Archive for September, 2011

More media options means fewer choices?

27 September 2011

Last week, the Grammy Award winning musician Vishwa Mohan Bhatt lamented that although there were over 500 television channels in the country, there was not one for classical music.

The ad man cum analyst Santosh Desai joins the debate in The Times of India:

Do more options actually mean more choice? We have a few dozen television channels to choose from, but apart from volume and pitch, is there a genuine set of choices?

Every successful product seems to trigger replication—one kind of soap opera begins to work, we see a deluge of programmes with similar themes; as one anchor discovers that hysterical denunciation is the way to ratings, other channels follow suit.

With so many channels, one would have thought that programming of a more specialised kind would become more viable.

In the pre-liberalisation scenario when most programmes got massive ratings, content that spoke to a few might have been unviable, but in today’s world where getting 2-3% of viewers is considered an achievement, surely we should have seen more diversity.

To be sure, there are channels that cater to subjects other than current affairs, serials and cinema, but most of these contain international programming. We have for instance, no classical music on television, little coverage of art, no interest in local folk forms; we have channels that bring us the best of world cinema, but that none that brings us the best of Indian regional cinema in any meaningful way.

Read the article: More choices, fewer options

Tiger Pataudi’s parting shot for the media

24 September 2011

A day after the passing of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, The Telegraph has reprinted a 1995 interview with the former cricket captain, who also did a stint as editor of Sportsworld, the now-defunct magazine from the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group that owns The Telegraph.

The interviewer is Salman Khurshid, the current Union law minister, whose wife Louise Fernandes used to be a correspondent for Sunday magazine, also of the ABP group.

Salman: Tell me about other things in life… something about the media world.

Tiger: Really, they deserve the biggest kick up their arse. They do the most damage.

Salman: And they are absolutely irresponsible. Don’t you see something in this, apart from the fact that there is a big problem of accountability in the media and every time we’ve tried, or anyone has tried, to make a system by which the media can be made accountable, they’ve cried, they’ve cried themselves hoarse, and we haven’t succeeded. People can defame anyone they like, people can write anything they like. But non-accountability is a part of modern Indian culture.

Tiger: But they’re also well patronised. They wouldn’t be doing this unless they were patronised by the politicians.

Salman: Yes that is true. But the media is going to change. There is a new kind of media. I often tell the small-time newspaper people that you keep publishing your 5,000 copies defaming people, but there’s an electronic media coming that sees facts a little more clearly because it shows them on the screen. You object as much as you like, but the day of the electronic media has come.

Read the full interview: ‘Can’t be taken seriously till you are 70′

A town shuts down to protest media corruption!

24 September 2011

Unbelievable as it may sound, residents of the town of Mudhol in North Karnataka observed a bandh (shutdown) on Tuesday, September 20, to protest “blackmail journalism” and the growing number of imposters masquerading as journalists to extort money.

According to a report in the Kannada daily Praja Vani, the bandh in the town of 100,000 residents was a “complete success”.

Shops and business establishments downed their shutters for a few hours, and vehicles were off the roads.

The protestors included politicians, farmers, even journalists, and a host of other organisations. They marched to the tahsildar‘s office and presented a memorandum.

One protestor slammed weekly newspapers for bringing a bad name to the entire profession, and another targetted the misuse of the right to information (RTI) Act to ferret out information that was later used for extortion.

Mudhol town is famous for its country-bred hounds used for hunting.

Link via Sampadakeeya

Also read: Should media corruption come under Lokpal?

Bangalore journos, papers in mining scam report

‘Editors are lobbying on behalf of corporations’

Bangalore journos named in site allotment scam

Only in India: 90% off for journalists!

Cash transfer scheme is already here for journalists

Media houses are sitting on plots leased at one rupee!

Anti-corruption campaigner’s “error of judgement”

The WikiLeak cable on the journalist who…

‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

So many reporters, so little info on Sonia Gandhi?

22 September 2011

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, scooped by Indian Express photographer Anil Sharma, as she leaves her daughter's residence in New Delhi on 14 September 2011.

Nothing has exposed the hollowness of so-called “political reporting” in New Delhi, and the fragilility of editorial spines of newspapers and TV stations across the country, than the Congress president Sonia Gandhi‘s illness.

Hundreds of correspondents cover the grand old party; tens of editors claim to be on on first-name terms with its who’s who; and at least a handful of them brag and boast of unbridled “access” to 10 Janpath.

Yet none had an inkling that she was unwell.

Or, worse, the courage to report it, if they did.

