Posts Tagged ‘Arnab Goswami’

‘On TV evidence, Rahul doesn’t have it to be PM’

28 January 2014

Rahul Gandhi‘s interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami has already led to a torrent of scrutiny and criticism, and there will be more tonight as the wise sages in Bombay and Delhi sit down to parse every paragraph and syllable.

But how did smalltown India receive Gandhi’s arangetram against the stylish backdrop of an M.F. Husain painting?

Here, K.B. Ganapathy, the erudite editor-in-chief of the evening tabloid Star of Mysore shares his thoughts.

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kbg

By K.B. GANAPATHY

Last evening I had my sundowner early enough to be ready to watch the TV channel Times Now at 9 pm waiting for the soon-to-become prime minister of India, Rahul Gandhi. He was to appear before Arnab Goswami, that loud-mouthed Times Now anchor who loves his own voice more than those whom he interviews and tackles in a panel discussion.

I was ready with a writing pad and a pen to write about the interview.

This interview, Arnab claimed, was Rahul’s first since he won the 2004 parliamentary elections. Rahul’s response was a denial saying he had given many press interviews but dodged the crux of the question that it was Rahul’s first TV interview.

Now, after I laboured through a languorous interview of over an hour, I discovered that this was the way Rahul was answering every one of Arnab Goswami’s questions. I am sure many attentive viewers too may have made the same discovery as yours truly.

Rahul, apparently in a show of bravado, told Arnab Goswami, who was going back in time, “…draw me back as much as you want.”

Arnab grabbed the opportunity and asked why Congress was avoiding announcing the prime ministerial candidate. The answer was something like this: “Issue is how a Prime Minister is chosen. It is MPs who select the Prime Minister. We have respect for the process.”

Arnab Goswami: What about 2009?

Rahul Gandhi: There was an incumbent Prime Minister.

In fact, knowledgeable people know whenever there is a person available in the Gandhi dynasty to become Prime Minister, that office would go to the member of that dynasty only.

In 1984, Rajiv Gandhi was sworn-in as prime minister, soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination without consulting the MPs. It was the majority of CWC that chose the prime minister even though, left to the MPs, Pranab Mukherjee, being No. 2 in Indira Gandhi’s Cabinet, would have been chosen.

In fact, that was the reason for Pranab Mukherjee to leave Congress. Rajiv Gandhi too ignored him after assuming power. Let it be.

Sadly, Rahul Gandhi was unable to explain convincingly about this contradiction in what he told Arnab Goswami and what had happened in the Congress Party in the matter of choosing a Prime Minister.

Rahul Gandhi, in his detour of an answer, denied there was ever any arbitrary decision taken in choosing a PM, whatever it meant.

Questioned if he would face Narerddra Modi in a debate, once again the answer was devious and said, ‘You must understand Rahul Gandhi. I want to ask you a question…’ For this, Arnab’s answer was, ‘I can’t be a half journalist. I ask this question because Narendra Modi is challenging you on a daily basis.’

Answering further questions, Rahul went rambling — people of honesty are destroyed by the ‘system,’ question of losing or winning an election does not arise, etc.

After the interview, Arnab Goswami invited Vinod Mehta, that veteran journalist and mentor of Outlook magazine along with another author for their opinions about Rahul’s interview. Vinod Mehta rightly said, recalling Rahul’s concern for correcting the ‘system,’ that all these years, all those who tried to fix the system got themselves fixed and threw up their hands in despair.

I thought of Rahul’s father Rajiv Gandhi to whom the ever helpful media gave the reverential epithet Mr. Clean. This Mr Clean went to Bombay soon after becoming the Prime Minister, delivered an India-shaking speech criticising the power brokers in his party and vowed to end this menace that was the cause for corruption.

What happened? Soon Rajiv Gandhi himself got mired in corruption scandal of Bofors gun deal, lost the election to V.P. Singh and the rest was tragic history.

Question: Narendra Modi calls you Shehzada. Are you afraid of losing to Modi?

The answer was again abstract and irrelevant. ‘Rahul Gandhi wants to empower women. We will defeat BJP etc., etc.’

Question: Is Narendra Modi responsible for Gujarat riots? Courts gave him clean chit. Congress wants to put Modi on the back foot on this issue. What about 1984 Sikh massacre in Delhi? Was Congress responsible?

Here, Rahul Gandhi had a new take by way of answer. According to him, in Gujarat, the government headed by Narendra Modi abetted the massacre, while in Delhi the Congress government tried to contain the killings.

Arnab Goswami told Rahul Gandhi that while Narendra Modi got the army in 48 hours, in Delhi, it took 72 hours and many Congress leaders were arraigned in criminal cases in this Sikh massacre and the cases are still being dragged on.

Listening to this part of the interview, I was wondering why the learned media wizards and the smart politicians don’t see a distinction between 2002 Gujarat riots and 1984 Delhi massacre. The Gujarat violence was a communal riot. It is not important who provoked it because that will not justify killings at all.

The law of the land should prevail, not mass violence.

Here, both Hindus and Muslims died, but majority of people who died were Muslims. However, in Delhi, it was not a communal riot. It was a pogrom, like what happened to Jews during World War II in Germany.

Just because two Sikh security guards killed our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, some Congress party members and admirers of Indira Gandhi allegedly massacred innocent Sikhs in a sudden, surprise attack. Now, 30 years on, our country’s legal system could not punish the culprits!

Will Rahul Gandhi, if and when he becomes the Prime Minister fix this ‘legal system’ so that aam aadmi gets justice without delay. Can he? I doubt.

To be honest, much as Congressmen would like to make Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister of India, my gut feeling, after seeing him face the interview, is that he will not fit into the Prime Minister’s slot.

He was simply not clear in his mind what he wants to do for the country’s many challenging political, economic and social issues.

Yes, I must mention here that Rahul was asking Arnab Goswami why he was not asking questions about issues related to corruption, women empowerment, bringing youngsters into politics, etc. This was when Rahul was unable to face the tricky, difficult questions from Arnab Goswami.

Rahul did not seem a person with intellectual streak or with oratorical or debating skill.

Power of speech is what makes a leader.

History is replete with such leaders — Julius Caesar, Antony, Hannibal, Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Lenin, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose…. At present Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal.

After seeing the interview, I don’t think, Rahul has what it takes to make one a Prime Minister or a great leader.

He was asked: If he wants to end corruption, how can he have alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav of Bihar who has been convicted of corruption? The clever answer from Rahul was that the alliance was with the Party RJD and not with Lalu Prasad Yadav.

Likewise, he was asked about the ‘dynasty’ of which he is the No. 1. His answer was again a clever one: “In every party one could see ‘dynasty.’ I did not sign up and say I must be born in this dynasty or family,” etc., etc.

He further clarified in his own rambling, inchoate manner, to a question, his opinion about the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It was a non-answer ! He was for opening the ‘system’ to end dynasty but there is no Abracadabra to do that.

I must appreciate here that for once that talkative, argumentative, belligerent Arnab Goswami was too condescending to Rahul Gandhi; too patient, too gentle and may I say too sympathetic to a person sitting before him, tensed up, with a smear of sweat on his pink visage, not sure of himself in answering the questions.

And I thought it was rather rude and even unkindly on the part of Arnab Goswami to ask Rahul Gandhi if he was prepared for a TV debate with Narendra Modi.

