information; information I used to feed the news.

It is important to remember that at this point, in May 2009, none of us were aware of the present investigation against Nira Radia. Like most other journalists in India, I knew Nira Radia professionally as the main PR person for the Tata Group. In this instance, she clearly represented one side of the story.

She was just one of many people I spoke to as is typical in such news stories.

As journalists we deal with different kinds of people, who sometime solicit information and at other times, provide news leads. Unless we believe in only press-conference driven journalism, the need to tap into what’s happening behind-the-scenes in the corridors of power involves dealing with a multitude of voices, and yes, we cannot always vouchsafe for the integrity of all those we use as news sources. We concern ourselves primarily with the accuracy of the information.

But, I must come back to my original objection to what the two magazines have implied.

Strangely, when I complained to the editor of Open magazine about the smear campaign against me, he sent me a text saying , there was “not much remarkable” in my conversations and went on to even say that, “there is one bit in the strap where the word go-between is used that I don’t like myself.”

I have to wonder then, with anger, why he did not pause before using such a defamatory description.

Are there learnings in this for me? Yes, of course there are.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight and with what we know now, I realise that when we talk to people who represent or belong to the power establishment, there can be a danger in sailing too close to the wind, even for those of us who are experienced and are driven purely by a deep passion for news.

The takeaway from this debate for me pertains to the everyday practice of journalism. I think of how different kinds of people, who could be potential sources of news, call me, and indeed all editors in this country every day, with different requests ranging from complaints about stories to requests for coverage and yes, sometimes we are also asked to pass on innocuous bits of information.

Never have these requests—nor will they—dictate the agenda of my news decisions. But, the calls that we treat with polite friendliness, to keep our channels of news open, clearly need to be handled with more distance. This controversy has made me look at the need to re-draw the lines much more carefully.

There is also another learning. I have always operated by a code of ethics that holds me as accountable to the public as the politicians I grill on my show. The selective and malicious nature of some of the commentary against me has reinforced my awareness of how responsible we ought to be before we level an allegation against another.

While a genuine debate on media ethics is always welcome in the quest for self improvement, I hope this debate will also look at what amounts to character assassination.

* Disclosures apply

**

Text: courtesy NDTV.com

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

***

Will you switch off your phone on January 30?

18 January 2009

The impromptu endorsement of Narendra Damodar Modi as the Next Prime Minister of India by the chieftains of two major cellphone companies—Anil Ambani of Reliance Communications, and Sunil Mittal of Airtel—on top of a similar endorsement by Ratan Tata, who too has a cellphone company in his bouquet, has sparked a novel protest form.

The call to switch off your cellphones and observe Friday, 30 January 2009 as “Cellular Silence Day”.

The following open letter accompanies an online signature petition.

***

Dear Messrs Ratan Tata, Sunil Mittal and Anil Ambani

I am one of a billion Indian citizens.

I am somewhere in the middle of that pyramid that you wish to give voice—from bottom to top—through wealth creation.

I am proud of the brands you represent that have made India proud.

I am one of the burgeoning Indian middle-class that share your aspirations of mutating India from indolent elephant to thundering tiger.

It ends there…

I have hitherto been accused of being indifferent and apathetic, simply because I am overawed and felt overwhelmed in a system replete with Goliaths.

But when I saw you embrace the fascist mastermind of state sponsored genocide as a future Prime Minister and endorse the Modi-fication of India, it was disappointingly apparent that the brands that aspire to make India rich shall continue to languish in ethical poverty.

While I am filled with revulsion at your endorsement of Narendra Modi, I must respect your right to do so as a fellow citizen.

In writing this petition I am a mere David amongst the mightiest corporate Goliaths but I feel empowered to address your collective amnesia—through recollection of the Gujarat pogrom of 2002—by the true Goliath among Gujaratis in particular and Indians in general, Mohandas Gandhi.

All those who sign this petition will switch off their Tata Indicomm, Airtel and Reliance cellular phone and broadband connections from midnight on 30 January 2009.

