Archive for the 'Television' Category

The investigative TV journo who now sells sarees

6 March 2014

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The state of mainstream Indian journalism, it can be argued, is somewhat reflected by the number of journalists churning out books; leaving for greener PR, corporate communications and “policy”) pastures; joining thinktanks; going on sabatticals, etc—and it is probably no different from the rest of the world.

But nobody drives home the issue better than Dibyojyoti Basu.

Once chief of bureau at M.J. Akbar‘s Asian Age in Calcutta. Once the director of Calcutta Doordarshan’s first news-based private television show Khas Khabar (a la Aaj Tak). Once the head of Ananda Bazaar Patrika‘s television wing. Once host of Khoj Khabar on Tara Bangla. And now…

And now, the proud owner of Woven, a lounge in Delhi’s Meher Chand marker, for Bengali sarees.

Basu, who hosted his last show in 2011  on Akash Bangla before it was pulled off by its Left-leaning promoters, sees this as a hibernation period, before he achieves his life ambition of starting his own TV station.

Visit Dibyojyoti Basu’s shop: Woven

President speaks of paid news, dumbing down

28 February 2014

Chandan Mitra, editor-in-chief of The Pioneer, Delhi, is honoured by President Pranab Mukherjee at the INS platinum jubilee celebrations. INS president Ravindra Kumar of The Statesman is at right.

The following is the full text of the speech delivered by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, at the inauguration of the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) in New Delhi on Thursday, 27 February 2014:

***

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By PRANAB MUKHERJEE

“Seventy-five years ago, the world was a very different place. Our country was yet to take its place in the comity of nations. Millions of Indians were engaged in the struggle for freedom.

“Your Society came to life on the eve of World War II.

“Newspapers of the time not only survived the  shortages that war brought in its wake, but also engaged themselves in the difficult task of informing people of the momentous events of a contentious period in our history.

“It took resolve, vision and a sense of destiny on the part of the founding fathers to have formed a Society that could take up issues of common interest for its members.

“INS can also be proud that it helped create and nurture institutions like the Press Trust of India and the Audit Bureau of Circulation.  INS members have played a vital role in nurturing a free Press which is a critical component of our democracy.

“Over the years, INS members have informed society and promoted debate on the important questions that confront our nation.

“Be it the ravages wrought by war or those inflicted by the man-made Bengal Famine, the trials and tribulations of a nation torn asunder by Partition or the building of modern day India, newspapers have played a crucial role in educating Indians and giving expression to the diversity of views in our society, upholding thereby the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.

“The plurality of media in our country has its roots in our freedom struggle.

“The Press in India evolved, not through the aegis of the Government but due to the commitment of individuals who used it as a tool to fight enforced opinions and create platform for social reform movements across the country.

“It is matter of pride that between 1780 until India’s Independence in 1947, more than 120 newspapers and periodicals were launched in almost in every Indian language. Each of these publications vowed to carry the ideals of democracy to the doorsteps of the people and spread the message of independence.

“As the media landscape undergoes change, the media has assumed different roles of being a facilitator, protector and enabler of democratic institutions and processes.

“Our vast, varied and vibrant media is a national asset.

“The media as a whole not only keep people informed but also performs a very crucial function of presenting ideas and alternatives in the domain of policy formulation and implementation.  The media space thus becomes an important component in the fabric of a functional democracy by not merely reporting the ‘dialogue of democracy’ but also by taking an active part in that dialogue.

“As India grows in the 21st century, it is extremely important that media reaches out to the inaccessible areas and the under-served population of this country.

“It is critical that the media provides an enabling environment for the spirit of inclusive growth to be ushered in and that the varied tools of communication are able to disseminate the “India Story” in a positive, accurate and focused perspective.

“Even as iconic newspapers and magazines around the world are ceasing to print, our newspaper industry, one of the largest in the world, continues to grow. The market for Indian newspapers, with over 90 million copies in circulation, is expected to grow at a double-digit Compounded Annual Growth Rate of 10% and emerge as the world’s sixth-largest newspaper market by 2017.

“The regional and vernacular print sector, in particular, is growing on the back of rising literacy and low print media penetration as well as the heightened interest of advertisers wanting to leverage these markets.

“Today, according to industry sources, print media has a combined market penetration of only 14%. There is considerable potential, therefore, to expand readership across the national canvas.

“These are changing times and it is not possible for the newspapers to be spared from the consequences of the evolution of ideas and the embrace of technology. It is essential for newspapers to be alive to the challenges of technology, and to harness responsibly the opportunities that present themselves.

“The history of the Press in India bears testimony to the fact that the pioneers created strong and durable institutions as well as traditions.  That is your inheritance and you must build on it. It is incumbent upon you as a Society of newspapers and periodicals to weed out such aberrations as might have crept into the functioning of the media.