By now I had come to anticipate Rahul’s answer to such direct, taunting question and, as I correctly guessed, he said ‘his party would be ready for such a debate’. Now Manish Tewari, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Digvijay Singh… please get ready to face Narendra Modi.

And finally, it was interesting to hear in the beginning of the interview itself about Rahul Gandhi’s educational qualification about which that acerbic Dr Subramanian Swamy had some doubts. Surprisingly Rahul in turn asked Arnab Goswami if he was ever in Cambridge.

When the answer was yes, Rahul mentioned about an ‘affidavit’ he had filed etc., etc. about his having a degree from Trinity College.

Well, that was an insipid, boring interview, but I was left wondering, as I retired to bed, how could Vinod Mehta say Rahul’s was a creditable performance? Honesty in journalism may not always be the best policy.

After all, his own magazine Outlook has described Rahul Gandhi as ‘Sunset Prince’ and after watching this interview, I don’t think Outlook was wrong in its opinion.

(This piece was originally published in Star of Mysore)

‘The protector-in-chief who keeps India safe’

19 November 2013

For most TV news consumers, Arnab Goswami is both a name and a phenomenon. But there are still large parts of the world to be conquered by Times Now‘s bulldog of an inquisitor. Here, B.V. Rao, editor of Governance Now, and former editor of the Indian Express in Bangalore and Bombay, explains the name and the phenomenon to a childhood friend who lives in Canada.

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Dear Sharada

Sometime ago during a Googlegroup discussion you innocently asked: “But who is Arnab?”.

In India not knowing Arnab is against national interest. You are lucky you live in Canada. But if you don’t want to be deported on arrival on your next visit, you better pay attention to this complimentary crash course on the subject.

Arnab, as in Arnab Goswami, is India’s most-watched prime time news anchor and editor-in-chief of Times Now*. But designations don’t even begin to describe him or what he is famous for.

You must have heard about hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Arnab is also a storm, a news-storm that hits India every night via his show, the “Newshour”. Nobody is quite sure how, but somehow Arnab gets to know the questions that the “whole nation” wants answers for, or the sinners the nation wants hanged before midnight that night.

In effect then, Arnab speaks for a “billion-plus people” each time he takes centre-stage.

I can’t say for sure if he took this burden upon himself voluntarily or if his employers made it a contractual obligation. Whatever it is, the fact is that Arnab has come to relish asking the most “simple and direct” questions to the most dubious people demanding instant answers to complex problems because the “nation wants to know” and it wants to know “tonight” as in right now.

That’s how impatient India has become while you’ve been away, Sharada.

***

The Newshour airs on weekdays from 9 pm and continues till Arnab’s pleasure lasts. Often the show stretches up to 10.50 pm. That’s actually “News hour-and-three-quarters-and-then-some” but I guess Arnab has not asked himself a “simple, direct” question: how many minutes make an hour?

That, or his primary school maths teacher is not his viewer. In which case it is safe to say Arnab speaks for a billion-plus minus one Indians.

You will see that at the altar of national interest it is not just the hour that is stretched.

About two decades ago, Dileep Padgaonkar was the editor of the Times of India owned by the Jains of Bennett & Coleman who also own Times Now. Padgaonkar had pompously proclaimed that he held the second most important job in the country after the prime minister’s.

Arnab hasn’t said it, but I think he disagrees with Padgaonkar on the pecking order:  it’s now the prime minister who holds the second most important job in the country.

Hence Arnab runs the show like he would run the country or like the prime minister should but doesn’t.

You see, Sharada, there’s an awful lot of stuff the nation wants to know by nightfall but our prime minister isn’t much of a talker. Arnab fills the need gap. He opens his show with a passionate agenda-setting preamble that spells out all the problems of the day and how he wishes to solve them. We gratefully receive this wisdom and call it Arnab’s Address to the Nation, a prime ministerial duty that has fallen on his broad shoulders because the real guy has abdicated it.

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Let me tell you this, however. Arnab is a very reluctant power-grabber. It is not his intent to upstage the prime minister or make him look silly.

He gives the prime minister an entire day to prove his worth and gets to work only at 9 pm when it is clear that the latter can’t handle stuff.

He then solves all outstanding national issues of the day in just one 110 minute-hour of feverish debates where he grills the skin off the back of everybody who dares to stand in the way of India’s national interest.

He is unrelenting in his pursuit of the truth and doesn’t give up unless everybody has agreed with him.

“I am worried”, “I am concerned”, “I won’t let you politicise”, “I don’t agree”, “you can’t get away….” are some of the phrases he uses to suggest he is in complete control and that endears him to a nation starved of decision-makers.

Arnab hates home work. He wants to settle everything here and now, tonight. As a result, in Arnab country, there is no trace of the policy paralysis that has grounded the prime minister in the real country. Here you get resolutions, decisions, orders, diktats, judgements, justice and denouements all in one place, one show, by one man.

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The only people paralysed are the subjects of his grilling and the bevy of experts he gathers around himself, not because he needs them, he doesn’t, but because it must feel awfully good to invite experts and out-talk them on national prime time.

Like confused baboons trapped in little boxes, the experts, who are neatly arranged around Arnab’s own imposing self in the centre of the screen, keep staring into nothingness most of the time.

Yes, you get the drift, Sharada, Arnab is the main dish here. The rest are just intellectual dips.

For most of their airtime the experts keep putting up their hands or calling out “Arnab….Arnab….” to indicate they want to make a point. Arnab is too engrossed in disagreeing with what he has not allowed them to say to care too much.

Some clever guests try to appeal to his Assamese roots by hailing “Ornob…Ornob”. He ignores them as well.

Nationalism, after all, is above parochialism. The cleverer among them have cracked the code: they just agree with Arnab in exchange for a little extra air time. These are usually the people who have paid close attention to Arnab’s Address to the Nation and picked up the right cues on what to say that will get them his benefaction.

It is tough to figure out why Arnab needs any experts at all because he knows the answers to all his questions. Times Now insiders say that more often than not he finds questions to the answers he already has. On his show, politicians can’t politicise, bureaucrats can’t beat around the bush, sportspersons can’t play games and lawyers can’t use legalese.

In fact anybody who is good at something can’t do what they are known to do, to the extent that even civil society can’t be civil, especially if it wants to get a word in sideways. Everybody has to be direct, honest, blunt and keep things simple because that is what the (one-man) nation wants.

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Corruption, political expediency, opportunism, forked tongues, doublespeak, dishonesty and hypocrisy, are red rags to Arnab. He takes them head-on with the help of his reporters who keep throwing up “documentary” evidence ever so often to expose scamsters.

Usually this is a thick sheaf of indistinguishable papers that Arnab holds up threateningly. It could be a bunch of used airline e-tickets for all we know, but since we don’t, he waves the sheaf confidently in the face of the enemies of the nation and it is generally assumed he’s got some incendiary stuff in there.

Arnab’s problem-solving repertoire is not restricted to national boundaries. In fact, he is at his best when dealing with nations that have evil designs on India. The patriot in Arnab is best aroused when he is dealing with that evil, failed, rogue nation called Pakistan.

He deals with Pakistan like no prime minister has ever been able to or decimates it like no Army has ever managed to. Each time a blade of grass bends to the breeze on the LoC, Arnab breathes fire at Pakistan for trying to sneak in terrorists into the country. He lines up a battery of serving and retired generals of Pakistan and conducts the verbal equivalent of a summary execution.