Indeed, when the news was first broken by the official party spokesman in August, he chose the BBC and the French news agency AFP as the media vehicles instead of the media scrum that assembles for the daily briefing.

Sonia Gandhi has since returned home but even today the inability of the media—print, electronic or digital—to throw light on just what is wrong with the leader of India’s largest political party or to editorially question the secrecy surounding it, is palpable.

Given the hospital she is reported to have checked into, the bazaar gossip on Sonia has ranged from cervical cancer to breast cancer to pancreatic cancer but no “political editor” is willing to put his/her name to it.

About the only insight of Sonia’s present shape has come from an exclusive photograph shot by Anil Sharma of The Indian Express last week.

In a counter-intuitive sort of way, Nirupama Subramanian takes up the silence of the media in The Hindu:

“That the Congress should be secretive about Ms Gandhi’s health is not surprising. What is surprising, though, is the omertà being observed by the news media, usually described by international writers as feisty and raucous.

“On this particular issue, reverential is the more fitting description. Barring editorials in the Business Standard and Mail Today, no other media organisation has thought it fit to question the secrecy surrounding the health of the government’s de facto Number One.

“A similar deference was on display a few years ago in reporting Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s uneven health while he was the Prime Minister. For at least some months before he underwent a knee-replacement surgery in 2001, it was clear he was in a bad way, but no news organisation touched the subject. Eventually, the government disclosed that he was to undergo the procedure, and it was covered by the media in breathless detail.

“Both before and after the surgery, there was an unwritten understanding that photographers and cameramen would not depict Vajpayee’s difficulties while walking or standing. Post-surgery, a British journalist who broke ranks to question if the Prime Minister was fit enough for his job (“Asleep at The Wheel?” Time, June 10, 2002) was vindictively hounded by the government.

“Almost a decade later, much has changed about the Indian media, which now likes to compare itself with the best in the world. But it lets itself down again and again. The media silence on Ms Gandhi is all the more glaring compared with the amount of news time that was recently devoted to Omar Abdullah‘s marital troubles. The Jammu & Kashmir chief minister’s personal life has zero public importance. Yet a television channel went so far as to station an OB van outside his Delhi home, and even questioned the maid….

“Meanwhile, the media are clearly not in the mood to extend their kid-glove treatment of Ms Gandhi’s illness to some other politicians: it has been open season with BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s health problems arising from his weight. Clearly, it’s different strokes for different folks.”

Read the full article: The omerta on Sonia‘s illness

Also read: Why foreign media broke news of Sonia illness

How come no one spotted Satyam fraud?

How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

How come no one in the media saw the worm turn?

Aakar PatelIndian journalism is regularly second-rate

The nation wants to know: TOI or Times Now?

20 September 2011

As a story, newspapers verus television is as old as the bush telegraph. But the story gets more interesting when a group owns both print and electronic properties, as The Times group does.

Can it afford to decry one or the other? On the strength of this advertisement, evidently it can.

“While it may stir your emotions, does it [TV] really leave you better informed about the subject being discussed? Probably not.”

Try telling that to Mr Goswami.

Image: courtesy Karthik Srinivasan

Link via Vishwatma Bhat

Is UPA hitting back at ToI, India Today, DNA?

19 September 2011

There has been plenty of buzz in recent days that the Congress-led UPA government has quietly begun hitting back at the media for the manner in which it has exposed the scams and scandals, and for the proactive manner in which it backed the middle-class led “Arnab Spring”.

There have been rumours, for instance, of the Union information and broadcasting ministry actually proposing a ceiling on the number of minutes a news channel can show a specific news event and so on. Now, as if to show that the messenger is indeed being wilfully targetted, these two stories have emerged in the last two days.

Exhibit A: Nora Chopra‘s item in The Sunday Guardian (above), which talks of the government making things difficult for cross-media groups like The Times of India and India Today.

Exhibit B: DNA editor Aditya Sinha‘s column, in which he links a 10-day stoppage of government advertisements to his “mass-circulating” paper to the paper’s stand in the Anna Hazare episode.

“We advised ad-sales to seek an appointment with I&B minister Ambika Soni. It was a pleasant surprise when the ad-sales executives immediately got a slot to meet the minister.

“Soni was pleasant enough. She told our guys she was unaware of any DAVP action; but in any case the government was rationalizing the flow of ads to English and language newspapers.

“Her body language, according to the ad-sales team, suggested otherwise. And then, during a general chat about the newspaper, she came to the point: she said that DNA ought to look at its coverage over the past few weeks and introspect….