“Let me point out in this regard that it is distressing to note that some publications have resorted to “Paid News” and other such marketing strategies to drive their revenues.  There is need for self-correcting mechanisms to check such aberrations.

“The temptation to “dumb down” news should also be resisted.

“The nation faces critical challenges that go well beyond the pressure of ‘Breaking News’ and immediate headlines.

“While you must continue to be effective raconteurs, you must also be visionary nation builders.  You are after all the crystal ball that millions of Indians gaze at. It is your responsibility and your bounden duty to ensure that ideas are debated dispassionately and thoughts articulated without fear or favour so that opinion is always well informed.

“The influence, credibility and quality of our media is well recognized. Newspapers must be keepers of the conscience of our country.  They have to be active participants in our continuing endeavour to nurture a democratic republic committed to achieving justice and fundamental freedoms for all citizens.

“Journalists must bring to public notice the array of ills and deprivations that continue to beset large numbers of our people – be it malnourishment, continuance of discriminatory practices against sections of society, particularly dalits, or the burdens and tragic consequences of indebtedness. They must shape and influence public opinion even as they provide objective and balanced coverage of news.

“The media has an important role to play in cleansing public life.  However, to undertake this role, the conduct of the media itself should be above board.  It must be always kept in mind that ends and means are both important.

“The highest standards  of ethics must be maintained at all times.

“Sensationalism should never become a substitute for objective assessment and truthful reporting.

“Gossip and speculation should not replace hard facts.

“Every effort should be made to ensure that political or commercial interests are not passed off as legitimate and independent opinion.

“Integrity and independence are two sides of the same coin and both must be equally important for our media and for every one of us.  There should be recognition that the media is accountable to its readers and viewers at large and through them to the entire nation.

“As the fourth estate, the media is the mediator between the public and public servants. It is a watchdog of public interest. It gives voice to the downtrodden and dispossessed. It is inherent in the role of a watchdog that the media draws attention to what is wrong. But, gloom and dark alone should not dominate news coverage.  A conscious effort must be made to highlight the positive and inspire change for the better.  The power of the media should be used to engage in a nation-wide endeavour to reset our moral compass.

“I call upon INS and all its members to remain torch bearers of responsible journalism. They must always be a voice for justice and equally, spokespersons of hope and reason.

“In conclusion, let me remind that one of the most prolific and influential journalists as well as publishers of our nation was Mahatma Gandhi. His thoughts on journalism are most illuminating and must guide our media.

“Gandhiji wrote in My Experiments with Truth:

The sole aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges whole countrysides and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without, it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only when exercised from within.”

He also wrote:

Week after week I poured out my soul in its columns and expounded the principles and practice of satyagraha as I understood it.  I cannot recall a word in these articles set down without thought or deliberation or a word of conscious exaggeration, or anything merely to please.  Indeed, the journal became for me a training in self-restraint and for friends a medium through which to keep in touch with my thoughts.”

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

On TV, Congress loses to BJP, Left loses to AAP

25 February 2014
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Sitaram Yechury addressing the Left rally in Hissar, but without the “Jimmy Jib” cameras

The point has been made before, that the current political coverage, especially on television, is more than somewhat skewed, tilting unabashedly towards Narendra Damodardas Modi of the BJP vis-a-vis Rahul Gandhi of the Congress.

Now, the CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechuri explicates it a bit more in the Hindustan Times, comparing the TV coverage of Arvind Kejriwal‘s Aam Aadmi Party vis-a-vis the Left parties and unions.

“Two days ago, the Left held a Haryana-level people’s rally for a political alternative at Hissar. On the same day, AAP held a rally called much after the Left rally announcement at nearby Rohtak. The latter was widely covered by the corporate media while the former was hardly mentioned notwithstanding larger participation.

“This is not surprising. Earlier, when Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement was on in the Capital, over two lakh workers organised by the central trade unions had converged at Parliament against corruption and price rise. While the former hogged 24/7 media coverage, the latter hardly found any mention.

“Clearly, for the corporate media, a so-called ‘morally’ upright alternative that does not adversely affect profit maximisation is always better than an alternative that aims at improving people’s livelihood while not excessively promoting profit maximisation!”

For the record, though, Kejriwal launched into the media at the Rohtak rally, inviting a statement from the editors guild of India.
Photograph: courtesy Ganashakti
Read the full article: Sitaram Yechuri in HT
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’

A Kannada paper breaks RG’s code of silence

17 February 2014

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Even before he sat down last month with Kalpesh Yagnik of Dainik Bhaskar and Arnab Goswami of Times Now for one-on-one interviews, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had met Editors in Delhi off and on, more off than on.