Yet, the same generals keep resurfacing on Arnab’s show each time he feels the urge to have a Pakistani or two for dinner. This causes much wonderment among Newshour hounds on the masochist streak that makes the Pakistani generals offer themselves up as bait repeatedly.

So, it is assumed the money must be good. But since Arnab insists that Pakistan is the way it is only because the generals have sold their country cheap, it is unlikely he is blowing his budget for this routine cross-border target practice. Of course, left to Arnab Pakistan would have existed only as the largest crater on earth since the meteors wiped out all life on the planet. Yes, he would have nuked it many times over by now.

The Times of India, the country’s oldest English newspaper and the mother brand from the Times Now stable runs Aman Ki Aasha (Hope for Peace), the widely-acclaimed campaign for ending India-Pakistan hostilities.

Just as Arnab doesn’t seem to know of this campaign, the Times of India seems quite oblivious of the fact that the last time there was absolute peace on the LoC was when Arnab took a two-week holiday in early September. It could be the marketing genius of the Times group to milk the issue from both ends or it could also be that their internal boundaries are not as porous as our LoC.

Apart from conducting war exercises against Pakistan, Arnab land is eyeball-to-eyeball with China, exposes the double standards of America in almost anything it does and highlights the hypocrisy of racist Australia which loves the education dollars from India but not the brown students who come along with.

His blood boils so much when an old Sikh is roughed up by a bunch of racist women in the UK that he almost gets the whole of Punjab to rise in revolt against the Indian government’s inaction–even though there is nothing it can do as the gentleman is a citizen of the said country–or builds a tide of emotional revulsion against “inhuman” Norway for snatching an infant from his Indian mother’s custody for alleged physical abuse.

***

I can go on and on, Sharada, but everything good must come to an end and so must my Arnab eulogy.

So, in short and in conclusion, here’s what I have to say: Arnab is not just the editor-in-chief of Times Now. He’s India’s protector-in-chief. He is the guy who is keeping India safe while you are away on selfish pursuits. You are lucky you can get away by not knowing him.

For a billion-plus Indians,minus of course his maths teacher, that is not even a distant option. Because, truth told, Arnab is the best we have got!

B.V. Rao

***

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy Unreal Times

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Also read: ‘Arnab Goswami is corrective to babalog media’

Three reasons Arnab Goswami should be PM

There’s a new ‘ism’ in town, it’s Arnabism

Government is corrupt, what about corporates?

25 May 2013

T.N. Ninan, editorial director of Business Standard, in his weekly ruminations, against the backdrop of the IPL and Ranbaxy scandals:

“Pillorying the government of the day for pervasive corruption is the easy thing to do, whereas it might just be an escapist option. It helps those of us who are neither in politics nor in the government to pretend that we are not tainted, and therefore have the right to point fingers at politicians, who we assume are not. The truth, as recent events have brought home forcefully, is that corruption has permeated fields that have nothing to do with politics and government….

“If the canker is widespread, there have to be systemic solutions. An obvious step is to come down hard on anyone who is caught, as a lesson to everyone else. System legitimacy suffers only when businessmen find ways of avoiding being brought to justice. But perhaps the worst outcome would be to treat this as just one more kind of reality TV, for nightly entertainment. All troubling questions can be evaded if we just watch Arnab Goswami shout at, hector and pillory his “guests” for an hour every night, for thereby we’ve earned our absolution!”

The cricketer turned commentator Geoffrey Boycott suggests that it might have to do with our genes:

“We don’t seem to get it in other countries. It seems to be around in Asia. And that’s not me being against Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis. You know me, I love that part of the world. They are very kind and good to me, particularly the Indian and Pakistani people, where I’ve been a lot.

“But I’m telling you the truth, it seems to surface in Asia. And once you’ve got all this money floating around in a huge game with millions and millions involved, you’re going to get problems. It’s going to resurface again.”

The Hindu‘s sports editor Nirmal Shekar laughs at our hypocrisy:

“This is who we are, as Indians. While we need not be ashamed about it, let us not pretend that our own brand of neo-liberalism, which has produced a socio-cultural climate that makes it possible for the aspiring Indian middle classes — I use the plural advisedly — to unabashedly revel in the celebrity cesspool and pretend that we are squeaky clean is, at best, hypocritical, at worst, suicidal.

“For, cricket does not exist in a vacuum; it is not a cosy world safely tucked away from the dark, dirty, often cruel, and real, world in which we live, as Indians.

“A lot of us wishfully think that this might turn out to be India’s century or, in the least, an India-China century. But if you chose to do away with those rose-tinted glasses — a gift from opportunistic politicians and an acquiescent media — and mentally prepared yourself to stare truth in its face, then you will get an idea about where we really are.”

Also read: Question: which is India’s most secular religion?

India’s most secular religion has to be corruption

Corruption, religion, spirituality and the Dalai Lama

How a Bangalorean changed the nation’s view

28 November 2012

The bumper 318-page eighth anniversary issue of Impact, the media magazine from Anurag Batra‘s exchange4media group, features dozens of print, electronic, digital and radio professionals recounting their personal stories.

Among them is the 2012 television editor of the year, Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Times Now*:

By ARNAB GOSWAMI

In August 2007, Sanjay Dutt was being moved from Arthur Road jail to Yerawada jail in Poona and we were following it keenly. Everybody was in the middle of this crazy chase, looking desperately for a shot, a sound byte, a picture….

In the midst of it all, I received a phone call from a viewer in Bangalore who said that he had been following my career and Times Now for a long time, but he wouldn’t do it anymore.

I was very surprised and asked him why he felt that way.

The person said he had a friend, a colonel in the Indian Army named Vasanth Venugopal, who had died fighting on the border. His body was being brought back to Bangalore but not a single news channel was bothered, so busy they were covering Sanjay Dutt.

There wasn’t even a mention of this martyr on any channel, while Dutt was being covered like there was nothing else happening in the world.

I was very upset and felt very guilty.

I told the gentleman that we would send a cameraman and get pictures of the cremation and do a story on it. That night, after we had done the story, I requested this gentleman and come and talk about his friend.

When I started my programme, and asked the producer whether the person had come, he said, ‘She is here.’

I told him I was expecting a gentleman, not a lady.

The producer replied, “Colonel Vasanth’s wife has come.”

Subhashini Vasanth had witnessed the last rites of her husband barely four hours back, yet she came to our studio.

Nothing has ever moved me as much as what she said that day.

She spoke about her family and her husband’s martyrdom, making me realise that journalism can sometimes lose its way and that we have an obligation to our viewers that goes beyond the narrow perspective of covering a movie star.

Since then, the way we cover the armed forces, internal security, issues relating to Pakistan is far more detailed than any other channel. That incident shaped the work that we do now.

* Disclosures apply

Photograph: courtesy Apoorva Salkade/ Outlook

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

31 August 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Six minutes and 20 seconds into his vote of thanks at the culmination of Anna Hazare‘s fast-unto-death last Sunday, the RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal heaped plaudits on the media for the support it had lent to the Jan Lok Pal bill agitation by “articulating the outrage of the nation”.

Pointing at the jungle of anchors, reporters, cameramen and crane operators in the media pen in front of the stage at the Ramlila maidan, Kejriwal said the “media weren’t just doing their job… they are now part of the movement”.

