Archive for the 'Issues and Ideas' Category

In ‘The Last Mag’, Nishant Patel is Fareed Zakaria

2 July 2014

DILIP CHAWARE writes from New Jersey: The Last Magazine is Michael Hastings’s novel which has been published a year after his death. This controversial young journalist, who worked for Newsweek as a war correspondent, died last year in a car accident in Los Angeles when he was just 33.

Very few were aware about this book, which was resurrected from his laptop.

The novel, though, is a portrayal of real life within a major news organisation, the nexus between the government and the media and broadly discusses the relevance and future of the print medium.

Hastings is back in the news owing to his Rolling Stone article published in 2012, surrounding the recent release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by the Taliban. The article dealt with Bergdahl’s army platoon.

Various references in the novel The Last Magazine clearly identify its main players.

The character of Nishant Patel is in fact Fareed Zakaria, then international editor of Newsweek. Patel is painted as having a mega ego.

Zakaria’s bête noir is Jon Meacham, (Sanders Berman in the novel), the managing editor.

Patel and Berman vie with each other to appear on television.

Both want to be visible and compete to write cover stories for Newsweek.

Hastings captures a turbulent period of half a decade, beginning 2002. It is a difficult time for a sensitive journalist and centres on the war with Iraq.

Hastings implies by innuendo that the news media in the US collaborated with the government while covering the conflict. He lampoons all and sundry, based on his firsthand experience as a frontline war correspondent.

Hastings lost his girlfriend Andi Parhamovich, who was killed in 2007 when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq. She was an aid worker. He wrote a book I Lost My Love in Baghdad, based on that experience.

His second-last book, The Operators was published in 2012. It is about the US military presence in Afghanistan. That book was a result of an article Hastings wrote in Rolling Stone.

The incisive article proved to be the death knell for the career of Gen Stanley A. McChrystal, the US supreme commander in Afghanistan.

Hastings worked as an intern in Newsweek for a year 2002-3. This was the time the US escalated its war with Iraq. This was also the period when the electronic medium was seen overshadowing the print medium.

The Last Magazine deals with a professional’s dilemma and the dejection he felt due to the decline of professionalism of the print medium. His grim predictions proved too true in the case of Newsweek, which had to fold up.

His wife Elise Jordan was instrumental in publishing the unfinished novel on the first anniversary of his death. Hastings was 25 when he first went to Baghdad.

Due to the death of Andi Parhamovich, he was diagnosed of suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder. Jordan, a Yale graduate was a speechwriter for then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She was an avid advocate of war against Iraq.

Hastings and Jordan’s courtship started in 2010 in Kabul. While he was working on the McChrystal article, she was on a freelance assignment a magazine. They married in 2011.

Hastings died at 4.20 am last year on June 18 as his Mercedes crashed into a tree in Los Angeles. His death became grist for the conspiracy theorists for some time. But the coroner declared that he had marijuana and trace methamphetamines in his blood.

Hastings is no more but the debate he unleashed rages on.

(Dilip Chaware is a former journalist with The Times of India, Bombay)

Photograph: courtesy Amazon

Also read: Will this man be the next US secretary of state?

Fareed Zakaria: a barometer in a good suit

Iran to China, Newsweek has the world covered

Who, when, what, how, why, what the…

A rash I&B ministry “advisory” to TV, print media

26 June 2014

25riding

When he was health minister in the UPA’s first term, Anbumani Ramadoss made it mandatory for movies and TV channels to show the statutory warning against smoking and drinking each time someone on screen lit a cigarette or sipped a drink.

The Telegraph reports that the NDA’s information and broadcasting ministry under Prakash Javadekar has shot off an “advisory” to TV stations and newspapers “against portraying or “glorifying” rash or dangerous driving, as well as helmet-less riding and a failure to fasten car seatbelts.”

“All TV channels/ Doordarshan/ print media are advised to be extremely careful in portraying such stills/ images/ scenes which depict rash, negligent or dangerous driving; and in case such portrayal is necessary, then it may be accompanied by appropriate messages/ warnings,” the letter said.

The letter also spelt out a few of the possible warnings: “Over speeding kills”, “Driving two-wheeler without wearing helmet is dangerous and illegal”, “Driving four-wheeler without wearing seatbelt is dangerous.”

