Posts Tagged ‘CNN-IBN’

‘Narendra Modi is test case of media objectivity’

14 June 2013

CNN-IBN editor in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai in his nationally syndicated column, in the Hindustan Times:

“The mainstream media has always had a more uneven relationship with Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s acolytes would like to suggest that the mainstream media has always been anti-Modi and has hounded the BJP’s rising star with a ferocity that no other politician in this country has had to confront.

“Modi as victim of an English language media ‘conspiracy’ is a narrative that has been played out for over a decade now by the chief minister and his supporters, a narrative that aims to position Modi as a one-man army standing up to the might of the media.

“The truth, as it often is, happens to be far more complex….

“Journalism cannot be public relations nor can it be character assassination. Now, as Modi is poised for his next big leap, it is time for the media to maybe reset its moral compass: is to possible to analyse the Modi phenomenon by moving beyond the extremes of glorification or vilification?

“Can the media find a middle ground where Modi can be assessed in a neutral, dispassionate manner without facing the charge of bias or being a cheerleader? Or is Modi such a polarising figure that even the media has been divided into camps?

“My own personal experience suggests that it won’t be easy to avoid being bracketed as pro- or anti-Modi. But yet, we must make the effort. Because journalism in its purest form must remain the pursuit of truth shorn of ideological agendas. Modi has become a test case for the media’s ability to rise above the surround sound, unmindful of the rabid fan clubs or the equally shrill activists.”

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Read the full article: With him or against him

Also read: ‘Network 18 multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

‘For cash-stuck TV, Narendra Modi is cost-effective TRP’

Modi‘s backers and TV owners have converged’

‘A disgraceful assault on media freedom’

Why Modi will address only one rally in K’taka*

25 April 2013

Photo Caption

Security personnel on election duty search a car at a check post on Hospet road in Bellary on Thursday, even as a new pre-poll survey suggests that the Congress, despite all its troubles, continues to maintain a healthy lead over the BJP in the assembly elections due in the “gateway to the south” next week.

The survey, conducted by the centre for study of developing societies (CSDS), for CNN-IBN and The Week, shows that the Congress could end up with at least 117 seats in a house of 224. Like other polls before this one, BJP comes second with 59 seats, JD(S) third at 44. KJP and others are also-rans.

Former chief minsiter H.D. Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) is the most preferred CM candidate, with 18 per cent people voting in favour of him. Ex-BJP strongman B.S. Yediyurappa is the second choice for CM (10%), followed by Congress leader Siddaramaiah (9%), S.M. Krishna (8%), and Jagadish Shettar (6%).

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THE POLLS SO FAR

CSDS-CNN-IBN, The Week (April): Congress 117-129, BJP 39-49, JD(S) 33-44

Suvarna News-Cfore (April): Congress 105-122 out of 224; BJP 55-70; JD(S) 30-45

Headlines Today-C-Voter (March): Congress 114-122, BJP 48-56, JD(S) 32-38, KJP 10-14

Tehelka-C-Voter (January): Congress 133, BJP 63, JD(S) 19, KJP 5

Suvarna News-CFore (Decamber 2012): Congress 113, BJP 58, JD(S) 31, KJP 14

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* Search engine optimisation techniques at work

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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2013 election coverage

When a wife-beater campaigns for the Congress

Rahul Gandhi fails five tests in Karnataka poll

They cry before the polls, so we can cry after

‘Diminishing returns from aggressive Hindutva’

Why is corruption not an issue in Karnataka?

POLL 2013: Can the Karnataka opinion polls go awry?

POLL 2013: Has A. Ramdas not supplied ‘henda‘?

It’s unofficial: our democracy has a bribe future

Will TV news channels show Kejriwal ‘live’ again?

10 January 2013

ambani_keriwal_0111

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and India’s most powerful business house, Reliance Industries, are believed to have served a legal notice on several TV news channels for airing anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal‘s allegations against them in October and November last year.

However, it is not known if Kejriwal, a former IRS officer, and his advocate-partner, Prashant Bhushan, have heard from RIL’s lawyers on the charges made by them at the  press conferences which were covered “live” by the TV channels with accompanying commentary.

It is also unclear if  newspapers which reported Kejriwal’s allegations of Ambani’s Swiss bank accounts and hanky-panky in the Krishna-Godavari basin by RIL have attracted similar legal attention from the less-litigious of the two Ambani brothers.

In the seven-page legal notice shot off in the middle of December 2012, Mukesh Ambani and RIL have demanded “a retraction and an unconditional apology in the form approved and acceptable to our clients” within three days from the receipt of the notice.

The notices have been served by the Bombay legal firm, A.S. Dayal & Associates.

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Besides accusing the channels of “deliberately and recklessly” airing “false and defamatory statements” with an intent to “defame our clients and bring them into disrepute”, the legal notice makes the following points:

# “Your TV Channel provided a platform and instrumentality for wide dissemination of the false and defamatory statements and allegations made at the said press conference.”

# “Live telecast of these press conferences amounts to permanent publication of defamatory material relating to our client by you.”

# “Each of the two press conferences were telecast live without making any attempt to verify the truth or veracity of the statements and allegations being made during the press conference.”

# “Apart from having telecast the press conferences live, Your TV Channel  in the course of several television programmes and televised debates that followed after the said press conferences, continued to telecast, transmit and retransmit the defamatory footage of the press conferences.”

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More ominously, the Ambani-RIL notice reminds the channels:

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that Your TV Channel is bound by the Guidelines for Uplinking and Downlinking from India dated 5th December 2011, issued by the ministry of information & broadcasting, government of India.

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that since Your TV Channel is a news and current affairs TV Channel, the provisions of the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines apply to Your TV Channel, which inter alia provide that a Company, like Your TV Channel, which runs a news and current affairs TV channel, is obliged to comply with the Programme Code as laid down in the Cable Television Network (Regulations) Act, 1995, and the Rules framed thereunder.

# “Our clients have instructed us to state that in telecasting the aforesaid press conferences and repeating the false and defamatory material relating to our clients in the manner aforesaid Your TV Channel is in complete violation of the said Uplinking Guidelines, and the said Downlinking Guidelines as also in complete and material breach of the Programme Code prescribed under the Cable Television Network Rules.”

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The RIL legal notice brings to question the wisdom of broadcasting “live” Kejriwal’s near-weekly press conferences towards the end of last year, sans any filters or fetters.

On the other hand, the authoritarian tone of the legal notice—reminding the recipients of uplinking and downlinking norms—throws light on the egg-shells on which private TV stations are walking in the “free” Republic.

The legal notice also swings the spotlight on big business ownership of and shadow over the media, especially when it is alleged to have both the main political parties, the Congress and BJP, in its pocket.

For the record, RIL is in the media business too. Both CNN-IBN and IBN7 are part of the Reliance stable following a controversial and circuitous takeover at the turn of 2012 that now has earned the OK of the competition commission of India (CCI).

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Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

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Also read: ‘RIL has no direct stake in media companies’

Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

Mudde, saaru & mutton chops with the Maharaja

15 December 2012

Photo Caption

What other people eat—and how, and how much—has long been an object of human fascination; increasingly so in the age of the modern media, where food is the new sex, something you can ogle at, ooze over, fantasise and salivate about, all with your clothes on and without once touching or coming close to the piece de resistance.

The former India Today and CNN-IBN journalist Neha Prasada nee Seth has just done a lavishly produced coffee table book on how the blue blooded amongst us, i.e. the Rajas and Maharajas, did what every mortal must. Titled ‘Dining with the Maharajas‘ (Roli Books, Rs 4,000), the book captures the social history of the royal culinary traditions.

# Like, how the maharani of Tripura liked four different types of cuisine at one meal.

# Like, how the Nizam of Hyderabad, a lover of jalebi, had the size of his poison increased three times when advised by doctors that he could consume only three of them due to diabetes.

# Like, when Motilal Nehru was sent to Allahabad jail by the British, Mohammed Amir Ahmad Khan of the Mahmudabad princely family sent him biryani with a bottle of champagne to keep him going during his imprisonment.