Verbatim quote:

Hum in saari media ke shukr guzaar hain. Yeh aap dekhiye, abhi bhi camera lekar, tadapti dhoop mein khade hain, yeh log. Yeh zaroori nahin, kewal inki naukri nahin thi.  Yeh log ab andolan ka hissa hain. Raat-raat bhar, chaubis-chaubis ghante, bina soye in logon ne hamari andolan mein hissa liya, hum mediake saathiyon ko naman karte hain.”

Kejriwal’s general gratitude was for television whose frenetic and fawning coverage instantly took the message to parts of the country print wouldn’t dream of reaching in the next half a century. (A TV critic wrote last week that a survey of TV coverage of Hazare’s Jantar Mantar fast in April found 5592 pro-Anna segments versus just 62 that were anti-Anna.)

But if Kejriwal had to choose one English language publication in particular for rounding up “Middle India” in round two of the fight for a strong anti-corruption ombudsman, the honour should surely go to The Times of India.

From the day after Anna Hazare was prematurely arrested on August 16 to August 29, the day he ended his fast, the New Delhi edition of The Times of India took ownership of the story and played a stellar role in mobilising public opinion and exerting pressure on the political class.

# Over 13 days, the main section of the Delhi edition of The Times of India, covered the Anna Hazare saga over 123 broadsheet pages branded “August Kranti” (August Revolution), with 401 news stories, 34 opinion pieces, 556 photographs, and 29 cartoons and strips.

# On seven of the 13 days of the fast, the front page of Delhi ToI had eight-column banner headlines. The coverage, which included vox-pops and special pages, even spilled over to the business and sports pages, with the Bofors scam-accused industrialist S.P. Hinduja offering his wisdom.

In launching a toll-free number for readers to give a “missed call” if they wanted a strong Lokpal bill, ToIwas almost indistinguishable from the India Against Corruption movement behind Hazare. ToI claims that over 46 lakh people have registered their vote.

In short, backed by an online campaign titled “ACT—Against Corruption Together” plus the Arnab Goswami  show on Times Now, the Times group provided substantial multi-media heft to the Jan Lok Pal campaign.

In its almost completely uncritical coverage of Round II, The Times of India provided a sharp contrast to the almost completely cynical coverage of Round I by The Indian Express four months ago, the former batting out of his crease for for the wider constituency of the reader, consumer, voter and citizen.

Remarkably, also, for a publication of its size and girth, ToI took an unhesitatingly anti-establishment stand in its headlines and choice of stories, showing where it stood on corruption—an issue agitating readers in its core demographic—in a manner in which most large newspapers are loathe to do.

There were only token negative pieces like the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid calling the protest “anti-Islam”; Dalits wanting a Bahujan Lokpal bill; or Arundhati Roy calling Hazare’s stand “undemocratic”. On the whole, though, ToIcoverage was gung-ho as gung-ho goes, especially judging from some of the mythological, militaristic headlines.

Just what was behind the ToI‘s proactive stand still remains to be deciphered.

Was it merely reflecting the angst and anger of its middle-class readership? Was it taking the scams, many of which it broke and which brought the Lok Pal issue to the head, to its logical conclusion? Or, does the involvement of its in-house godman in the proceedings, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living, lend a clue?

Was it willy-nilly taking part in the dark rumours of “regime-change” swirling around Delhi? Or, was it just doing what a good newspaper is supposed to do: taking a stand, making sense of an increasingly complicated world to a time and attention strapped reader, and speaking truth to power?

Whatever be the truth, the fact that ToI took such a popular-with-readers, unpopular-with-government stand when it is involved in a no-holds-barred campaign to stall the implementation of the Majithia wage board recommendations for newspaper employees, speaks volumes of its conviction on the Lok Pal issue.

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August 17: Coverage on 14 pages, 34 news stories, 2 opinion pieces, 41 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Govt can’t stop August Kranti—Morning arrest turns into nightmare for Centre as Anna refuses to leave Tihar unless allowed to protest

Other headlines: 1) A million mutinies erupt across India; 2) Congress’s big blunders; 3) Emergency is the word for Gen Y; 4) Anna held, people hurt; 5) Intellectuals draw parallels with Emergency, JP movement; 6) Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Govt is being arrogant; 7) The Indian protester rediscovers Gandhigiri; 8) Emergency makes a comeback to political lexicon; 9) Annacalypse Now! Angry India on the streets; 10) Emergency redux, say legal experts

Editorial: Wrongful arrest—government action against Anna Hazare leaves it isolated and sans goodwill

Opinion: State vs Anna—Hazare’s arrest serious questions about India’s ‘democratic’ claims

Opinion poll: 92% say govt’s handling of Anna is undemocratic

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August 18: Coverage on 10 pages, 36 news stories, 3 opinion pieces, 56 photographs, 4 cartoons

Lead headline: People march, govt crawls—sledgehammered by nationwide outrage, UPA withdraws almost all its earlier curbs on Anna protest

Other headlines: 1) Global bank VP on ‘fasting leave’ from Hong Kong; 2) India Inc backs Anna; 3) Dabbawallas, NGOs building ‘Anna Army'; 4) This way or no way, says Anna; 5) Govt fails to move Mount Anna; 6) In Hazare and Baba Ramdev, govt has two powerful adversaries; 7) ‘9 months to arrest Suresh Kalmadi, 3 mins for Anna'; 8)

Editorial: Anna wins the day—With public anger swelling, government must take a stand on corruption

Opinion headlines: 1) Have a referendum on sticking points; 2) Let an independent arbiter decide; 3) Are you an Anna dater, a Jokepalwalla or, worst, a piggyback passionista? 4) Civil society frustrated at lack of government action

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August 19: Coverage on 9 pages, 26 news stories, 4 opinion pieces, 27 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: Judiciary out of Lokpal? Team Anna softens stand

Other headlines: 1) Brand Anna is a rage: youth wear him on T-shirts; 2) Protesters rename Chhatrasal stadium after Anna; 3) Sensing hour of reckoning, Tihar protesters give war cry; 4) ‘Gandhi’ takes world media by storm; 5) Indian editorials slam govt handling; 6) Fight to go on for generations, says Aung San Syu Ki; 7) Expatriates in south east Asia rally round Anna;

Editorial: Seize the day—reform is a powerful anti-corruption tool

Opinion headlines: 1) It’s the middle class, stupid; 2) 10 measures to reduce corruption

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August 20: Coverage on 8 pages, 30 news stories, 3 opinion pieces, 46 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: Anna rides wrath yatra, ups ante

Other headlines: 1) On fourth day of fast, 74-year-old outsprints cops; 2) He gives supporters a run for their money; 3) ‘I am Anna’s Krishna in the Mahabharata against graft'; 4) Cap fits: no weakening satyagraha—gives call for ‘second freedom movement’, will fight till last breath; 5) Amma Hazares join the cause; 6) Protest tourism: why Anna catches their (foreigners’) fancy; 7) ‘Parliament isn’t supreme, public is’

Editorial: When khaki met khadi—a confused cop learns about being civil, through agitation

Opinion headlines: 1) Which democracy do we want? 2) Reclaiming moral authority

***

August 21: Coverage on 8 pages, 25 news stories,  2 opinion pieces, 36 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Angry tide forces Manmohan’s hand

Other headlines: 1) 35% drop in crime during Hazare’s fast; 2) Parents bring kids to Anna ki pathshala; 3) Painter plans to capture ‘Anna legacy’ till passage of bill; 2) Parents want kids to see history being made; 5)  Over one million join ToI anti-graft drive;