Read the full article: Rash driving edict to newspapers

Also read: I&B ministry “advisory” on TV protest coverage

RIL, Network18 & the loss of media heterogeneity

12 June 2014

mukesh

Even as the takeover of Network18 by India’s biggest corporate house, Reliance Industries Limited, receives scant scrutiny in the mainstream media on what it portends in the long term, the journalist and educator Paranjoy Guha Thakurta weighs in, in the Economic & Political Weekly:

“The consequence of RIL strengthening its association with Network18 is a clear loss of heterogeneity in the dissemination of information and opinions. Media plurality in a multicultural country like India will diminish.

“In particular, the space for providing factual information as well as expressing views that are not in favour of (or even against the interests of) India’s biggest corporate conglomerate will shrink, not just in the traditional mainstream media (print, television and radio) but in the new media (internet and mobile telephony).

“There is growing concentration of ownership in the country’s already-oligopolistic media markets. In the absence of restrictions on cross-media ownership, these trends will inexorably lead to the continuing privatisation and “commodification” of information instead of making it more of a “public good” that could benefit larger sections of society, in particular the underprivileged.”

For the record, RIL sent Thakurta a legal notice for his book Gas Wars: crony Capitalism and the Ambanis.

Read the full article: What future for the media in India?

File photograph: RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani holds a jar containing the first crude oil produced from the KG-D6 block in 2009 (Punit Paranjpe/Reuters)

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Also read: Has media blacked out RIL takeover of Network 18?

‘Media freedom bleaker with Ambani domination’

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

Rajya Sabha TV tears into Reliance-TV18 deal

EPW on the Reliance-ETV-RIL deal within a deal

WaPo, Amazon, HT and the Reliance-TV18 deal

Can ‘Modi Sarkar’ create an Indian CNN or BBC?

10 June 2014

The point has been made before but bears repetition. If Britain can have a BBC, if America can have CNN, if Qatar can have Al Jazeera, if China can have CCTV, if Russia can have Russia Today, why cannot India?

Why do Indian broadcasters, public, private or autonomous, not have the vision or the resources or both to establish a global news brand?

The veteran journalist Saeed Naqvi addresses the issue, in Deccan Herald:

“The media’s critical faculty has been so numbed over a century of colonial experience that it cannot, on occasion, separate news from propaganda….

“Not having our own means of covering world affairs, our media ends up using stuff which is part of someone else’s agenda.  It is sometimes inimical to our interests.

“Public opinion in India gets manipulated whenever the US throws a tantrum with, say Bashar al Assad. On Egyptian or Syrian elections we have only western versions.

“We do not have a single news bureau in SAARC countries, China, Japan, anywhere. For the world’s largest democracy, this is something of a shame.

“If we had a news bureau in Kabul, we would have been much better informed about the attack on the Indian consulate in Herat or the circumstances in which Alexis Prem Kumar was kidnapped. Must we depend on western journalists to inform us about Kabul, Jaffna or Kathmandu?

“Must the world’s largest democracy be a passive recipient of images beamed from news centres controlled by CNN, BBC, Reuters and Associated Press?

“This is a disgraceful state of affairs….

“New Delhi gives away billions in assistance to SAARC neighbours. It must take a leap of faith and concurrently invest a billion dollars in its own media which must also cover world affairs as comprehensively as CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera.

“The returns in power, prestige, influence and business will be astronomical.”

Read the full article: Colonial mindset

Also read: Why hasn’t India thrown up a global media mogul?

‘Has media blacked out RIL takeover of TV18?’

6 June 2014

As India’s biggest business house Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) goes through the motions of formally taking complete control of one of India’s biggest TV networks, Network 18, the veteran journalist and commentator Kuldip Nayar writes in Deccan Herald:

“I was not surprised when television channels did not cover the taking over of a large TV news network by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries Limited.

“Most channels — roughly around 300 — are owned by property dealers who can afford to spend Rs 1 crore, an average monthly expenditure, through money laundering. Every one of them wants to be the Reliance one day.

“What has taken me aback is that the press has reported the deal but has preferred to keep quiet.

“Even though journalism has ceased to be a profession and has become an industry, I was expecting some reactions, at least from the Editors’ Guild of India. But then it is understandable when it has rejected my proposal that editors should also declare their assets public, the demand which they voice for politicians.

“Double standards make a mockery of the high pedestal on which the media sit.”

Read the full column: Where’s free media?

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Also read: Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win CCI approval?

Reliance has no ‘direct’ stake in media companies

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

Can the Indian media ask Modi tough questions?

3 April 2014

Interviews of Narendra Modi are like city buses. There is not one for ages, and then two come along at the same time.