At the hands of Neha Prasada and the photographer Ashima Narain, the high tables of the kingdoms of Hyderabad, Kashmir, Jodhpur, Mahmudabad, Patiala, Rampur, Tripura, Sailana and Udaipur are laid out. Also starring is the royal family of Mysore, in which Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wodeyar waxes eloquent on bisi bele baath. Excerpts:

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By NEHA PRASADA

As you travel to the south of India, your route will take you through dense plantations rich with fragrant cardamoms and cloves, spicy peppercorns, pungent red chillies, aromatic cinnamon, and bay leaves. This trail heavy with spices will lead you to the state of Karnataka, which boasts of one of India’s largest spice industries and at one time was part of the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore.

This ancient land rich in tradition and culture has been ruled by the Wadiyar dynasty since 1399. Interestingly with each change in regime, Mysore’s palate has changed and imbibed new flavours.

From the second century to the third century AD, the state predominantly had a cuisine particular to the ruling Buddhists. Power changed hands when the Buddhists were defeated by the Jains in a debate and the Kannada Jain community held sway over everything including food habits in Mysore.

Finally it was in the tenth century that Hindu kings wrested power under the leadership of Shankaracharya and have continued to rule the kingdom.

The present representative of the Wadiyar Dynasty, Maharaja Srikantadatta Narasimharaja wadiyar explains, ‘With new influences coming in through foreign traders like Arabs, coupled with the decline of Vijaynagara, Muslim flavours were introduced and adapted by us. We added non-vegetarian dishes and new styles of cooking to our cuisine.”

New flavours were imbibed under the cultural influence of the Bahmani kings who were of Persian descent and rulers from Tamil Nadu who controlled the Deccan at different points in time….

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The Mysore royal family with its over 300-year-old food tradition has always treated food as much more than mere sustenance.

Says the 59-year-old custodian of this ancient family, ‘The basis of our food philosophy is that the five elements of nature which include the sky, wind, water, earth, and fire are involved in growing food. The human body needs these elements to keep functioning, thus food is the fuel of life.’

Ancient texts like the Paka Shastra, which elaborate on the art of cooking, were followed by the chefs of the royal kitchens. This knowledge was further passed down to future generations that served in the royal household.

‘These texts did not just tell you what to eat but how and when to eat it. For example, the vessels that were used to make the food had to be made of certain metals, which have beneficial properties when mixed with food,’ says Wadiyar.

Food was cooked and served in vessels made of copper and brass. Interestingly copper was also a safeguard for the royal family because if poison were added to the food, the copper would turn green. These texts also outlined the properties of each herb and spice that went into every recipe.

He explains, ‘We had separate cooks for the zenana or female quarters of the palace and separate for the mardana or male quarters because of recipes and ingredients prescribed in the texts were different for men and women.’

While ingredients like green cardamoms were used liberally in dishes prepared for women because it increased their fertility, mace was added to the recipes for the men because it boosted virility. Then there are recipes, which were medicinal in intent.

‘Curd and rice was recommended for cooling the body. Even now when elephants are in heat, this is included in their diet,’ he explains.

The palace kitchens were staffed with 150 chefs who cooked only vegetarian dishes and 25 chefs who cooked only non-vegetarian dishes. Each group was further divided into Muslim and Hindu cooks with their own special skill sets.

There were another twenty Brahmin cooks who had a separate kitchen, which was kept clean from meat, fish, poultry, and tamasic vegetables like onions and garlic. These Pandit chefs prepared the food for all religious ceremonies.

‘These cooks continued to serve the family loyally generation after generation. I believe that not even the best cooking school in the world can match up to the knowledge and experience you imbibe when born in a family of cooks,’ observes Wadiyar. He adds, ‘The cooks had their work cut out for them. Every day at least twenty people at in the mardana and twenty-five in the zenana. Also a minimum of twenty-five different dishes had to be served at any given meal’ .

***

In comparison, his diet is meagre and restricted to fruits and steamed ragi balls on most days. Wadiyar who is a self-confessed foodie has become extremely health conscious over the past few years and is particular about keeping his weight in check.

However, once in a while he does like to treat himself to local Mysore cuisine and his favourites include masala chops, cold mutton roast, and bisi bele bhat (rice cooked with lentils and vegetables).

Wadiyar remembers his thread ceremony, which is one of the most important rituals in a young Hindu boy’s life as he enters adulthood. He was ten years old at the time.

He recalls, ‘Two thousand visitors came from all over for my thread ceremony to Mysore, besides the 3000 local guests. The celebrations went on for three days where on the first and second day pure vegetarian food in great variety was served. Finally on the last day two banquets were organised. There was a reception for the foreigners in the Lalitha Mahal Palace where the menu included European food, while the second banquet was for the Indian rulers where local delicacies were served….

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During the summer months between April and May, the family would move to Fernhills Palace in the hill station of Ooty. The highlight of the season was the famed fox hunt organised by the Mysore royals, which was attended by royal families across India and British officers.

Relates Wadiyar, ‘For three generations my great grandfather, my grandfather, and my granduncle had the distinction of being the hunt masters for these meets. Each day at the beginning of the hunt a lavish breakfast would be organised at Fernhills Palace. After a day of chasing the fox, the participants would ride back for a late lunch where both local Indian and European food was served.’

The family’s hunting camps were famous and attracted many keen sportsmen from the royal families of India.

‘We would set up camp for almost 600 people at our hunting lodge in Kakanakote. Every evening after a day of hunting, banquets were organised for the participants by the palace staff. Two separate tents were put up to host these dinners, which included the first class tent for the heads of state, while the second class tent was for the accompanying officers on duty,’ remembers Wadiyar.

***

In the midst of all this activity, we are also invited for lunch to the private quarters of the family in the Bangalore Palace…. In a sunlit courtyard of the palace the chefs have set up their stoves and chopping boards. The trays of spices are a study of what sets apart Kannada cuisine from the rest of India especially the north.

Fiery red Badige chillies, vibrant green curry leaves, kokum (sour fruit native to western India) as dark as ebony, dried brown tamarind, mounds of snowy white coconut, and golden yellow turmeric powder add colour to the mosaic of spices like cardamoms, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, peppercorns, and bay leaves.

Explains Wadiyar whose cooking skills are limited to whipping up a decent omelette, ‘We grow a lot of our spices like tamarind, kokum, and coconut on the palace grounds.’ His cooks have ground together special masalas and secret potions that have been passed from cook to cook, to go into the rich curries that are stewing in antique copper vessels.

‘The Mysore garam masala includes equal portions of cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon unlike the north Indian garam masala, which is made up of many more spices. Then we use something called the hatti masudi, which is a mixture of chillies and spices from the Nilgiris.’

The basic flavours in Kannada cuisine are that of coconut, jiggery, tamarind, and fragrant spices, which give the food a balance of sweet, sour, and spicy undertones. The locals who are predominantly rice eaters prefer BT rice which has more bite than a Basmati, while another popular cereal is ragi. Even the oil used for most dishes is rice oil. ‘Unlike north Indian cuisine we use oil sparingly which is why our food is much lighter,’ he adds.

The lunch is served in the family’s private drawing room where the walls are rich with the oils of European masters. The multi-course lunch includes spicy lamp chops masala a favourite of Wadiyar; an unusual horse gram curry called uili saru which is also prepared with mutton; country muddiya muttai made with mutton mince and eggs very similar to scotch eggs; a light fish curry meenu tanginakai saru; jhat phat fowl jhal frezi (quick and easy shredded fowl), and Anglo Indian classic; a coconut milk rich vegetable stew served with fluffy appams and baby appams (fried rice and gram cakes); and finally two rice preparations puliyogare or tamarind rice and bisi bele bhat. For dessert there is a creamy saabaki payasam made with sabut dana (sago) and milk to round off the meal.

As a devout Hindu the Mysore family observed every festival and puja in the Hindu holy calendar. This meant thousands of people were fed at such ceremonies in the palace.

He says, ‘We have ancient recipes that can serve one or multiples of hundreds. At any given religious ceremony at least a thousand people used to be fed. For our big festivals like Dussehra sometimes the numbers would go into lakhs.’

Even today the head of this dynasty has at least two havans or ceremonies every month and thirty-one priests are on his permanent payroll to observe these religious rites. Wadiyar explains, ‘I have only come so far in life by holding on to these traditions and culture.’