Opinion headlines: 1) Arrest corruption, not those who protest against it; 2) Why I’d hate to be in Hazare’s chappals

***

August 22: Coverage on 7 pages, 23 news items, 1 opinion piece, 28 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: All roads lead to Annapolis

Other headlines: 1) Crowding glory—over one lakh throng Ramlila ground; 2) Protestors take metro, ridership at New Delhi jumps by 50%; 3) Religious lines blur for Anna’s cause; 4) Anna gives call for revolution to surging masses; 5) Lockedpal: earn our trust, team Anna tells govt; 6) Anna’s  army pickets netas’ homes

Opinion headline: Re-negotiating democracy

***

August 23: Coverage on 10 pages, 30 news stories, 2 opinion pieces, 46 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Govt may relent, put PM under Lokpal

Other headlines:  1) Gen Y  rocks to Anna’s beat; 2) At maidan, 80,000 celebrate carnival against corruption; 3) Behind the public face, a very private man; 4) Aam admi thinks bill is cure-all; 5)  Anna proves the power of the big idea: management gurus

Editorial: Start talking—dialogue and flexibility can break the Lokpal logjam

***

August 24: Coverage on 9 pages, 35 news items, 1 opinion piece, 38 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: Govt bends 70%, Anna seeks 90%

Other headlines: 1) 22 newborns in MP named after Anna; 2) ‘Don’t let them take me'; 3) Unsung soldiers: they sacrifice daily bread for Anna; 4) Maidan doesn’t sleep, volunteers up at dawn; 5) Anna critic Aruna Roy briefs Rahul on grievance bill, calls on Jairam Ramesh; 6) Anger against plutocracy legitimate, saysPrakash Karat

Opinion headline: Beyond Anna’s India—is anger against corruption blinding us to other evils?

***

August 25: Coverage on 8 pages, 30 news items, 4 opinion pieces, 38 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: From breakthrough to breakdown

Other headlines: 1) Braveheart Hazare baffles doctors; 2) Judge follows his conscience, speaks out for Jan Lokpal bill; 3) Destination Ramlila maidan: get a free auto ride; 4) Critic Aruna Roy comes calling; 5) Aamir Khan is brain behind picketing MPs; 6) ‘542 VIPs are making a fool of 120 crore people’

Editorial: The Lokpal moment—it’s a good time for Anna to end his fast and join the discussions

Opinion headlines: 1) Fasting as democracy decays; 2) Celebrities endorse Anna movement in large numbers—they are citizens too

Online toll: 22.7 lakh join ToI online campaign against graft

***

August 26: Coverage on 8 pages, 32 news items, 3 opinion pieces, 38 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: PM walks extra mile, Anna unmoved

Other headlines: 1) 5,000 cops to fortify PM, but Anna army sneaks past posts; 2) Witnessing power of people, says Army chief; 3) Hardliners holding up Lokpal resolution; 4) Angry Anna: UPA ministers take the hit in virtual world; 5) ‘Sonia Gandhi would have handled situation better’

Editorial: Seize this opportunity—Anna Hazare shows flexibility, the govt must do so too

Opinion headline: Finding the middle ground

Online toll: 25,30,251 votes

***

August 27: Coverage on 11 pages, 34 news items, 3 opinion pieces, 50 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: House hopes to send Anna home

Other headlines: 1) Downcast but steadfast; 2) Fast hits country’s financial health—reforms put off because of Anna stir, may take a toll on growth; 3) Sports icons one with Team Anna

Editorial headline: A carnival called India—from Gandhigiri to Annagiri, it’s dhak-dhak go

Opinion headline: Saintliness in politics cuts both ways

Online toll: 32,09,129 votes

***

August 28: Coverage on 9 pages, 35 news items, 2 opinion pieces, 64 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Anna wins it for the people—To break fast at 10 am today as Parliament bows to Hazare’skhwahish and PM sends letter

Other headlines: 1) Anna’s next: India tour for clean leaders; 2) Anna superfast arrives; 3) Anna sets House in order

Opinion headlines: 1) Don’t mess with the middle-class; 2) How to reverse the trust deficit

Online toll: 39,74, 515 votes

***

August 29: Coverage on 12 pages, 31 news items, 4 opinion pieces, 48 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: Only deferred fast, fight goes on: Anna

Other headlines: 1) Can’t trust govt, have to keep watch: Prashant Bhushan; 2) ‘Battle is won, war has just begun'; 3) ‘This victory is our second freedom'; 4) Anna among top brands online

Editorial: Dance of democracy

Opinion headlines: 1) Has Anna really won? 2) Ways to fit the bill—accommodating Anna’s three key demands will require imaginative lawmaking

***

Also readIs the Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

CHURUMURI POLL: Anna Hazare and the media

21 August 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from Delhi: The media coverage of the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement, like the movement itself, is a story in two parts—and both show the perils of the watchdog becoming the lapdog, in diametrically opposite ways.

In Act I, Scene I enacted at Jantar Mantar in April, sections of the Delhi media unabashedly played along with the establishment in a “crude and disgusting character assassination”, discrediting civil society members in an attempt to strangulate the joint Lokpal drafting panel, without  showing any remorse.

In Act II, three scenes of which have been enacted in the past week at Tihar Jail, Chhatrasaal Stadium and now the Ramlila Grounds, there has been no need to invoke Armani and Jimmy Choo, after the government’s spectacular cock-ups at the hands of high-IQHarvard-educated lawyers who recite nursery-school rhymes to wah-wahs from unquestioning interviews.

On the contrary, it can be argued that the pendulum has swung to the other end this time round.

The Times of India and Times Now, both market leaders in number termshave made no attempt to hide where their sympathies lie in this “Arnab Spring”, when the urban, articulate, newspaper-reading, TV-watching, high-earning, high-spending, apolitical, ahistorical, post-liberalised, pissed-off-like-mad middle-class gets worked up.

When the market leaders go down that road, the others are left with no option but to follow suit.

Obviously neither extreme can be the media’s default position. However, unlike last time when there was little if not no criticism of the “orchestrated campaign of calumny, slander and insinuation“, at least two well known media figures  have found the courage to question this kind of wide-eyed, gee-whiz reporting.

Sashi Kumar, the founder of India’s first regional satellite channel Asianet and the brain behind the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), in Outlook*:

“In the race for eyeballs, a section of the media—some TV channels in particular—give the impression of sprinting ahead of the story and dragging it along behind them. What defies imagination, even as it stretches journalistic credibility, is that the messengers become the lead players, directing the route the story will take, conjuring up twists and turns where there are none, and keeping the illusion of news-in-the-making breathlessly alive….

“The relationship between such media and their essentially middle class consumers is becoming uncomfortably incestuous. When respondents cluster around a camera for a vox pop, they are not so much required to offer their independent view on an issue as add to the chorus of opinion orchestrated by the channel. A photo op masquerades as a movement. Dissident voices get short shrift. It is more like a recruitment drive than a professional journalistic exercise to seek and purvey news.

“Increasingly, the channel’s role seems to be to trigger and promote a form of direct democracy by the middle class. Politics and politicians are routinely debunked; even representative democracy doesn’t seem to make the grade.”