The first with the journalist-academic and undisguised Modi shill, Madhu Kishwar, for India News and NewsX; and the other for the Mukesh Ambani-owned ETV Rajasthan.

In the Indian Express, Shailaja Bajpai compares the Modi powwows with Rahul Gandhi‘s faceoff with Arnab Goswami for Times Now:

“The media is either unwilling or unable to ask Modi penetrative questions. In these two interviews, he swatted away softball questions with a hard bat. Perhaps he only agreed to be interviewed on condition that he not be asked uncomfortable questions.

“If you compare this interview with Rahul’s on Times Now, the contrast is stark: Rahul was asked at least some hard-hitting questions, cornered on issues like the 1984 Sikh riots, although he was allowed to have his say on his pet themes.

“In Modi’s case, he simply had his way throughout. Not once was anything he said challenged. It made for poor TV. If he continues to give soft interviews, they will be viewed as plugs for him — another strategy in the marketing of Modi.”

Read the full review: How Modi faced the nation

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Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

 How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Has a ‘desperate party’ paid huge sums to TV?

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

On TV, Congress loses to BJP, Left to AAP

Is “Modi Media” paving the way for soft Fascism?

Signature campaign against CSDS election tracker

Signature campaign against CSDS poll tracker

1 April 2014

As the Chinese might say, the Indian media is living in strange times even before the advent of Narendra Modi.

The Aam Aadmi Party accuses TV stations of being bought over by Modi. Sting operations reveal that opinion pollsters are willing to up their estimates of Modi for a price.

News channels show unedited feeds from Modi’s own cameras as if they were their own. Editorial changes are being made in newspapers and magazines with a change in government in prospect.

Etcetera.

Now, even the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) with its formidable reputation as a credible pollster for CNN-IBN, is facing the music.

Yogendra Yadav, for long CSDS’s face on TV during election time, is now a member of AAP, standing from Gurgaon; Madhu Kishwar is a prominent BJP votary, whose interviews with Modi are now being aired on India News and NewsX.

As CNN-IBN (now owned by Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries) airs its “Election Tracker“*, a signature campaign has been launched which scurrilously alleges that the CSDS survey is “a campaign for BJP, not research work”.

Launched by “Manjeet Singh” who claims to be from Patna, the petition on change.org headlined “CSDS poll survey for CNN-IBN will take BJP close to 272 in next 3 days. Is this Research?”, reads (uncorrected):

“It’s not news anymore that the Sanjay Kumar‘s contractors who has funding coming in to their media houses from the big corporates are forcing  Sanjay Kumar reach a figure of close to 272 in the survey.

“CSDS’s credibility is being used for this agenda. Seems that the sting operation on the survey agencies was done to enhance the credibility of CSDS’s survey just before Sanjay Kumar’s closer to 272 projections for the BJP was to appear on Television.”

For the record, CSDS’s surveys for CNN-IBN have seen the BJP numbers go up from 156-164 in July 2013 to 171-179 in November, and 192-210 in January 2014.

* The CNN-IBN election tracker is in association with Week magazine. Disclosures apply.
Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

 How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

On TV, Congress loses to BJP, Left to AAP

Is “Modi Media” paving the way for soft Fascism?

Is ‘Modi media’ paving way for ‘soft-Fascism’?

29 March 2014

In an opinion piece in The Times of India, the academic and international affairs analyst Kanti Bajpai says an India under Narendra Modi will be marked by “soft-fascism—a society marked by slightly less extreme levels fo authoritarinism, intimidation, chauvinism, submission and social Darwinism as classical fascism—and he includes the media as being among the four factors responsible for it.

“Big business and middle classes are helping line up media behind soft fascism. Media is influenced by big business, which funds it through its advertising, and by the middle classes, who work in it.

“Today, both stand behind Modi and together they have helped rally millions of Indians behind Modi-ology.

“It is another matter that media may well come to regret its role. Those who were in the media when BJP was last in power seem to have forgotten that this is a party that is not particularly interested in, or indulgent of, journalistic independence.”

Read the full article: Journey towards soft fascism

Photograph: courtesy Wall Street Journal
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Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

 How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

On TV, Congress loses to BJP, Left to AAP

 

TV9 reporters ‘stung’ by their own operation

12 March 2014

tv9_d_k_shiTwo reporters of the 24×7 Kannada news channel TV9 have landed in jail after being arrested by Bangalore police following a “sting” operation in which they were reportedly trying to entrap a powerful and controversial Congress minister by offering him a bribe with secret cameras, went awry.