(Excerpted with the permission of the publishers)

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File photograph: Srikantatta Datta Wodeyar (right)performs ayudha pooja at the Mysore palace on the eighth day of Dasara in Mysore in October 2012 (Karnataka Photo News)

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Read reviews of the book: Vir Sanghvi, Sourish Bhattacharya

Buy the book here: Roli Books, Amazon, Flipkart

When Mukesh Ambani writes the media’s cheques

15 January 2012

The fears over what happens when a big business house with deep pockets and political influence across parties funds a big media house to legitimise its hitherto-hidden media interests are coming true even before the controversial Reliance Industries -Network18/TV18-Eenadu Television deal can be inked.

Obviously, the political class is silent. Obviously, TV18’s competitors won’t touch the story for reasons not difficult to imagine. Obviously, The Hindu won’t even publish a media column for reasons not difficult to fantasise.

But there has been no serious discussion of the implications of the deal on the media or on democracy in the mainstream media. Not on any of Network18’s usually high-decibel shows since the tie-up was announced on 3 January 2012. Not even on Karan Thapar‘s media show on CNN-IBNThe Last Word.

Print media coverage too has at best been sketchy. Even the newspapers and newsmagazines which have attempted to probe the complexities of the menage-a-troisThe Economic Times and The Indian ExpressOutlookand India Today, have barely managed to go beyond the numbers into the nuance.

Rajya Sabha TV, the newly launched television channel of the upper house of Parliament, has filled the breach somewhat with a no-holds barred discussion on the subject.

Anchored by Girish Nikam, a former Eenadu reporter who wrote five years ago on Ramoji Rao‘s travails, the RSTV debate flags all the important issues raised by the deal and underlines the role public service television can play in the service of the public when the corporate media gives up—or gives in.

Some of the comments made by three of the four participants on The Big Picture:

S. Nihal Singh, former editor of The Statesman: “My first reaction [on reading of the deal] was that it was time for India to have a really good anti-monopoly law for media, which is the norm in all democratic countries in the world, including the most advanced….

“The press council of India is totally dysfunctional because of the new chairman Justice Markandey Katju, who is baiting the media, who doesn’t believe in conversing with the media, or exchanging views with the media.”

***

Madhu Trehan, founder-editor of India Today and director, content, of the soon-to-be-launched media site, News Laundry: “It need not have happened if the government and corporates were more alert. One person owns much too much….

“Already every policy is decided by corporates as the 2G tapes (of Niira Radia) show. Not only is it dangerous that Mukesh Ambani will be deciding what policy will be decided, as you know has happened in the past, but he will also decide whether we can talk about it, or criticise it or expose it….

“Why is Reliance interested in media? It is not for money; it is obviously for influence. Rupert Murdoch was endorsing PMs and Presidents in three continents. Now we have the richest man in the country owning the largest network. Yes, there is an independent trust, but I don’t believe that. The purpose is to control the media. You are influencing policy, you are influencing how the government decides, and now you are going to decide how the people will hear about about you and the government….

“When a politician or a government spokesman speaks, we don’t believe them, but when somebody like Rajdeep Sardesai or Sagarika Ghose speaks, or anyone at IBN7 or TV18 comes on, we presume we should believe them. Now there is a big question mark [when RIL has indirect control over CNN-IBN]….

“In a deal of this size we are looking at very subtle plants of stories, subtle angles, subtly putting things in a certain way so that people think along in a certain way for a particular way. I don’t know if anyone can shut the door. It’s too late.”

***

Dilip Cherian, former editor Business India, head Perfect Relations: “Globally we have seen when big capital enters media, that is exactly what we are about to replicate for ourselves.

“Oligopolistic tendencies are visible in global media today, whether it is Silvio Berlusconi or Rupert Murdoch, the fact is they exercise humongous influence not on media but politics. Are we headed down the same road? At this time, the answer seems to be yes. Is it good? The universal answer from the question is that it isn’t,  not just because it affects the quality of news but because it affects the quality of politics….

“The entry of big capital is not new or news. What has happened in this case is a big distinction between foreign investment and domestic. Because of 4G, because the same business house owns the pipe, owns the content, there could also be another issue of monopoly. If I were the owner, I would say there needs to be a publicly visible ombudsmanship [to dispel the doubts]….

“There is room for concern, there is room for elements of self-rgulation. As a country we are not able to legislate for two reasons. One because of the influence business houses have on policy making. And two, when you bring in legislation (on regulation) up, the other group that is affected are politicians who own media houses of their own. You are talking about now a coalition of forces which the public is incapable of handling. You won’t see Parliament doing the kind of regulation they should, in an open manner, because there are interests on all sides.”

* Disclosures apply

Also readWill RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

Was Anna Hazare campaign a media creation?

5 January 2012

With the MMRDA grounds in Bombay not quite turning out to be the Ram Lila grounds of Delhi, and with the Lok Pal bill floundering in Parliament, it is time for some introspection in the media of the media’s role in the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement.

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Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, at First Post:

“At the 2011 CNN IBN Indian of  the Year awards, Anna Hazare candidly admitted that it was the media which was responsible for his rise from a regional figure in  Maharashtra to a national icon. ‘If your cameras ‘had not followed me everywhere, who would know me?’ was the activist’s honest response.

“There is little doubt that over the last nine months, Hazare’s advisers used the media quite brilliantly. Prime-time press conferences, made-for-TV spectacles, social networking campaigns: Anna Hazare did benefit from saturation media coverage.

“Yes, some of  it was high-pitched,  and, yes, some journalists did become Anna cheerleaders. But to see Anna as purely a media phenomenon would be a misreading of  the mood on the street. Crowds were attracted to Anna not because the TV cameras were there, but because he appeared the antithesis of  a morally bankrupt political leadership beset with a series of  scams….

“In the end, both the state and Team Anna mistook the medium for the message. Team Anna saw the frenzied coverage as its main weapon, forgetting that democratic politics is not a repetitive television serial, but a tortuous process of  negotiation and conciliation. The state, on the other hand, failed to recognise that cacophony will be part of  a media environment in which there are more than 350 news channels and several hundred OB vans across India.

“The media will be a loudspeaker of  grievances, not just of Team Anna, but of  many other protest movements in the future. Strong leaders will not be swayed by the noise, a wise civil society will seek legitimacy beyond the camera lens.”

Manu Joseph, editor of Open magazine, in the International Herald Tribune:

“The Indian news media generate public interest through two distinct kinds of stories — the reporter’s story and the editor’s story. In 2005, when Parliament passed the Right to Information Act, it was the result of a long and difficult process of influencing public opinion by reformers and persistent reporters.

“The anti-corruption movement, on the other hand, was an editor’s story from the very beginning, from the moment Anna Hazare arrived in New Delhi in April, sat on a wayside with his supporters and threatened to starve to death if the government did not create the Lokpal.

“Television news quickly converted Hazare into a saint who had arrived from his village to fight the corrupt authorities in New Delhi. On the first day of his fast, there were no more than 300 people around him, but the cameras framed the fast in such a way that it gave the impression that something big was going on.

“The television news media, which are largely headquartered in New Delhi, had very little understanding of Hazare, who is from Maharashtra. Until last April, his influence was confined to rural parts of Maharashtra. By the time the anchors asked the important question — “Who exactly is Anna Hazare?” — it was too late. They had already proclaimed him a modern saint, and he had amassed millions of supporters in a matter of days. As it turned out, Hazare is not a man the urban middle class would normally call a saint.”

Also read: Anna Hazare: 17 interviews in 11 hours

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

The ex-Zee News journalist behind Anna Hazare show

Ex-Star News, ToI journos behind ‘Arnab Spring’

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

CHURUMURI POLL: Press Council versus media?

3 November 2011

The “tendentious and offensiveremarks of the new chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, on the state of the media and the quality of journalists—and his articulation for greater powers, including over television news channels—has predictably, a) touched a raw nerve, b) stirred a hornet’s nest, c) set the cat among the paper tigers, d) exposed the media’s achilles’ heel, or e) all of the above.

The Editors’ Guild of India*, the Broadcast Editors’ Asociation, the Indian Journalists’ Association have all reacted sharply, while public opinion seems to be on the side of the press council chief, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. To a question on the CNN-IBN programme “Face the Nation” last night, 73% viewers said there was no need for Justice Katju to apologise (but who believes these polls any way?).

While Justice Katju tries to “place” an article in newspapers to further elucidate his views and some in the media say he said nothing that should not have been said, at least two Delhi-based English newspapers have thought the controversy fit enough for editorials.

