Archive for April, 2009

Understanding the Susan Boyle phenomenon

30 April 2009

One hundred million views on YouTube later, Richard Gizbert, host of Al Jazeera‘s media show Listening Post, declares that the Susan Boyle phenomenon was “no car crash, but no accident either.”

Also read: The 10 craziest things about Susan Boylemania

The Scoreline: different strokes for different folks

30 April 2009

table

The second season of Indian Premier League (IPL), the shotgun wedding of cricket, cinema, celebrity, cheesecake, and commerce, is now into its second week in South Africa, but its influence is alrady being felt not just on the way cricket is played but on the way cricket is covered on the sports pages.

The table, above, is from the 29 April issue of the New Delhi edition of The Times of India.

It carries the names of four of the IPL teams as christened by their owners (Mumbai Indians, Kings’s XI Punjab, Knight Riders, Royal Challengers) . But, mysteriously or perhaps not so mysteriously, it refers to the other four teams by their cities (Hyderabad, Delhi, Jaipur and Chennai).

ToI’s reluctance to name “Team Hyderabad”, which is owned by Deccan Chronicle, is somewhat understandable: it may not want to give “free publicity” to a  key competitors in the South. But what of the remaining three? The Chennai team is owned by India Cements; the Delhi team by the infrastructure company GMR; and the Jaipur team is part-owned by Lachlan Murdoch and the actress Shilpa Shetty.

Should business interests prevent newspapers, magazines, TV stations from naming teams owned by competitors? Even if business interests prevent ToI from naming teams, why the preferential treatment for the other four?

Also read: Is anything OK if it fetches a few dollars?

Sucheta Dalal on selling news and buying silence

Forget the news, you can’t trust the ads either

‘Indian media’s bias ominous for democracy’

30 April 2009

New York City-based human rights and media activist Partha Banerjee, in Counter Currents, detects an eerie similarity behind “the media-supported rise of Rahul Gandhi” as the next potential prime minister of India and the rise of Rajiv Gandhi and his brother Sanjay:

“I must say I’m frustrated to see the rampant bias in favour of the ruling party [in the Indian media]….

“The role of government as well as private media such as Zee TV, NDTV, Star-Ananda, CNN-IBN, The Times of India, etc., along with their many local and regional offshoots, to show extreme bias for parties and candidates of their choice is gravely ominous for democracy.

“”Contrary to the much-touted American media doctrine of a fair and objective reporting—doctrine they always preach but seldom practice—the new Indian media have resorted to an unrestricted, one-sided coverage of the Congress Party and its leaders.

“Sadly, even now during the election times, voters can find nearly no reporting of the fact that a vast majority of Indians still have no access to health care, education, drinking water or electricity. One wouldn’t know that in India, a world-record number of farmers committed suicide because of economic desperation and multinational companies’ forced seed-bank replacements.

“We don’t hear about the destruction of Indian environment and massive pollution and energy crisis. We don’t hear about the extreme lack of women’s rights (sure, we now have more fashion shows and jewelry models on the catwalk!). We don’t hear that India is now the fastest-growing AIDS country (and contrary to Thailand or USA, talking AIDS is still very much a taboo).

“We don’t know that police brutality and abuses on social and religious minorities are abysmal. We’re never told that international organizations have called India as one of the worst countries to protect human rights and promote equality. We’re not reminded that India has seen a massive number of communal riots, big and small, in recent years: not just in Gujarat, Ayodhya or Mumbai. And that our governments have failed miserably to protect us from terrorism.

“And that is why Indian media’s suppression of truth and generous donation to ruling class’s rampant lies are even more worrisome. In their election coverage today, opposition parties find minimal amount of time and importance. Third parties and especially those who have mass support to boycott elections are not given any time at all. Big media have belittled opposition alliances, and brought them to ridicule.”

Read the full article: Incredible India (Elections): Jay Ho!

Also read: How the media misses the woods for the trees

Prime Minister, maybe, but not a very good sub

29 April 2009

Indian prime minister hopeful, L.K. Advani, prides himself as a former journalist, having worked at the journal Organiser, published by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), where for seven years he wrote film reviews.

Former Mid-Day editor Aakar Patel uses Advani’s memoirs My country, My life to assess the man credited with the “when-asked-to-bend, the-Indian-media-crawled” quote during the Emergency years.