It is eminently possible that I might be the one voice in a billion who will observe the 61st death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on as Cellular Silence Day.

Then again, there might be close to a billion who could join me on 30 January 2009 expressing their solidarity and silently insisting that the captains of India Inc adopt an ethical, compassionate path to wealth creation rather than the single-minded pursuit of the bottomline.

We shall know that by the end of 30th January, 2009.

Sincerely

A David among corporate Goliaths

Sign the petition here: PetitionOnline.com/30JAN09/petition.html

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Good for them = Good for us?

‘The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred’

CHURUMURI POLL: Good for them = Good for us?

17 January 2009

When General Motors president Charles Wilson was appointed secretary of defence by President Dwight David Eisenhower in the early 1950s, the possibility of conflict of interest was very real. Asked if he could make a decision adverse to the interests of GM, Wilson said he could not, but added he could not conceive of such a situation, “because for years I thought what was good for the country was good for GM and vice versa.” That statement has sinced morphed into “What’s good for GM is good for America.”

In a week when captains of Indian industry have plumped for Gujarat chief minister Narendra Damodar Modi as the next prime minister, it is worth asking: “Is what is good for Indian industrialists, good for India, too?”

# Airtel chief Sunil Mittal has said: “We have seen CEOs running good companies, but Modi is that successful CEO who runs an entire state. We need him in Delhi.”

# Anil Ambani of ADAG has said: “If one Dhirubhai Ambani could do so much just imagine what ten Dhirubhais could have done. For Modi, too, one can say the same thing. He is the next leader of India.”

While such a rousing endorsement must be sweet music for Modi, 58, it does two things.

One, it throws the BJP leadership issue into a tizzy. The designated PM-candidate Lal Krishna Advani, 82, is waiting in the wings, 85-year-old Bhairon Singh Shekawat has thrown his hat into the ring, and there are other claimants. And two, it opens up the old debate: can a state, or a nation, be run like a company? Can a nation be run like a business, with all the focus on the “bottomline”? Is what is good for India Inc, good for India?

In other words, because Gujarat has shown good growth under Modi, is it naturally presumed that Modi has it in him to overcome all the big issues of the day?

An Apple a day keeps Steve Jobs away from us

22 August 2008

On the day the iPhone that costs $199 (approximately Rs 8,000) in the United States makes its legal debut in Indian stores at an iPopping Rs 30,000, former Citibanker JaithirthJerryRao offers four bits of (free) advice to Steve Jobs, the Apple founder whose worldview changed after a visit to the ghats of Benares looking for nirvana:

1) The Indian consumer is very price-conscious. She does not like to make huge upfront investments based on uncertain promises of future service quality.

2) Any attempt to link lower price with lower quality, real or perceived, is likely to bomb.

3) The definition of quality is almost always functional. “Does it meet my real needs?” is the question she asks, not whether it gratifies her ego.

4) Do not underestimate her ability to find uses for the product that are totally at variance with the original intent of producers.

Read the full article: The I(ndia) phone

What if Microsoft, not Apple, had made the iPod

Also read: 11 similarities between the iPhone and Rajnikanth

Also watch: David Letterman: The iPhone Nano

The eyephone and the blue tooth

All the money in the world cannot buy you…

27 March 2008

Some of India’s most visible brands have an incredible propensity to put out some incredibly inane advertisements. Coca-Cola continues to be the gold-standard. But whipper-snappers like Airtel are fast showing that money can buy everything in the world, except the happiness of a good ad.

One recent Airtel commercial of two boys across the India-Pakistan border playing football seemed like a poor copy of an “8PM” liquor ad in which two soldiers end their hostilities over whisky after nightfall.

In this TVC, currently on air, a father (possibly a railway engineer) plays “Join the Dots” with his daughter over the cellphone. Cute, yes, but where in India do they still have broad gauge steam locomotives running? And in which century India does an engineer have his cellphone delivered to him by a slave when there is a call?

Also read: Indian Railways Fan Club FAQs on steam


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