Mint, the business daily from the Hindustan Times stable, has an edit titled “Educating Justice Katju“:

“Perhaps Justice Katju is not aware of what journalists do. The basic task of any journalist is to gather news and report it. Most of his or her working day is spent doing that. This is true of the cub reporter and of the senior editor.

“It is true that newsrooms, newspaper columns and TV channels are noisy. But that is only a reflection of the society at large: journalists don’t exist in ether. What is true of Indians is true of Indian journalists.

“Now it would be wonderful if all journalists could appreciate Caravaggio, read Catullus’s poetry, know Thucydides by the chapter and creatively use advanced macroeconomics to interpret the daily ebb and flow of events. It would not only make the press a more cultured institution, but possibly make India a better country. It is also true that few, if any, journalists are enabled to do that.

“These are expensive tastes that require extensive (and yes, expensive) education. Few journalists can afford that, even if most of them want to. The reason: there’s a huge divergence between personal and social returns from such education. This is a wider problem and it afflicts many other professions. To blame the press for being “illiterate” is misinformed, if not downright wrong.”

 

Mail Today, the compact daily from the India Today group, pulls no punches. “He doesn’t deserve to be press council chief” is its rather straightforward headline:

“Justice Katju’s attitude towards the media is one of undisguised disgust. Clearly, he seems to have been misled about his work as the PCI Chairman.

“He seems to think that he has been appointed by Josef Stalin to forcefully “ modernise” the media. Actually he has been appointed under the Press Council of India Act and his main job is to ensure that the press remains free in this country.

“A second task is that of raising the standards of the media discourse, not through chastisement— where, in any case he can merely admonish— but dialogue and persuasion. But this is something you cannot do if you hold the media in utter contempt.

“It would appear that Justice Katju, who had a streak of the self- publicist even as a judge, is pursuing a bizarre agenda which may end up embarrassing those who pushed for his appointment as the Chairman of the Press Council of India.”

* Disclosures apply

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

TV news channel editors too blast PCI chief

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

TV news channel editors slam Press Council chief

3 November 2011

On the heels of the Editors’ Guild of India*, the Broadcast Editors’ Association—the apex body of editors of national and  regional television news channels—has slammed Press Council chairman, Justice Markandey Katju‘s remarks on the media in recent interviews and interactions.

Below is the full text of the BEA statement issued by president Shazi Zaman and general secretary N.K. Singh:

“The Broadcast Editors’ Association (BEA) strongly condemns the irresponsible and negative comments by the new Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman Justice Markandey Katju against the media and media professionals, ever since he assumed charge. Coming from a person holding an august office, the utterances are extremely disappointing.

“In a democracy, criticism is welcome against institutions by individuals and representatives of institutions. It gives a fillip to self-corrective process. The BEA believes in inviting public criticism against itself and in taking, after evaluating such comments, the required corrective steps. But the criticism being made by Justice Katju is as demeaning and denigrating as it is a manifestation of his ignorance of media working. Any criticism made in a holier-than-thou fervor defeats the very purpose it is sought to be made for.

“The new chairman should know that the electronic media has taken a giant step in creating a self-regulatory mechanism under the chairmanship of eminent jurist and former Supreme Court Chief Justice J.S. Verma.

“Justice Katju accuses media of dividing people on communal lines and hence being anti-people. The sane and balanced coverage of two recent incidents— Ayodhya Judgment and Gopalgarh Riots— belies the assertion of the PCI Chairman. Taking recourse to logical fallacy, he accuses media of branding a particular community as terrorists after every bomb blast by showing emails purported to have been sent by some terrorist organizations like Harkat-ul-Ansar (which according to him may have been sent by any mischievous person). Justice Katju, the BEA hopes, is aware of the elementary lesson of logic that says “cow is an animal but all animals are not cow”.

“Justice Katju’s claim that media professionals are of low intellectual calibre with poor knowledge of economics, history, politics, literature and philosophy shows  scant knowledge of  the great journalists the country has produced.

“While claiming to be a democrat, his demand for more “teeth” to the council, and inclusion of electronic media in it, exposes more than what it conceals.

“The BEA would like to remind the new PCI chief of media’s role in ameliorating the plight of the poor by airing news about abject poverty and rank corruption. Had it not been the case, the self-proclaimed intellectuals cozily sitting in the majestic lap of the State would not have even known its magnitude.

“For the benefit of Mr. Katju the BEA quotes here a famous statement by none other than the architect of modern India and first Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru: “To my mind the freedom of the press is not just a slogan from the larger point of view, but it is an essential attribute of the democratic process. I have no doubt that even if the Government dislikes the liberties taken by the press and considers them dangerous, it is wrong to interfere with the freedom of the press. I would rather have a completely free press, with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom, than a suppressed or regulated press.”

“Justice Katju may well be reminded that Indian electronic media in its 16 years of existence (outside of government) has achieved many milestones in strengthening the democratic values and has, as bulwark of democracy, continued to live up to people’s expectations.”

* Disclosures apply

Image: courtesy IBN Live

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

Editors’ Guild lashes out at Press Council chief

2 November 2011

The Editors’ Guild of India* has responded to the remarks made by the chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, in recent interviews and interactions with the media.

Below is the full text of the editors’ guild response:

“The Editors’ Guild of India deplores the ill-considered, sweeping and uninformed comments on the media and on media professionals by the new chairman of the Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju. Mr Katju has been making negative statements on the media ever since he assumed office, but his comments in an interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN, broadcast over the week-end, touched a new low.

“The Guild notes that Mr Katju thinks the media divides people on religious lines and is anti-people. He objects to TV channels that focus on cricket and other subjects that he disapproves of. He believes that journalists have not studied economics, politics, literature or philosophy, and he has a poor opinion of the media and media people (some of whom, as it happens, are members of the Press Council that Mr Katju chairs).

“The Guild notes that Mr Katju, after expressing such sweeping negative sentiments, has asked the government for draconian powers to impose fines on the media, to withdraw advertisements and to suspend the licence to publish or broadcast. The Guild strongly opposes such powers being given to the Council, especially a Council led by someone who it would seem wants to invoke “fear” in the media.

“The Guild wishes to draw attention to the fact that its attempt to engage in dialogue with Mr Katju has been rendered futile by Mr Katju, who however continues to express his tendentious and offensive views. The Guild wishes to remind Mr Katju that the Indian media is as diverse as it is vigorous, and that while it has drawbacks and shortcomings, on the whole it contributes to the strength of the Indian system.

“Press freedom is a bulwark for the Indian people against the onslaught of people in authority, and the Guild will firmly oppose the assumption of any draconian powers by a Press Council that was created with an altogether different purpose. Further, as the very name of the Council suggests, only the print media comes within the Council’s ambit. The issues and drivers of the electronic media are such that they call for separate regulation. Therefore the Guild firmly believes that the Press Council should have its brief limited to the print media, as it is at the present.”

T.N. Ninan, editorial director of Business Standard, is the current president of the editors’ guild. Coomi Kapoor, consulting editor of the Indian Express, is the secretary.

* Disclosures apply

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

‘Media is diverting attention & dividing people’

31 October 2011

The Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory body for “preserving the freedom of the press and maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies”, has a new chairman: Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN’s weekly programme Devil’s Advocate, Justice Katju, known for his “mayhem, humour and quotability” in the courtroom and his long, ponderous newspaper articles, lets loose:

Karan Thapar: In a recent interaction with newspaper and TV editors, you said the media have become irresponsible and wayward, and that the time has come when some introspection is required. Are you disappointed with the media?

Justice Katju: Very disappointed with the media. I have a poor opinion about the media. I mean this. They should be working for the interests of the people. But they are not working for the interests of the people and sometimes, politically, they are working in an anti-people manner.

You have said one of the basic tasks of the media is to provide truthful and objective information to form rational opinions. Is that not happening altogether or is it not happening sufficiently?

You must first understand the historical context. India is passing through a transitional period in our history. Transition from a feudal-agricultural to a modern-industrial society. This is a painful and agonising period. When Europe was passing through this period, media played a great role. It was a great help in transforming European society.

Is that not happening in India?

No. Just the reverse….