“His writing is lazy and he leans on clichés and stock phrases. He describes a criminal as “dreaded gangster”. He uses too many adjectives and likes hyperbole. He calls Indira Gandhi’s Emergency the “darkest period in Indian history”, but then reports its years wrong in three places (pages 259, 266 and 270).

“I edited newspapers for 10 years and I can place Advani as a journalist immediately. He would not have risen beyond middle rank.”

Read the full article: Advani the party man

Also read: A lifetime achievement award for L.K. Advani?

Why media must not rush to report FIR in rapes

28 April 2009

On the face of it, a First Information Report (FIR) may be a public document which can be obtained from the concerned magistrate. And once a judicial trial begins, the FIR and the evidence of the witnesses comes within the public domain as the judicial proceedings are open to the public.

However, this is not the case in rape cases, writes lawyer and human rights activist Monica Sakhrani, alluding to Mumbai Mirror‘s coverage of a rape case in which it very nearly identified the victim, which drew the ire of women’s groups.

“[Such publication] would lead to fewer and fewer women coming forward to register cases of sexual assault where in any case, women have to bear the blame of at best being stupid and at worst being promiscuous liars.

“It takes tremendous courage and strength to take recourse to law by a woman in a case of sexual assault where she stands to lose as much as the accused.

“One must also not lose sight of the fact that the legal discourse is fundamentally a patriarchal discourse with its value loaded binary of chastity versus promiscuity, shame versus brazenness.

“The very fact that the woman has ‘come out in the open’ by filing the case, condemns her and justifies a vilification campaign through use of arguments of public interest which are invasive of privacy. In effect the site of challenge of patriarchy is itself patriarchy. The press coverage and the publication of the FIR in this case is a case to point.”

Read the full article: Free speech and breach of privacy

Also read: ‘FIR is not a license to titillate or sensationalise’

Link courtesy Shobha Sarada Viswanathan

‘Stifling speech is a losing strategy with bloggers’

27 April 2009

Salil Tripathi in the Far Eastern Economic Review:

“Most Indian businesses are growing accustomed to criticism from bloggers. Yet there are still some that, instead of mounting a PR offensive, send in their lawyers and try to stifle speech on the Internet. What they’re finding is that this approach is counterproductive—they may succeed in silencing an individual blogger, but a hundred more then take up the cause. Like Western companies before them, Indian companies must learn that trying to stifle speech instead of winning debates is a losing strategy.”

Read the full article: Learning to live with bloggers

Also read: Will NDTV and Barkha Dutt sue Facebook next?

8,909 letters in 304 publications, and counting

27 April 2009

New Delhi-based chartered accountant Mahesh Kapasi reports that his name appears on page 71 of the 2009 edition of the Limca Book of Records for the third most number of letters to the editor published: 8,909 letters in 304 newspapers and magazines since 1974.

Of these 3,411 letters have appeared in multi-city editions and 2,885 letters in newspapers with a 50,000-plus cirulation.

The most number of letters (79) were published in March 2007.

Most letters in a single calendar year (146) were published in the Central Chronicle between July 10, 2006, and July 9, 2007.

The longest was  960-word in the Indian Nationa, Patna, on Decemebr 3, 1996.

Kapasi, whose calling card reads M.Com, LLB, FCA, FICWA, FCS, ex-member AMIMA, AMIBM, ACEA (London), MIA (USA), says his current score stands at 9,519 letters in 317 newspapers and magazines. 105 of those letters have won prizes.

Nobody can accuse BBC of parachute journalism

25 April 2009

A team of 40 BBC journalists from 12 languages began an 18-day tour of India on a special train on Saturday to cover the ongoing Indian elections. The journalists will visit Ahmedabad, Bombay, Patna, Calcutta, Bhubaneswar, Allahabad and Hyderabad. Here, BBC assignment editor Mark Perrow flags off the journey for the cameras.

Photograph: courtesy Rajeev Bhatt/ The Hindu

How the Indian media covered the 2009 poll

25 April 2009

Blogs, internet chats, Jaago Re, Jai Ho!, Lead India, microsites, rock concerts, TV commercials… The 2009 general election has not been short of media noise. But has it really spurred youngsters to shut up and vote? Or is it all blather and brand building with an embedded social message?