Soni’s statement led us to infer that our Anna Hazare coverage was being punished by a suspension of government ads, and that Soni met our ad executives just to ensure the point was driven home.”

For the record, a point Sinha artfully sidesteps, DNA has been in the government’s crosshairs for an incendiary and imbecilic column written by the Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy after the July 13 bomb blasts in Bombay.

For the record, DNA is part-owned by Subhash Chandra‘s Zee group, some of whose journalists (present and past) played a key role in the media management of Hazare’s fast.

And, also for the record, Ambika Soni traces her Congress origins to Sanjay Gandhi, whose role in ushering in press censorship during the Emergency in 1975, has been long documented.

Image: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Read the full piece: Ambika Soni‘s arm-twisting

External reading: DAVP wants balance sheets

Also read: How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment newspaper?

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?

Everybody’s changing the game these days

19 September 2011

It is the title of a book by Ram Charan on innovation. In the US, Bloomberg has a weekly TV show by the same name. And everybody from the Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to  Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has begun spouting it in recent weeks.

Say hello to the “game changers”.

The business buzzword is in much demand in the media too. “Game changers” was the cover line to mark the seventh anniversary of Time Out Mumbai last fortnight. And “game-changers” is the cover line of the latest issue of India Today.

Also read: Since flattery is best expressed through imitation

EPW journalist bags Appan Menon award

15 September 2011

Srinivasan Ramani, a senior assistant editor with the journal Economic & Political Weekly (EPW), has bagged the Appan Menon memorial award for young journalists.

Ramani, who is pursuing his PhD in international at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), won the prize for his coverage of India’s role in the emergence of Nepal’s new constitutional republic.

The award, which carries a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh, is presented by the Appan Menon memorial trust, in memory of the journalist who once anchored The World This Week on NDTV. Menon had earlier worked with The Hindu and Frontline as well as news agencies PTI and UNI.

View his P. Sainath interview: Prisoners of profit

View his Sevanti Ninan interview: Antidote to Murdochisation

***

Also read: Rema Nagarajan of ToI bags Nieman fellowship

Mint‘s Monika Halan among Yale fellows

Chameli Devi prize for Tehelka scribe, K.K. Shahina

Pallava Bagla bags ‘Oscar’ of science journalism

Saikat Datta bags prize for using RTI for story

India-China friendship award for Pallavi Aiyar

Knight fellowship for Frontline’s Dionne Bunsha

Anna Hazare: 17 TV interviews over 11 hours

14 September 2011

Exclusive interview with Barkha Dutt on NDTV 24×7. Exclusive interview with Rajdeep Sardesai on CNN-IBN. Exclusive interview with Rahul Kanwal on Headlines Today.

“Live” exclusive interview with Arnab Goswami at “8.23 pm” on Times Now….

It was all in a day’s work for anti-corruption campaigner Anna Hazare on Tuesday, 13 September, as he rolled out the charpoy for Delhi TV wallahs in his “model” village, Ralegan Siddhi, and went on a PR overdrive.

Now, DNA reports that 74-year-old Hazare, who sat on a 12-day fast in Delhi last month, gave 17 interviews during the day and spoke for 11 hours.

“It was decided to give time slots to 17 TV channels yesterday. Though tired, Anna kept his word and obliged all channels talking continuously since early morning to night in a marathon interview session lasting about 11 hours,” said one of his close aides.

The interview sessions also witnessed “skirmishes” between TV crew as they could not agree to sequence and timing of the interaction, leading to heated exchanges when the embargo decided upon were jumped by some channels.

Read the full story: Anna Hazare gives 17 interviews over 11 hours

Also read: 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?

How ‘New York Times’ stumped India’s censors

13 September 2011

Foreign publications usually get into a kerfuffle with superpatriotic Indian authorities over the depiction of the geographical boundaries of India in maps and infographs.

Publications like The Economist, for instance, have noisily run afoul of censors for (corrrectly) showing parts of Kashmir as belonging to Pakistan and China.

The New York Times which recently launched an India blog called India Ink, has found a way out of a potential panga by using a cartoonish map of India (above), which magnanimously hands back the Pakistan-occupied and China-occupied parts of Kashmir to India, and which is far removed from the cartographic version of India that NYT otherwise uses (below).

So, which is the India the NYT blog will cover?

(Which is, just a roundabout sort of way of drawing the attention of the “host, chef and chief bottle washer” of India Ink, Heather Timmons to sans serif. Chill.)

Also read: The Indian Express stands up for The Economist

Censored, but no copies of Economist have been confiscated

The troubling nexus doesn’t trouble too many

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