Indian media is very often playing an anti-people role. One, it diverts the attention of the people from the real problems, which are basically economic. 80% people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, healthcare. You divert attention from those problems and instead you parade parade film stars, fashion parades, cricketers, as if they are the problems.

Two, very often the media (deliberately) divides the people (on religious lines). This is a country of great diversity because it is a country broadly of immigrants. We must respect each other and remain united. After every bomb blast, almost every channel report that Indian Mujahidin or Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkatul-jihad-e-islam have sent e-mails or SMS claiming responsibility. Now an e-mail can be sent by any mischievous person, but by showing this on TV channels and next day in the newspapers the tendency is to demonise all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers.

Third, the media must promote scientific ideas to help the country move forward, like the European media did. Here the media promotes superstition, astrology. You know, 90% of the people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on. Should the media help uplift them and bring them up to a higher mental level and make them part of enlightened India, or should it go down to their level and perpetuate their backwardness? Many channels show astrology, which is pure humbug, total superstition.

You began by saying that you had a very low opinion of the media, that you were deeply dispapointed. I get the impression you don’t think very much of the media at all?

There are some very respected journalists…. General rut is very, very low and I have a poor opinion of most media people. Frankly, I don’t think they have any knowledge of economic theory or political science or literature or philosophy. I don’t think they have studied all this.

So the media is in effect is letting down India.

Yes, absolutely. Because media is very important in this transitional period. The media deals with ideas, it is not an ordinary business, dealing in commodities. Therefore, people need modern scientific ideas. And that’s not happening.

View the full video: ‘Media deliberately dividing people’

Also read: What the stars foretell for our avivekanandas

H.D. Kumaraswamy will become PM one day: astrologer

How the BJP raised witchcraft to statecraft

The only place black magic works is in your mind

How Big B has pushed India to regressive, new low

Can the Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win?

India’s most corrupt state? No prizes for guessing

9 August 2011

B.S. Yediyurappa is gone as the chief minister of Karnataka, but B.S. Yediyurappa is still here as the power behind the new chief minister of Karnataka. The Reddy brothers, who were indicted by the Lok Ayukta, are out of the new ministry, but V. Somanna, who was indicted by the same Lok Ayukta, is in.

Like a wind-up doll, Yediyurappa makes much of his “development agenda” and the BJP, which is now mortally scared of his hold over Lingayats and his support among MLAs, thinks the problem is over if you can deftly bury your head in the sand (or the Bellary ore).

This snapshot of a CSDS survey makes nonsense of such claims.

Respondents in the State were asked which government was most corrupt: the one in Delhi, the one in Bangalore, or the one in their city. The answer is unambiguously clear: the State government of B.S. Yediyurappa. Worse, that number is the highest for all the 11 States which were part of the CSDS survey.

Overall, a total of 39,000 respondents in 1,300 locations in 325 assembly constitutencies were polled for the survey. The fieldwork was done between between July 25 and 31, 2011, ie before Yediyurappa remitted office before being allowed to act as the puppeteer behind the throne.

View the full survey here: State of the Nation

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

The state of the State is three up and three down

‘Mining scam has destroyed BJP’s 2014 hopes’

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Manmohan Singh survive?

6 August 2011

As August 15 looms into the calendar for the 64th time since Independence, it would be an understatement to say that the nation is passing through an extraordinary phase.  All the usual stories of poverty, death, disease, despair, homelessness, malnutrition, exploitation, inequity, inequality, inflation, etc, still populate our front pages as they faithfully have for 63 independence days before.

But you can hear the faint rumblings of something more seismic.

An avalanche of corruption has rumbled across the nation shaking Congress, BJP and Left governments at the Centre and in the States. Week after week, scam after scam of mindnumbing size and scale tumbles out of the vaults and cupboards. Report after report, from the CAG down to the Lok Ayukta—and stricture after stricture from the Supreme Court—sends shivers down the shameful spines of the corrupt and the crooked.

In such choppy waters, the admiral guiding INS India has stood unmoved and unaffected.

Not any more. Three big bandicoots have cruelly chipped and nibbled away at prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s assiduously cultivated image of impeccable honesty and integrity in recent weeks.

# First, the cash-for-votes scandal (involving Amar Singh, Arun Jaitely, and CNN-IBN) that saved Singh’s government and his pet nuclear deal in July 2008, has come back to haunt him (and the “treasury benches”) with a vengeance.

# Then, his own cabinet colleagues and bureaucrats, like former telecom minister A. Raja and former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, have spoken of how much the PM (and others in the cabinet) knew about the Rs 173,000 crore scam in the allocation of 2G spectrum in which they are disgraced.

# And now, the Commonwealth Games scam has thudded even more dangerously into Manmohan Singh’s court, showing how the PMO looked the other way while Suresh Kalmadi was running riot, with the Delhi government of Sheela Dixit, the sports ministry of M.S. Gill and the urban development ministry of S. Jaipal Reddy for company.

In the midst of all this heavy fire (and the spark of the Lok Pal bill), Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been suddenly rendered hors d’combat, leaving Singh at the mercy of Amar (Janardhan Dwivedi), Akbar (Ahmad Patel), Antony (A.K. Antony)—and Rahul Gandhi—before going off to the United States for treatment.

With Parliament in its monsoon session, this is clearly not what the good doctor would have ordered for Manmohan Singh who somehow survived the S-band scam. Also, with Rahul Gandhi suddenly in charge of the adult Congress, after hand-holding the youth Congress, the writing is on the wall for the old man.

Questions: Will Manmohan Singh survive this session of Parliament? Will he last until 2014? Or is the bell beginning to toll for a change of horse, mid-stream?

Also read: Can the paragon of virtue hear his conscience?

CHURUMURI POLL: Manmohan Singh, still ‘Mr Clean’—II?

Has the middle-class deserted Manmohan Singh?

CHURUMURI POLL: Manmohan Singh, still ‘Mr Clean’—I?

To err is human, to eff up repeatedly is divine

13 May 2011

If only they weren’t taken so seriously by TV news channels, election surveys and exit polls should be published on the comics pages, for the unbridled fun they offer—after the declaration of results.

Above is The Times of India‘s composite  infographic of all the surveys done by various TV stations and polling agencies for the five states that had elections to their legislative assemblies.

Most pollsters got Bengal bang on, CNN-IBN gets Kerala right, Assam is kinda tricky for all, and Tamil Nadu is, well, impossible for all, only C-Voter comes close.

Below are the leads at 1 pm.

West Bengal: Trinamul Congress 215, Left front 72

Tamil Nadu: AIADMK 195, DMK 37

Kerala: UDF 72, LDF 65

Assam: Congress 81, AGP 10, Others 35

Little wonder, CNN-IBN’s resident number-cruncher Yogendra Yadav of CSDS began proceedings this year by grandly denouncing the fact that each election was seen as a test of pollsters.

Infographic: courtesy The Times of India

NDTV, CNN-IBN and Mani Shankar Aiyar ‘Live’

14 January 2011

Reader Kollery S. Dharan forwards two screengrabs, shot with his mobile phone, of the 10 pm shows of NDTV 24×7 and CNN-IBN on Thursday, 13 January 2011.

Both channels carry the “live” logo on the top right-hand corner. And “live” on both channels at the same time on the same day is the diplomat-turned-politician Mani Shankar Aiyar.

For Barkha Dutt‘s show The Buck Stops Here (left), Aiyar, in a grey coat, offers his wisdom on the dynastic democracy that the writer Patrick French says India has become.

For Sagarika Ghose‘s show Face the Nation (right), Aiyar, now in a beige/ light brown coat, holds forth on Pakistan’s identity crisis. The two pictures were captured at 10.22 pm and 10.23 pm.

So, which channel had Mani Shankar Aiyar “live” last night? Or has Aiyar broken the time-space continuum?

ARUNDHATI ROY: India is a corporate Hindu State

12 September 2010

Previously, she has said India is not a democracy. That regular elections do not make a democracy. That the middle and upper classes have seceded from India and are living in a country all their own.

As India’s red corridor turns redder, pockmarked by ambushes, encounters, fake encounters, rape, torture etc, the author and activist Arundhati Roy talks to Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN:

“I see a government breaking every sort of law in the Constitution that it has about tribal people and assault on the homelands of millions of people and some, there is a resistance force that is resisting that…. I see the government absolutely, as the major aggressor.