Meenakshi Ravi of Al Jazeera‘s media show The Listening Post reports on how the Indian media has covered the world’s largest democratic exercise.

Also read: Sashi Kumar on media in the melting pot

Pyramid Saimira, Tatva & Times Private Treaties

24 April 2009

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SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: A nice little question mark hangs over Times Private Treaties, the controversial investment arm of The Times of India group, after India’s stock market regular yesterday barred 230 persons/entities from dealing in the securities market following their “prima facie” involvement in a forgery scam involving Pyramid Saimira Theatre Limited, an entertainment company which owns movie halls.

Pyramid Saimira is a Times Private Treaty (TPT) client—and one of the 230 persons/entities barred is Rajesh Unnikrishnan, an assistant editor of The Economic Times, the business daily published by The Times group.

Those debarred, including the two promoters of the company, were allegedly involved in forging a letter in December last year and passing it off as a letter from the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI) to manipulate Pyramid Saimira‘s stock, resulting in subtantial losses to investors.

The forged SEBI letter, asked one of the promoters P.S. Saminathan, chairman and managing director of Pyramid Saimira, to make an open offer for an additional 20 per cent stake at a price not less than Rs 250 at a time when the company was quoting around a fourth of that price.

The other promoter Nirmal Kotecha had sold over 15 lakh shares on Monday, December 22, the day some newspapers published a story based on the forged letter.

The Economic Times‘ Unnikrishnan, according to the SEBI order, played a key role  “played a key role in the forgery, dissemination of information and misleading the media to believe its authenticity”, along with Rakesh Sharma, then an executive with the PR firm, Adfactors, who helped circulate the forged SEBI letter to three of his friends in the media.

In 2008, Adfactors and The Times of India group together floated a public relations firm called Tatva, a 67:33 joint venture between the PR firm and the newspaper.

According to SEBI, Rakesh Sharma of Adfactors and Rajesh Unnikrishnan of ET were colleagues at Business Standard.

“These persons/entities prima facie have been found to have played a key role in the forgery, dissemination of the information contained in the forged Sebi letter to the media and misleading the media to believe the authenticity of the information that was circulated to them. They also derived illegal profits,” SEBI said in its 54-page order.

According to the Sebi order, the tower location of the mobile telephones used by Sharma, Kotecha and Unnikrishnan indicated the three met on December 20, around the time when the forged letter was circulated to the media.

Sharma, whose service was terminated by Adfactors on December 23, had in a statement to SEBI which he later retracted, also admitted that Unnikrishnan and he went to Kotecha’s residence to mail the forged letter to “media friends.”

Asked for a comment by Indian Express (which owns Financial Express where Rajesh Unnikrishnan worked earlier), on the involvement of a staffer in the scam, Rahul Joshi, executive editor of The Economic Times, said:

“We have seen the order. We are studying it.”

In an article on the ethics of the private treaties, India’s most famous business investigative journalist Sucheta Dalal, a former Times employee, had quoted from a 2007 letter from Rahul Joshi to his colleagues:

“At ET, we are carving out a separate team to look into the needs of Private Treaty clients. Every large centre will have a senior editorial person to interface with Treaty clients. In turn, the senior edit person will be responsible, along with the existing team, for edit delivery. This team will have regional champions along with one or two reporters for help—but more importantly, they will liaise with REs (Resident Editors) and help in integrating the content into the different sections of the paper. In this way, we will be able to incorporate PT into the editorial mainstream, rather than it looking like a series of press releases appearing in vanilla form in the paper.”

The Private Treaties, in which The Times Group picks up stakes in up and coming companies in return for guaranteed advertising and editorial exposure, has been a contentious affair in the company, and contributed to rumours surrounding the resignation of The Times of India‘s then executive editor Jaideep Bose aka JoJo last April.

The Economic Times carried an ET bureau report of the debarment of Rajesh Unnikrishnan, calling him an “employee” of ET but without referring to his editorial duties.

There was no mention of the scandal in The Times of India.

The Times group’s main competitor in Bombay, DNA, played a key role in unearthing the scam, with DNA Money special correspondent N. Sundaresha Subramanian churning out story after story.

Photo montage: courtesy DNA

Also read: Business journalism or the journalism of business?

Salil Tripathi: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

Supreme Court notice toCNBC-TV18 analyst

Sushma Ramachandran: Corruption in business journalism

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