NDTV group editor and star anchor Barkha Dutt too strikes a similar note in the Hindustan Times:

“Critics of the Hazare campaign have questioned the media narrative as well, accusing wall-to-wall TV coverage of holding up a permanent oxygen mask to the protests. It’s even been pointed out that Noam Chomsky’s scathing commentary on the mass media -‘Manufacturing Consent’ would be re-written in TV studios today as Manufacturing Dissent.

“But again, if the TV coverage of the protests is overdone, it only proves that the UPA’s perennial disdain for the media — and the diffidence of its top leaders — has given its opponents the upper hand in the information battle. There is something so telling about the fact that 74-year-old Anna Hazare made effective use of the social media by releasing a YouTube message from inside jail and the PM of India’s oldest political party is still to give his first interview to an Indian journalist.”

Questions: How do you rate the media role in crafting the Anna Hazare movement? Has it been too unquestioning, or has it played the role expected of it? Has it tapped into middle-class sentiment with an eye on circulation and TRPs?

Also readThe ex-Zee News journo on Anna Hazare team

Ex-Star News, ToI journos on Anna Hazare team

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Jayalalitha PM material?

28 June 2011

Tamil Nadu has generally played a big role in the formation of coalition governments at the Centre for nearly 15 years now, and the size and scale of the victory of the AIADMK in the assembly elections recently—and the current shape and state of the Congress, BJP and Left—has put plenty of fuel in the political tank of Jayalalitha Jayaram.

Suddenly, the controversial Mysore-born actor-turned-politician is holding all the cards as both the main parties bend backwards to woo her. For someone whose sole agenda till last month was dislodging the DMK government of M. Karunanidhi, she is now holding forth on national and international issues in a manner born.

In an interview with Arnab Goswami of Times Now yesterday, the Puratchi Thalaivi offered plenty of insight of how she views her enhanced role on the national stage, cryptically suggesting that “anything can happen before 2014″, meaning she could go either way or her own way, or that there could even be a mid-term election before 2014.

Since anything is possible in politics, as the sad cliche goes to explain H.D Deve Gowda becoming prime minister, is it also possible that Jayalalitha, if she stays away from both the two main formulations, could well end up heading the third front? And, if that is the case, could namma hudugi well emerge as a prime ministerial face?

Could her face, voice and demeanour, not to mention the fact that she is a woman, attract voters? Will she gain acceptance across the nation or will her confrontational style put off coalition partners? Could she be a better bet than whoever the Congress and BJP  decide to go with? Or is she counting her vada maangas before they pickle?

One question I’m dying to ask Manmohan—II

15 February 2011

Never the most articulate of speakers, a battered and beleaguered Manmohan Singh has reportedly decided to subject himself to a grand inquisition at the hands of the tigers of television. Tomorrow morning, if all goes as planned, a set of TV journalists will fling their questions at the prime minister.

And, hopefully, he will answer them. Live.

Unlike his previous interaction with the media, which came in the backdrop of naxalism, price rise, 2G and “trust deficit”, this time’s pow-wow comes in the midst of soaring inflation, “governance deficit”—and the S-band scam which has brought questions about his “conspiracy of silence, culpable inaction and gross indifference” to his doorstep.

Plus, there is the “Shankaracharya of Lavasa”, Arun Shourie‘s claim that he told the PM that the loot (in the 2G scam) was happening in his name, etc.

Hopefully, the ladies and gentlemen of the idiot box will not hurl soft-ball questions at the PM and will not stop with vague answers. Still, why give them a chance? What is the one question that the Arnabs, Barkhas and Rajdeeps should ask sadda Manmohan (provided they are invited, that is)?

Like, Mr Prime Minister, “the nation wants to know”, do you think it is all over for you? Like, Mr PM, why was Montek Singh Ahluwalia picked for the Padma Vibhushan?

Please refrain from keeping your queries longwinded and self-congratulatory, thank you.

***

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask Manmohan Singh-I

Have the middle-classes deserted Manmohan Singh?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Manmohan Singh still “Mr Clean”?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Manmohan Singh be PM till 2014?

Citizen-Journalist quiz on Commonwealth Games

26 September 2010

Citizen-Journalist E.R. RAMACHANDRAN is pleased to present the Commonwealth Games quiz.

Please fill in and send us your entries before the due date mentioned below. If you miss the deadline, no problem; send it before the next due date.

Prizes are indicated at bottom. An empowered group of ministers (EGoM) headed by Sri S. Jaipal Reddy if he is still in charge till then that is, will announce and distribute the prizes.

Your time begins now (or then):

***

Question 1:  In your opinion, who is the biggest villain of the Commonwealth Games 2010?

a. Mani Shankar Aiyar
b. Suresh Kalmadi
c.  Manohar Singh Gill
d.  Sheila Dixit
e.  All of the above, plus Dr. Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi

Question 2: Which of the following presents the biggest threat for participants in Delhi CWG?

a) Falling roofs
b) Collapsing beds
c) Dengue, malaria, gastroenteritis
d) Dogs on beds
e) Leaky toilets
f) Waterlogging in bedrooms
g) Mudslide on running tracks
h) Filth, muck in games’ village
i) Politicians, bureaucrats
j) Terrorists

Question 3:  How many kilometres of toilet paper have been imported by the organising committee for the games?

a)  10 km
b)  100 km
c)  1,000 km
d)  None at all. Yamuna water is there everywhere

Question 4: Who should take the oath on ‘spirit of fair play’ before the games?

a)   Queen of England for starting the fiasco with the ‘Baton Relay’  function.
b)    Suresh Kalmadi
c)    Lalit Bhanot
d)    M.S. Gill

Question 5: Who will be the chairman of the organising committee for the Olympics Games to be hosted by India?

a) Suresh Kalmadi
b) Kalmadi’s son
c) Kalmadi’s daughter
d) Anyone else?

Question 6: Who will be the athlete of the games?

a) Shera
b) A.R. Rehman
c) Arnab Goswami of Times Now
d) Athletes who manage to reach the venues

Question 7: Who should get the ‘Drutharashtra’ award for extraordinary vision, conceptualisation and implementation of CWG Delhi?

a) Suresh Kalmadi
b) Mike Fennel and Mike Hooper
c) Mani Shankar Aiyar for ditching the Games
d) Manmohan Singh

Question 8: Who exactly is responsible for the mess that is CWG- Delhi?

a) Indian Olympic Committee
b) Commonwealth Games organising commitee
c) Central public works department
d) Delhi Development Authority
e) Centre government
f) Delhi State government
g) Both governments
h) All of them

Question 9:  After the Games what do we do with Kalmadi?

a) Honour him with Bharat Ratna’
b) Hang him from a roof which doesn’t collapse
c) Make him president for hosting Olympics Games
d) Make him deputy chairman of planning commission
e) I have my own private plans

Question 10: Which movie title best sums up CWG 2010–Delhi?

a) Monsoon Wedding
b) Gol-Maal
c) Any Ramgopal Varma movie
d) Chori Chori
e) Chupke Chupke

***

Deadline for submission of entries: Just before opening ceremony of Olympic Games hosted by India.

Prizes: I Prize:  Honorary menbership of IOC + 100 strips of paracetamol to fight dengue
II Prize: chairman of cleaning committee + 100 rolls of imported toilet paper
III Prize: drug inspector to test athletes for doping + 100 inhalers

***

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

If we can send man to the moon, why can’t we…?