“As far as the Maoists are concerned, their ideology is an ideology of overthrowing the Indian State with violence. However, I don’t believe that if the Indian State was a just state, if ordinary people had some minor hope for justice, the Maoists would just be a marginal group of militants with no popular appeal….

“Forget the Maoists. Every resistance movement, armed or unarmed, and the Maoists today are fighting to implement the Constitution, and the government is vandalising it…. I perceived them [Maoists] as a group of people who have at a most militant end in the bandwidth of resistance movements that exist in the cities, in the planes and in the forests.

“Their ultimate goal, as they say quite clearly, is to overthrow the Indian State and institute the dictatorship of the proletariat…. I don’t support that goal in the sense that I don’t believe the solution to the problem the world is in right now will come from an imagination either communist or capitalist….

“I believe that the Indian State has abdicated its responsibility to the people. I believe that. I believe that when a state is no longer bound, neither legally nor morally by the Indian Constitution, either we should rephrase the preamble of the Indian Constitution which says we are a sovereign, democratic, secular republic. We should rephrase it and say we are a corporate, Hindu, satellite State.

“Or we have to have a government which respects the Constitution or we change the Constitution.”

Read the full text of the interview: India is a corporate, Hindu state

Arundhati Roy: ‘What Muslims were to BJP, Maoists are to Congress’

‘India is not a democracy’

‘Elections do not make a democracy’

‘Middle and upper classes are in their own country’

The media, the message and the messengers

***

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the State beat Naxals?

An open letter to home minister P. Chidambaram

The Times of India and Commonwealth Games

3 September 2010

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The year of the lord 2010 has seen the The Times of India in uber-aggressive mode.

The nation’s largest English daily that rarely ever wants to “afflict the comfortable” despite its size, reach, reputation, resources and influence, has pulled out all stops in exposing the murky IPL dealings of Lalit Modi, Union minister Sharad Pawar and his MP-daughter Supriya Sule, and their NCP partyman Praful Patel.

In all those four IPL-related stories, Times provided blanket coverage and then let matters rest after a while. But if there is one story on which it has been relentless in the last couple of months, it is its attack on the Commonwealth Games (CWG)—and Pawar’s former factotum, Suresh Kalmadi.

Day after day, Times has employed reporters, editors, columnists, authors, even commissioned industrialists, to rip the games and the chairman of its organising committee apart, with the kind of first-rate journalism that ToI has condemned to play second fiddle over the last decade.

A cursory count shows that between 1 August and 2 September 2010, The Times of India (Delhi market) has published no less than 107 negative headlines on the Commonwealth Games (sample them here) with the author Chetan Bhagat just short of advocating a boycott of the CWG on the pages of The Sunday Times of India (in image, above).

Given how rarely ToI wants to rock the boat, the question that is naturally being asked in Delhi and Bombay is, why. What’s behind the Times‘ new-found aggro?

Legitimate journalism, is of course the easiest explanation for ToI‘s proactivism. The fact that the CWG is in a mess—inflated bills, corrupt deals, leaky stadiums, incomplete facilities, etc—is beyond doubt, and Suresh Kalmadi’s own culpability in this (and other) dubious deals is also beyond question.

After all, if politicians like Mani Shankar Aiyar can ask searching questions on the CWG, why shouldn’t a newspaper?

Yet, it is unnatural for a “feel-good” newspaper like The Times of India, whose advertised credo is to wake up the reader with a good feeling in his head, to rub in the bad news in the all-important Delhi market, day in and day out. Moreover, bigger scams involving more important people have been allowed to rest.

So, what gives?

There are no answers, just whispers.

But for over a fortnight now, journalists have been hissing about a four-page document that reportedly suggests that the Times‘ interest in the story may be more than just journalistic.

Now, it is up on Flickr (and Scribd).

The first page of it is a signed November 2009 letter from a director of Times of India group (C.R. Srinivasan) on a ToI letterhead to Suresh Kalmadi, outlining the “costumer connect initiatives” the group proposes to undertake.

“Kindly let us know of your decision to grant ‘official newspaper’ status to The Times of India at your earliest convenience,” concludes Srinivasan’s letter.

The second page is a signed note from Times Group general manager Gautam Sen to the additional director-general, communications, of the CWG organising committee, presenting a “comprehensive print proposal” (for Times of India, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Mirror and Sandhya Times) along with a rate-card.

For 2-page reports on five key milestone days (carrying a half-page ad of CWG at DAVP (department of audio visual publicity) rates and a half-page ad at commercial days); for six one-page reports (where in 65% of the page will have edit and 35% will be paid-for); and 12 full pages of advertorial at DAVP rates, Times proposes a Rs 12.19 crore package.

For a claimed combined nationwide circulation of 51.84 lakh copies for the five dailies, the breakdown is Rs 4.61 crore + Rs 3.31 crore + Rs 4.27 crore = Rs 12.19 crore.

The last-two pages doing the rounds—an unsigned note from a bureaucrat to a senior bureaucrat or to Kalmadi himself, explaining the fineprint of the proposed Times package—leave little to the imagination.

In summary, the ToI proposal has the following benefits:

# OC [organising committee] in totality pays for 16.6 pages and in return gets the leverage for 28 pages.

# It [ToI group] has the potential to form opinions of the public at large. It is also expected that with the influence that the ‘Response’ department has over editorial, the OC can get neutral and positive coverage from now to the Games.

# We can consider and extended and beneficial deals with ToI‘s other properties viz, TV, radio, internet, etc, including Economic Times (all editions) may be requested of ToI.

While on the face of it, the sum of Rs 12.19 crore may seem large, the benefits offered on a national basis are considerable and the proposal should be considered favourably.

Obviously, these notes and letters do not represent the full story and there is nothing—repeat, nothing—in them to suggest that the Times‘ coverage of CWG and Kalmadi has a connection with this and/or other correspondence.

But judging from the CWG coverage so far, it is fair to assume that ToI did not get the “official newspaper” status. (The buzz is that Hindustan Times has received that status with a lower than Rs 12.19 crore bid. At what terms HT secured the ‘My Delhi, My Games’ tag is not known, but Delhi’s two biggest English dailies do not come out smelling of roses.)

Judging from the hyper-ballistic coverage of CWG and Kalmadi on Times Now, it is also reasonably safe to assume that the plan to extend the deal to Times‘ other properties came to nought. (CNN-IBN swung the baton rights’ deal, unlike Times Now and the other aggrieved bidder, NDTV.)

Nevertheless, at a time when other Indian media specialities like “medianet, paid news” and “private treaties” have become the flavour of the season, the four-page ToI-CWG note lays bare the alarming interplay between editorial and advertising in Indian media houses like never before.

The two-page note appended to the Times‘ managers’ notes also shows how advertisers are confident of buying “neutral and positive coverage” if they can throw a few crores.

Conversely, the bottomline is clear: if an advertiser doesn’t play along, there is hell in store.

Also read: Why Delhi shouldn’t host Commonwealth Games

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Mani Shankar Aiyar ‘anti-national’?

Why Ram Pyari couldn’t take her daughter home

Anybody dalit in the media and speaks English?*

13 May 2010

The UPA government’s reported inclination to include an extra column in the 2011 census to enumerate caste, for the first time since 1931, has seen politicians and political parties close ranks, although the Union cabinet is said to have been divided on the issue.

But there has been an avalanche of criticism in the media. “A monumental travesty,” is one view in The Indian Express. “No sense in caste census,” declares the Financial Express. “Will it help reduce inequalities,” asks The Hindu. “No time to look behind,” is one view in The Telegraph.

On television, of course, it is as if the end is nigh upon us already, and they even quote the mighty Amitabh Bachchan—the son-in-law of a journalist—to bolster their view.

A similar dichotomy between the political class and the fourth estate greeted the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in 1989. And indeed when 27% reservation was announced for other backward classes in higher educational institutions in the first innings of the UPA government.

Could the media “disconnect” be because of the demographics of dominant sections of the Indian media, most of which are located in urban centres? Are there too many upper-caste, upper-class types and far too few of the other kind to understand and empathise with the logic, the dynamics, the imperative for a caste census or reservations?

In her Hindustan Times column, CNN-IBN senior editor Sagarika Ghose writes:

“In 1996 when B.N. Uniyal undertook a survey of national newspapers, he found that among 686 journalists accredited to the government, 454 were upper caste, the remaining 232 did not carry their caste names and in a random sample of 47, not a single one was a dalit.”

