Tuesday’s disgraceful scenes in the Lok Sabha—when three BJP MPs heaped currency notes of nearly Rs 1 crore to show that they were being bribed to abstain from the trust vote motion moved by the Manmohan Singh government—has a media angle to it.
The buying and selling of legislators, it turns out, was captured on film by CNN-IBN at the instance of the MPs. But the channel declined to air the “sting” and said it would hand the tapes over to the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee.
The media website Hoot speculates that the channel did not air the story either because its contents did not pass muster with editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai or because Anil Ambani, a shareholder in Network 18 which owns the channel, leaned on bossman Raghav Bahl not to air the footage meant to discredit Amar Singh, a politician close to Ambani.
Media commentator S.R. Ramanujan asks a few questions on The Hoot:
1) Is it the job of a TV channel to provide proof to any Constitutional authority, in this case the Speaker, before it could telecast the news to its viewers?
2) Does this not give handle to critics to allege that the channel was silenced? In fact, in a panel discussion in another channel, this was hinted.
7) Is the reluctance to telecast due to the fact that the concerned MPs preempted the channel by disclosing the “Cash for Votes” operation on the floor of the House violating an understanding?
8) “Publish and be damned” is the idiom mediamen are taught right from the journalism schools. How far is this relevant today?
The sight of the BJP, whose president Bangaru Laxman was stung by Tehelka, demanding that the latest sting be made public, is not without irony.
In an editorial on the issue, The Indian Express joins issue:
“The relationship between sources and reporters is always tricky business and that’s why the need for strong editorial filters. The TV channel made an error of judgment when it claimed, just minutes after the MPs rocked the House, that it had the “tape” of the incident the MPs were allegedly referring to and then argued that it didn’t meet its editorial standards. The channel has the opportunity now — and the responsibility — to take the right call.”
Read the full story here: To sting or not to sting?
Cross-posted on sans serif