8 August 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Ace Political Expert (APE) was coming out of the Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (GKVK) campus in Hebbal after attending a seminar. He was surrounded by delegates who held samples of food grains grown across India, in small, neatly packed, airtight ziploc covers.

After his guests left, APE and I went into the canteen.

“So you have become quite an expert in wheat and paddy,” I started off while sipping hot ‘Cothas’ coffee.

“Anybody can become an expert and go on to become a member of the Planning Commission. I am not saying this, It’s Kamal Nath, minister for roads and highways, who thinks so,” retorted APE.

“Which is why, perhaps, despite bumper crops we don’t have enough godowns or silos to store food grains in our country while millions get little or nothing to eat. Isn’t it shameful?” I asked as I held the samples of wheat he had kept on the table.

I was as angry as Muttiah Muralidharan was on Bishen Singh Bedi.

“When a country gives importance only to cricket rather than food grains, farmers suicide and malnutrition deaths, these things are bound to occur. Next, I won’t be surprised if you blame our agriculture minister Sharad Pawar for this,” APE responded.

“Every year the planning commission holds a series of meetings for ‘Budget Estimates’, ‘Revised Budget Estimates’ etc. Have any of their Members ever bothered how the country will store the food grains?” I demanded.

I think I was shouting like a town crier with a voice which had shades of Arnab Goswami in it.

“Cool it kanaiah, Ramu!  We are not in a Times Now debate. The planning commission only doles out funds for seeds, fertilisers, etc. Once in a way Montek Singh Ahluwalia may put his hand out of the window in Yojana Bhavan to check if it is raining. They are neither concerned if there is drought or bumper production nor in its distribution. They can’t be bothered whether there are godowns built in the last 60 years.”

“Who then is responsible? What about Food Corporation of India?”

“The FCI chief is already over- burdened to decide whether he should make all-purpose godowns or specialised godowns for different grains like wheat, rice millet etc. He is also seized with the idea whether he should construct the costlier silos or multipurpose godowns as in Punjab where they stack whisky and let the wheat rot in the open. Known for their strong economics, Punjabis stack fast-moving items like liquor than wheat.”

“What are the States doing in this regard? Don’t they have the responsibility of feeding their starving people?”

“Yes, they have. That’s why they are sending their entire MLA lot to foreign countries on a ‘study’ tour to understand how they grow, store and feed their people.  Karnataka under H.D. Kumaraswamy sent its MLAs to China. B.S. Yediyurappa is sending the whole lot from Vidhana Soudha to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore to study their agricultural culture in full detail.”

I was getting nowhere.

“Doesn’t the ministry of food and agriculture own responsibility in this regard at all?”

Without knowing, I had come back to square one.

“Who says they don’t? Since lakhs of tons of wheat had become inedible for even animals, to pacify hungry stomachs and those bordering on malnutrition, the minister sent some officials on a junket to quickly negotiate a price and import wheat.  Never mind we paid double the international price, but didn’t we solve the food shortage problem?” concluded APE.

I could do was stand gaping.

English news channels have 0.4% viewership!

28 June 2010

Cynics and critics of the media cannot stop bad-mouthing the English news channels and their shrieking, shouting, table-thumping, finger-wagging anchors. They lambast Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami, accusing them of being everything from trivial to sensational to anti-national.

Opinion makers and talking heads from politicians to penpushers move heaven, earth and everything else in between to appear on the English news channels. Advertisers drop everything else to flock to them. Viewers cannot stop accusing them of everything that is wrong with the country short of the monsoon. Yet….

Yet, is this all futile?

Using data collated by the television audience measurement agency (TAM), Archna Shukla of the Indian Express reports that this could all be very misplaced. That, despite its growing social and rural acceptance, English news channels boast of such a minuscule viewership that it probably does not even count.

From a snapshot of television consumption in India in the Sunday Indian Express:

1. There are 134 million households which own television sets in India; 70 million are in rural areas, 64 million in urban India

2. India is the world’s second largest broadcast market in viewership base as well as the total number of channels (500)

3. An average Indian watches television for two and a half hours a day, South Indians are glued to the idiot box for longer

4. There are more news channels (81 and counting) than general entertainment channels

5. News and current affairs channels has 7.5% viewership share; GECs have 51%.

6. Hindi has 43% reach and audience; the regional language channels put together account for 37%

7. Hindi speaking market is larger but South Indians watch TV for longer, spending close to three hours a day

8. English channels, news and otherwise, gets only 11% of viewership share

9. English news channels have a 0.4 per cent viewership

10. Men watch sports, news and movie channels; women watch soaps and serials

Read the full story: How India watches television

Television in India

Who’s running the Feudal Republic of India? ANC.

30 May 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I met the Ace Political Expert (APE) at Cheluvamba Park doing his yogic walk. After a couple of rounds, he sat on the stone beach.

He beckoned me to sit and I asked him the question that was bothering me since the prime minister’s national press conference last week: “Who exactly is running our country?”

After taking a long breath, APE said: “There is a coalition government but there is collision at each and every step.”

It was a bad pun, but I let it be.

“Could you be more specific? Is Manmohan Singh running the country?”

“It is illusory to feel Manmohan Singh is running the country. He is running away from running the country, by visiting various countries. In effect, he is on the run most of the times.”

“He is not going anywhere. He himself said so during his press conference,” I interrupted.

“He meant Rahul Gandhi may have to wait a little longer to take his place as per the norms of the feudal democractic republic of India.”

“If Manmohan is not running the country, what about Sonia?”

“Well, Sonia is running the country and she is not! Let me explain. She wants the home minister to have a dialogue with Maoists. But Chidambaram is confused whether he should start a dialogue or act like Vedanta’s lawyer and box the Maoists for the bauxite. So he is doing nothing. Worse, he is doing a daily Q&A session with Barkha Dutt on 26 /11 forgetting there is an external affairs minister to do that job in S.M. Krishna.”

“This is all so confusing.”

“S.M. Krishna was busy monitoring and mentoring Shashi Tharoor who is anyway beyond mentoring and monitoring. That’s how he landed in a sweaty soup during IPL.”

APE continued: “Sonia wants the prices of tur dal and loki to be controlled but Sharad Pawar has apparently better things to do. He is busy getting new suits stitched for the post of ICC chief. So Sonia is not running the country either.”

“Sometimes it looks it is the opposition that is running the country.”

“That’s how it seemed to me too looking at the way Arun Jaitley supported the government to take tough action against Naxals and Maoists. I thought he was guiding Chidambaram. But Digvijay Singh’s bashing up of Chidambaram indicates neither UPA nor Congress is running the country. The much tom-tomed opposition unity on cut-motion fell flat on its face. So the opposition are not running the country either.”

I was getting desperate.

“The electronic media is all the time hysterical with their ‘Breaking News’ song-and-dance act. Are they running the country?”

“Sometimes I feel the troika of Prannoy Roy, Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami are running the country. But their agenda is mostly restricted to the Ruchika case, Aarushi murder case, etc, followed by a lengthy acrimonious debate. If they don’t have any agenda, they bring in Lalit Modi’s IPL3 which always has something to offer—-cricket, Bollywood starlets, midnight parties, millions of dollars, match fixing , N. Srinivasan’s homa before the finals etc.”

“Could the armed forces be running the country,” I wonder.

“It looked like that when we won the Kargil war. But the fudging of records of Kargil war, painting heroes as villains and villains as heroes, and the periodic selling of our defense secrets like in the Navy warm room look belies such thoughts.”