More recently, a 2006 survey of 300 senior journalists in 37 Hindi and English newspapers and TV stations found that “Hindu upper caste men”—who form eight per cent of the country’s population—hold 71 per cent of the top jobs in the national media.

“Dalits and Adivasis “are conspicuous by their absence among the decision- makers. Not even one of the 315 key decision-makers belonged to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes.

“If men and women are taken together, the share of upper caste Hindus or dwijas in the upper echelons of the media is 85 per cent. These castes account for 16 per cent of the national population. Brahmins alone, the survey found, hold 49 per cent of the top jobs in national journalism.

“If non-dwija forward castes like Marathas, Patels, Jats and Reddys are added, the total forward caste share stands at 88 per cent.

“In contrast, OBCs, who are estimated to constitute around 40 per cent of the population, account for an “abysmally low” four per cent of top media jobs. In the English print media, OBCs account for just one per cent of top jobs and in the Hindi print media eight per cent.”

Read the full column: Caste off those blinkers

Photograph: the front page of Harijan, the weekly English newspaper published by Mahatma Gandhi

Also read: Why are they Tamils? Why are they all Brahmins?

Just 4% of population but 7 Brahmins in Indian team?

* with apologies to Edward Behr

Are Gavaskar & Shastri India’s only cricketers?

27 April 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As I went around the now-abandoned Chinnaswamy stadium, no thanks to the Bangalore police, I spotted the Ace Sports Specialist (ASS) sitting in the clubhouse restaurant.

I joined him for coffee and thought I could get my doubts cleared on some cricketing aspects.

“How come only a few names come out of the BCCI’s hat whenever the membership or chairmanship of any committee comes up? One or two occupying multiple positions of power in not uncommon. Is it a case of ‘Favored Few’? Or do others not qualify or they are not interested?” I started off.

“You are talking in riddles. Why don’t you be specific?” asked ASS.

Sunil Gavaskar is one of the most articulate and knowledgeable cricketers apart from being one of the all-time greats of the game. Naturally his services are sought by the ICC, the BCCI as well as sports channels like ESPN, Star Cricket, etc.”

“It is but natural,” ASS agreed.

“Sometime back when he was the chairman of the ICC technical committee, he had criticized ICC during a Test match as Star Sports commentator. There was a clear conflict of interest. ICC bluntly gave him an alternative, ‘either be with ICC or quit commentating’.”

“That’s right. He resigned from the ICC and kept the more lucrative commentator’s job.”

“Doesn’t ICC’s rule apply for BCCI too?  He is the chairman of BCCI technical committee and he continues to be the commentator for the cricket channels as well as an expert for the news channels? Isn’t there a conflict of interest? Even the captain or a member of the team is barred from writing when a match is on.”

“You’re right. I never thought of this before. BCCI always operates in an ad hoc manner most times,” blurted ASS.

Ravi Shastri was a ‘Champion of Champions’ once and hit 6 sixes off Tilak Raj in a Ranji trophy match.”

“Not bad kannaiah, Ramu! You have kept track of all the great records.”

I ignored ASS’S backhanded compliment.

“Aren’t Shastri and Gavaskar members of the IPL governing council too?” I asked.

“Yes, they are, along with Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.”

“Don’t we have other cricketers of calibre who could have been given this job, like Mohinder Amarnath, Kapil Dev, Bishen Singh Bedi, Syed Kirmani, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Dilip Doshi et al since Gavaskar is already chairman of technical committee and Shastri is chairman of the NCA in Bangalore? Why doesn’t BCCI even consider other senior cricketers as they too have served the country with distinction?”

“There is something like being in ‘good books’ of BCCI; the names that you mention probably come under ‘bad books’,” ASS explained.

“I see. What about Arun Lal, Brijesh Patel, Shivlal Yadav,  Narendra Hirwani, Raju Mukherji?” I persisted.

“Look. BCCI must have forgotten most of these names. Sharad Pawar and Shashank Manohar may not even know who Hirwani is.”

“Again, how come only Ravi Shastri and Gavaskar were along with S. Venkataraghavan in a committee to select the coach for the Indian team? Shouldn’t senior cricketers like Chandu Borde, Ajit Wadekar and Gundappa Vishwanath be on such committees? Their credentials as players are any day better than that of Shastri.”

“The cricketers you mentioned may perhaps be too old to understand modern cricket, especially one-day cricket and Twenty 20 cricket.”

ASS had brought the newer forms of cricket into play.

“Look,” I said, “both Gavaskar and Shastri didn’t exactly set the Meethi river on fire in the shorter versions. Remember, Gavaskar scored 36 not out in 60 overs in the first World Cup! What about Syed Kirmani, Yashpal Sharma or Kirti Azad, the heroes of the 1983 World Cup final or Sadanand Vishwanth or W.V. Raman?”

“The names you mention are not from the western region.”

“I can’t understand. First you have to be in the ‘good books’ of the Board and then you have to be also from the western region to be eligible for plum positions! BCCI should encourage past cricketers from all regions and give them the chance to shoulder various responsibilities instead of choosing only its blue-eyed boys in all committees and academies etc. Are we talking of the board of control for cricket in India, the BCCI, after all?”

“Yes, but BCCI, which runs cricket in the country, is mostly BCCIWI,” said the ASS.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Board of control for cricket in India from western India!’ The other regions simply do not matter to them in the least,” replied the ASS is we left the Chinnaswamy stadium.

The statement the IPL team owners didn’t make

20 January 2010

CNN-IBN sports editor Gaurav Kalra dreams up a graceful statement that the IPL team owners could have made instead of the farcical reasons they have been trotting out on why Pakistani players were ignored in the bidding for season 3:

“We, the team owners of the Indian Premier League regret to announce that none of us will be bidding for any Pakistani players at today’s auction. We have arrived at this decision with a heavy heart and after detailed consultations amongst ourselves. Our decision has been conveyed to IPL chairman Lalit Modi and we have requested him to convey the same to the 11 players who were up for auction and the PCB. While we are in no doubt about the high calibre of the Pakistani players available, our hand has been forced by matters beyond ours and indeed the players’ control. We fear that in the current political environment, the presence of Pakistani players may create unexpected security concerns which are best avoided at this time. We apologise to the players and the Pakistan Cricket Board for the inconvenience caused in getting security clearances from their foreign and interior ministries. We would also like to assure the players that the door is not closed on them for future editions of the IPL and it remains our sincere hope that fans will be able to enjoy their resplendent talent in this tournament’s future editions”.

Read the full article: Lies, damned lies and other such balderdash

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Has IPL insulted Pakistan?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is CJI right about Dinakaran?

18 January 2010

On the very day Rajya Sabha chairman and vice president Hamid Ansari was initiating the impeachment process against Karnataka high court chief justice P.D. Dinakaran by constituting a three-member committee of experts to probe the charges, the chief justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan has said something rather strange.

In an interview with Bhupendra Chaubey of CNN-IBN, the CJI has indirectly questioned the timing of the charges levelled against Justice Dinakaran.

“I can say one thing: there was not a single allegation when he was a judge of the Madras High Court; there was not a single allegation when he became Chief Justice of High Court of Karnataka in August 2008. Till his name was recommended by the Supreme Court collegium for elevation there was not a single allegation. Not a member of the bar raised any objection, nothing. All these allegations have been raised when his name was suggested to be elevated,” the CJI has said.

Questions: Is the CJI right? Does the timing of the charges indicate that Dinakaran is being targetted and vilified to block his elevation to the Supreme Court? Does the fact the charges have been made only now and not before absolve him? Or does it not? Should the impeachment process and the probe into the allegations go on regardless of the timing? Or should it be called off since the CJI has given him the benefit of the doubt?

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

The brazen conduct of Justice Dinakaran

The strange case of Justice Dinakaran (continued)

Audi alteram partem? Hear the other side out?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Justice Dinkaran be impeached?

When the Mysore turban gave way to the roomal

1 November 2009

D.P. SATISH writes from New Delhi: This is not the right time to talk about the divide between Old Mysore and northern Karnataka. The northern part of the State is reeling under the flood of the century, and needs all the support and sympathy old Mysore and every other part of the State can give.