Deccan Herald reports that the police are also on the lookout for the channel’s Bangalore head, Mahendra Mishra.

The reporters—Shreyas, 28, and Shwetha, 24, both carrying identity cards of News9, the Bangalore-centric English TV channel operated by TV9—approached energy minister D.K. Shiva Kumar in a manner reminiscent of Operation Westend, which felled BJP president Bangaru Laxman over a decade ago.

The reporters claimed to be representing a fictitious London-based solar power based company called EnerGo.

After they had established initial contact, the reporters were invited by the minister to his residence on Sunday. At that meeting, the minister expressed his helplessness citing the model code of conduct but directed them to meet his officers.

According to Deccan Herald, at the third meeting on Monday, the duo allegedly offered the minister Rs five lakh in cash and asked him to accept the money. The minister grew suspicious and called up the police who rushed to his house. They found hidden cameras on frisking the two journalists and arrested them.

Addressing a press conference, the minister—a close aide of former chief minister S.M. Krishna—said that the duo had earlier met him with request to approve a file.

“I contacted the officials of the department, and learnt that no such file is pending with the department. I grew suspicious about the motive of these people. The two reporters, who came to meet me at 9 am, again came to my house at 3.30 pm. As I had suspicion about their activities, I had requested policemen to be present in disguise. When they tried to offer money, I asked the policemen to take them into custody.”

Following the arrest of its journalists, TV9 has conducted a relentless campaign through its channels, with the simple proposition: “Is it wrong to conduct sting operations?”, also the National Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) has clearly stipulated guidelines for its members.

In 2011, the then power minister of Karnataka, Shobha Karandlaje of the BJP, had a duo arrested for nearly identical reasons, but they weren’t reporters.

For the record, D.K. Shiva Kumar’s inclusion in the Congress ministry has been a hot-button issue and activists have questioned his inclusion despite the cloud of corruption charges hanging over his head.

Also, for the record, TV9—whose tagline reads “For a better society”—has been relentless in its coverage of the corruption of Shiva Kumar, including his alleged links with the underworld. The minister has previously been known to have a keen interest in launching his own TV channel to temper the torrent of criticism.

Are journalists already poised to ride Modi wave?

27 February 2014
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M.J. Akbar (extreme left) and Swapan Dasgupta (second from right) at the release of the book on Moditva

As the 2014 general election campaign gathers steam, the masks are beginning to come off, as journalists who make no pretence of their political and ideological inclinations (without disclosing it publicly) walk over to the other side, just as they did in previous elections.

Ashutosh of IBN-7 is officially the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate from Chandni Chowk; Manish Sisodia of ex-Zee News has already done a stint as Delhi education minister; Shazia Ilmi of ex-Star News could stand against one or the other Congress or BJP heavyweight.

The buzz is a number of scribes are being tapped by AAP to make the switch.

Both in the 2004 and 2009 elections the BJP had no shortage of journalists, columnists and editors advising it from inside and outside. And 2013 is proving to be no different.

At a recent event in New Delhi to release a book titled Moditva, former Telegraph editor M.J. Akbar and former India Today managing editor Swapan Dasgupta  (both columnists for The Sunday Times of India) were helpfully at hand, making no bones about where they stand.

The Telegraph, Calcutta, reported the BJP president Rajnath Singh‘s address thus:

“When I first heard of the book, I was certain it was authored by a politician or someone wanting to get to the Rajya Sabha or acquire a post when our government is formed….

“I was amazed to know that this young man [Siddharth Mazumdar of Columbia] was not a politician or a political aspirant” added Rajnath, before looking long and hard at a group of panellists who had taken their seats for a discussion.

For the record, the other members at the book-release panel were economist Bibek Debroy, former Delhi police chief Kiran Bedi (a likely BJP Lok Sabha candidate), the BJP’s stormy petrel Subramanian Swamy, and BJP treasurer Piyush Goyal (who is already a Rajya sabha member).

Also for the record, M.J. Akbar is a former Congress member of Parliament from Kishanganj, Bihar. His name was mentioned in 2008 as a potential BJP member of the upper house along with former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla.

Photograph: courtesy The Pioneer

Also read: Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh, do journalists make good politicians?

Why the BJP (perhaps) sent Chandan Mitra to RS

Kanchan Gupta versus Swapan Dasgupta on Twitter

For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Ex-Star News, TOI journalists behind ‘Arnab Spring’

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

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