“What about the ministers,” I asked.

“Mostly they are busy with their scams or tantrums. DMK’s A. Raja, the telecom minister is known more for his 2G scam. Instead of being a rail mantri, Mamata Banerjee is in Kolkata trying to overthrow the Leftists there, be it in the state, municipal, or panchayet  elections, or even a local football match. I don’t think ministers are running the country either.”

I was getting exasperated.

“If Dr Singh is running away from the country’s problems, Sonia has no idea, ministers are not running the country, who is in charge or are we on auto-pilot?”

“ANC,” said APE.

“You mean African National Congress?”

“No. The ANC here  is Anarchy, Nepotism and Corruption!” said the APE.

“Are they running the country?” I asked.

“They are ruining the country!” concluded the APE.

If death penalty doesn’t work, why thirst for it?

7 May 2010

Ajmal Kasab, the “killing machine”, has been pronounced guilty in the dastardly siege of Bombay. He is to be hanged and the state prosecutor Ujwal Nikam has held up the judgement copy with the cover screaming “Yes, you are guilty.”

Even responsible TV faces admit they have been a little discomfited by the tone and tenor of the television coverage, the blood lust in words and images, leading up to the judgement in the November 26 trial.

Admittedly, the sentencing will assuage some of the sentiments of the nearly 200 victims. And obviously Kasab is only going to get what he gave to the innocent bystanders at VT: death.

Still, questions remain.

With 309 convicts on the bench, with the Afzal Guru case still hanging fire, with 29 mercy petitions before the President, when will Kasab’s turn come, if at all? And will it change anything?

Editorial in Deccan Herald:

“It remains a moot point if the practice of awarding death penalty really serves the purpose for which it is envisaged.

“Fifteen years ago, India had told the United Nations that death penalty was required to instill fear and deter future criminals from perpetrating grave crimes, including terrorist acts. Yet, there is no evidence to suggest that these harsh statutory provisions have helped reduce crime.

“Nearly a hundred countries have abolished capital punishment, a dozen others have reviewed their statutes to preclude ‘ordinary’ crimes from their purview and over 30 others have undertaken not to invoke the harsh punishment though the provision for it continues to exist in their respective statutes.

“Apart from the lack of empirical evidence to establish that the fear of death penalty reduces the incidence of heinous crimes in society, liberal democracies have generally accepted the argument that the state should desist from taking away an individual’s right to life as a measure of extreme punishment — death cannot be a punishment; it is its abrupt end.”

Read the full editorial: Life over death

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Will Ajmal Kasab be hanged?

Should Afzal Guru be pardoned?

What if Arnab Goswami were in jail with Kasab?

Giving Lord Rama a good name 24x7x365

9 February 2009

On the day the Union home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said the Sri Rama Sena was “a threat to the country“, a good time to rewind Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami‘s interview with the “brain” behind the threat, Pramod Mutalik.

It ain’t so cute when hunters are hunted, is it?

17 July 2008

“This is Sunidhi reporting! It’s Dr Prannoy Roy. He just got down from his Merc close to Khan Market. I can’t believe my luck. The aging ‘Father of Indian television’ is still so handsome! He has started walking towards Khan Market. Prannoy’s car is driving past the market. Wait! What do I see? A sweet little thing wearing a scarf and goggles has just got down around 100 metres past the market, crossed over to the other side, and is now walking  back. My God! Wait till you hear this! The curvaceious beauty waved to Prannoy who is already there waiting for her. They have gone inside. This is exciting stuff. A story is breaking right here! Over to you.”

Studio anchor: “It definitely is! Who is this mystery girl? Can you describe her to our viewers?”

Reporter:”It is already dark here and you know how the streetlights near Khan Market are!! She is wearing a pair of Levi‘s Jeans and a Versace blue top. She looks like the Delhi socialite who was seen with the Roys last New Year Party. I am not sure. It’s possible she could be the Bengali Bollywood heroine. Only she has the guts to wave from a distance in public.”

Studio anchor: “Keep a watch and get back if you see anything interesting.”

After a few hours…

“Sunidhi again from the Sheraton parking lot. They have just entered the coffee shop. Still I can’t make out who she is. She is wearing a cashmere shawl now. She also looks like Maharani Gayatri Devi’s grand daughter- I am not sure though.”

Studio anchor: “Get the dope on all the three girls and check them out. Must beat other channels and splash it at 9 pm headlines.”

Reporter:”Okay. Meanwhile you can go ahead and splash it along. You can interpose some of Dr. PR ‘s earlier shots with coffee shop pictures and run it.”

Studio anchor:”We are already on air with Breaking News. Get us juicy stuff and some close-up shots.”

***

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: How will this “juicy story” be if it is run, say on CNN-IBN and Times Now all day with headlines screaming ‘Father of Indian TV sowing wild oats’, interspersed with shots of his residence and family?

How will it sound if Vinod Mehta, Suhel Seth and Ramachandra Guha sit around in their Sunday best discussing it threadbare with Rajdeep Sardesai in ’Face the Nation’?

Will Roy & Co at least now understand how Rajesh Talwar and family felt when supposedly juicy details of the Aarushi-Hemraj murder were tapped by every half hour, for days and nights on end, with a scurrilous mixture of news, innuendo and insinuation?

Prannoy Roy’s name here is only for effect, and no offence is meant. Change it to Rajdeep Sardesai and run it on NDTV and Headlines Today. Or change it to Arnab Goswami walk and splash it on NDTV and Zee TV. The basic thrust of this fictitious story remains the same.

How will Radhika Roy or Sagarika Ghose feel if their husbands are tailed and ‘Breaking News’ stories made up and splashed in a hurry? Real and mostly imaginary tidbits discussed by a ‘panel of studio experts’?

Get the picture, gentlemen?

That is what is happening every hour by the hour for days and weeks at a stretch on Indian TV channels. You wear your TRPs on your sleeve and to get the magic numbers a combination of sex, sleaze, innuendo, trespassing, concoction is being whipped up.

When you are caught in the act of hurting innocent citizens, there’s not even an apology. There is just more discussion when the buck is passed on to the police bungling the case.

Is this journalism?

Why are the most prominent TV journalists in the country involved mostly in scoops and sensation-mongering? Have our TV whiz kids not heard of Darfur and Zimbabwe? Why are we always talking cinema, cricket and crime?

Can’t they come out with a couple of solutions for the Kashmir problem or the Maoist problem to solve it once and for all? Can’t they take up weightier issues of inflation and price rise that is affecting the common man? Etcetera.

Indian television are mostly busy with froth-in–mouth journalism chasing stars while the ordinary people are facing destiny’s cruel fate. Hunting has become a vicarious national game transgressing all borders of decency.

How would it be if the channel heads were the Hunted instead of being the Hunter? If their family members were hounded everywhere and life made impossible for them to live?

***

The real story behind the juicy story:

When the rookie correspondent finally got the juicy stuff, it wasn’t even overnight sadaa hua dal. Prannoy Roy was going to Khan Market to buy some household stuff. The new slipper of his cousin, , who was with him, was rubbing against her toe-nail causing discomfort and she drove past to see if it could be mended temporarily. Unfortunately the mochi who sits near Khan Market had packed off for the day and she walked back to Khan Market to meet Prannoy! They went to coffee shop for a bite. End of story.

Also read: Should the media apologise?


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