But, as Karnataka turns 53, the Rajyotsava is as good a time as any to revisit Chiranjiv Singh, the distinguished turbaned bureaucrat, who beautifully describes the divide in the article below, excerpted from the admirable anthology on Bangalore edited by Aditi De.

Chiranjiv Singh is often times referred to as more Kannadiga than the most Kannadigas. A scholar and a thinker, he has written books on Kannada and Karnataka in both Kannada and English; he was the first secretary of Kannada and culture department. He retired five years ago as additional chief secretary.

***

NEW SHOOTS AND OLD ROOTS

The Cultural Backdrop of Bangalore

By Chiranjiv Singh

When Devaraj Urs changed the name of the State from Mysore to Karnataka, there was jubilation in northern Karnataka, but a sense of loss in old Mysore. I remember the unhappiness which many people expressed to me at this symbolic act; for them it was a break with a cherished past, a loss of the rich cultural legacy of the Maharajas of Mysore.

In Bangalore, in a matching symbolic act, K. Balasubramanyam, the respected revenue commissioner of the State, gave up his old Mysore gold lace turban (Mysore peta) in favour of the black cap of northern Karnataka.

“When there is no Mysore now, why should I continue to wear the Mysore turban?’ he said.

The elegant Mysore gold lace turban vanished, along with the culture it represented. It is seen now in Sir M. Visvesvaraya‘s portraits which hang in schools and offices and in the ‘ in memorium ‘ columns of daily papers, where grandparents are occasionally remembered with their photographs.

In the Vidhana Soudha, the northern Karnataka turbans (the roomal) drew attention amidst the Gandhi caps for a while. The minister of urban development Mr Upnal with his outsized turban, was jokingly called ‘the minister of turban development’.

Now Bangalore has no time for Gandhi caps or turbans.

The divide between zari peta and the silk roomal remains.

A saying current in northern Karnataka, which was quoted to me by Mahalinga Shetty of Hubli, who was married into the old Mysore family of S. Nijalingappa, the first chief minister of unified Karnataka, meant ‘Don’t trust the zari peta-wallahs’. The zari peta-wallahs thought the roomal-wallahs were odd and rough.

Across this Old-Mysore – northern Karnataka divide stereotypes persist.

When I suggested to a film maker who was planning to make a film and television serial on Shishunala Sharif, the mystic poet-saint on northern Karnataka, who is sometimes compared to Kabir—raised a Muslim and becoming the disciple of a Hindu—that he should use the northern dialect which Shishunal Sharif spoke and wrote in, he said, ‘No, it won’t run. The northern Karnataka dialect in Bangalore is still used only for comic effect.’

If jokes are at the expense of the other, then Bangalore has many others besides the northern Karnataka ones; north Indians, Tamils, Telugus, Marwaris, Christians, Muslims, each one laughing at the other, behind their backs. But for all that, Bangalore remains a serious city.

Swalpa adjust maadi‘ (please adjust a little), that cliched phrase often quoted while referring to Bangalore’s culture, has become meaningless. Calcutta and Hyderabad could as well claim the phrase and, during floods, Mumbaikars showed more adjustment than Bangaloreans.

Perhaps the distinguishing feature of Bangalore’s culture is the ability to live within divisions and to rise above them at the same time and accept the new oppenness. This flexibility is helpful in times of constant change. Food habits are changing; clothing is changing; houses are changing; ways of life are changing; entertainment is changing; culture is changing.

Jasmine sellers are changing over to selling vegetables; demand for jasmine strands is declining because many women now sport short hair and do not decorate their hair with jasmine and Kanakambara flowers. Looms that weave Bangalore silk saris and dhotis are dwindling because men and women have taken to Western and Punjabi garb.

Also read: Chiranjiv Singh on H.Y. Sharada Prasad

The finest passage in English on Karnataka?

‘What Muslims were to BJP, Naxals are to Cong’

25 October 2009

Booker Prize wining author and activist Arundhati Roy in an interview with Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN (to be aired at 8.30 pm tonight, IST) suggests that the “gravest threat to internal security” is a bogey.

The reason the Manmohan Singh government has zeroed in on Maoists is big business.

“…because of this economic interest, the government and establishment actually needs a war. It needs to militarise. For that it needs an enemy. And so, in a way what the Muslims were to BJP, the Maoists are to Congress.”

Also read: ‘All terror can be traced to injustice, inequality’

Arundhati Roy: ‘India is not a democracy’

‘Middle and upper classes are in their own country’

Arundhati Roy: ‘Gujarat is a Nazi type of democracy’

‘What does Narendra Modi‘s victory say about us?’

India’s best editors, wiser than rest together?

24 October 2009

rajdeepNew

Via Twitter, CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai, names the “most outstanding election analysts across channels” on counting day, October 22. His verdict: Kumar Ketkar, editor of the Marathi daily Loksatta, and Palagummi Sainath, rural affairs editor of The Hindu, both of whom were on CNN-IBN.

“Wiser than all Delhi editors put together,” says Sardesai, whose own election show had the usual sprinkling of said “Delhi editors”, who also appeared on CNN-IBN.

Ahem.

Also read: Don’t ask me, ask her. Don’t ask me, ask him

Why Rajdeep, Barkha must decline Padma Shri

India’s best editors? Just press ‘Click’

Not the land of the cow, land of the holy cows

When Priyanka meets Nalini she’s a messiah but…

21 October 2009

priyanka binayak

Gladson Dungdung, an activist based in Jharkhand, a State bang in the middle of the “Red Coridor”, appeared on CNN-IBN on Tuesday night to discuss the Naxal issue.

Dungdung, who says his parents were murdered and their 20 acres of land taken away for a dam without being compensated, says the government is essentially batting for the multinational corporations (MNCs) who want forest land cleared for their projects.

To address the issue of Naxalites, the government, he says, has to first address the economic, social and cultural injustice which has been done to the adivasis and address the developmental issues.

Dungdung: See the problem is that two decades ago what Rajiv Gandhi used to say that only 15 per cent of the money used to reach the poor is the same thing that Rahul Gandhi is saying now. That means they have not done anything.

CNN-IBN: You are saying that the democratic process has remained unchanged in this country for the last 25 years.

Dungdung: Yes. Another thing when Priyanka Gandhi meets the killer of Rajiv Gandhi, she becomes the messiah for the people—or is at least projected like that. When someone like Binayak Sen treats an adivasi, he becomes a Naxal supporter. How is this fair?

Photographs: courtesy CNN-IBN, Revolution in South Asia

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Will State beat Naxals?

Are you a part of the 1%—or the other 99%?

Everybody loves a good number: 93, 77, 54, 33

Rising India’s share of the poorest is growing

Indians should never ask where on earth Gabon is

Because, like Elvis, they only show him waist up

24 September 2009

DSC01525

True, the Congress is in the midst of a Bogus Austerity Drama (BAD), but do its spokesmen have to drop their pants to make it seem real?! On a hot summer evening, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the party’s “Minister of State for Satellite TV”, does a “live” interview with a television channel from his residence in Delhi in kurta and shorts.

Obviously, since television doesn’t show the bottom-half of talking heads, it doesn’t matter. But how might Singhvi, a jovial Supreme Court lawyer man who loves splitting hairs even while having, say, a haircut, explain this wardrobe malfunction to Barkha Dutt tonight in his trademark pointwise summation?

“Barkha, three quick points: a) The mere fact that I am in my kurta-cheddi doesn’t mean I have been directed by the party to make a public display of my commitment to the austerity measures. b) Even if I have, merely because you can see my legs, you cannot conclude that these are the only austerity measures I am practising. There may be more, there may be less. c) And may I remind my learned colleague, since when did it become illegal to wear nothing below the waist, when the father of the nation wore nothing above?

“And, Barkha, Barkha, one last point, Barkha, regardless of whether I am in a kurta-pyjama or kurta-cheddi, surely it’s an invasion of an individual’s right to privacy for such pictures shot at the front porch of a private citizen’s private residence to be put out in the public sphere? Sure, Article 19(1) (a) as by law established guarantees freedom of speech and expression and we respect that, but let’s not forget it comes with reasonable restrictions insofaras public order, decency or morality is concerned….”

Also read: Are you being served, Mr Foreign Correspondent?

The Top-10 austerity moves India really wants to hear

Is that tap water the austere madam is drinking?

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?


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