These meetings were long, relaxed,  informal but strictly off the record.

Smart phones and cameras had to be deposited with the security guards before entering the venue, where on each chair lay a piece of cardboard with a pencil to take notes.

Attendees were free to report what was uttered without directly quoting Rahul Gandhi or suggesting that he was the source. So, “highly placed Congress sources said…” kind of stories were legion even if nothing earthshaking had been revealed.

The arrangement worked neatly in Delhi where the deference to power borders on stenographic servility.

Not so in the rest of the country.

As “The Candidate who doesn’t say he is The Candidate” goes around the country spearheading his party’s election campaign, his media meisters are enabling journalists from the  “regional” media to come face to face with Gandhi. And the results are not always to script.

In Karnataka, on Saturday, Rahul Gandhi met Bangalore’s editors informally “not for reporting“—and if Ajay Maken & Co expected stenographic servility in cyber-coolie capital, they were in for a surprise.

Kannada Prabha, the daily newspaper that mobile phone baron turned media baron Rajeev Chandrasekhar bought from the New Indian Express group, front-paged Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with the media, accompanied by a photograph shot with a cell phone.

Editor-in-Chief Vishweshwar Bhat recorded his impressions of the 45-minute meeting, with a three-deck headline saying it all: “It’s nice to see and hear Rahul’s words, but they are impractical. He is a good purchaser/ customer of his own ideas”.

On his Twitter account, Bhat wrote: “Rahul freely and excessively used the words, system and process. After 20, I lost and stopped the counting.”

And over a six-column story that spills on to page 8, Bhat provides his interpretation of all Gandhi said.

“When he repeatedly spoke of inner-party democracy, and the requirement for a new atmosphere, a new system and a new culture in the party, The Times of India‘s Washington correspondent Chidanand Rajghatta (who hails from Bangalore) said to Rahul:

“We have been hearing the same words, since the party’s Bombay national executive meeting, for the last 25 years. But the party has remained the same and the dinosaurs have survived.”

“For a moment, Rahul was stumped, and then said maybe Chidu shouldn’t have used the word ‘dinosaurs’.”

For the record, Rahul Gandhi held a similar interaction in Bhubaneshwar on February 9, which one participant described as “super-boring“.

Also read: Is “Modi Media” biased against Rahul Gandhi?

‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

Mani Shankar Aiyar launches into Arnab Goswami

Jessica Lal, Tehelka, Bina Ramani & the media

15 February 2014

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It was in South Delhi socialite Bina Ramani‘s Tamarind Court restaurant that Jessica Lall, a “model who worked as a celebrity barmaid”, was shot dead in 1999 by Manu Sharma, the son of Congress politician Venod Sharma.

Initially exonerated of the charges, the case turned full turtle for Sharma following a sting operation by Harinder Baweja, then with Tehelka magazine. Manu Sharma was eventually found guilty.

As the owner of the restaurant which was the scene of the crime, Bina Ramani spent nine days in jail in the case. She has an interview with Tehelka this week following the release of her book Bird in a Banyan Tree:

You have been sharply critical of the role media played in the aftermath of the Jessica Lal trial. Yet, it was a Tehelka investigation that brought out the truth. Do you think media can ensure justice?

It is not a guarantee that the media can ensure justice but it can certainly carve the path to it. Conversely, it can derail justice when it becomes over-zealous about its point of view. The media in India is extremely powerful and can wield a lot of influence—it should therefore be thorough i its investigation.

For the record, the news channel NewsX is now owned by Kartikeya Sharma, brother of Manu Sharma, through his company Information TV.

The Sharma family’s Piccadilly group also now owns M.J. Akbar-founded The Sunday Guardian, whose chairman is Ram Jethmalani, whose interview with Karan Thapar is must-watch television.

Also read: Note to directors: It was Shammy, nor Barkha

BJP man’s suicide threat “live and in full colour”

12 February 2014

Long years ago, a TV studio participant in the United States pulled out a revolver and shot himself—”live and in full colour”, as a prominent American magazine headlined it.

Something similar has (nearly) occurred several continents away in Mysore.

S.A. Ramadas—a pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and a former medical education minister in the previous BJP government (who also served as chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa‘s political secretary)—has been outed by a widowed government clerk of promising to marry her and then abandoning him.

Reports Star of Mysore:

“Interestingly, even as Premakumari was speaking to journalists, her phone rang. Looking at the phone, she said, ‘See, he (Ramadas) is calling,’ and received the call and turned ‘on’ the speaker of her cell phone at the insistence of media persons.

“During the conversation, Ramdas said, ‘Chinnu, do not go to media, if you do not come back, I will commit suicide by consuming poison.’

“Soon, news channels started broadcasting the developments. As the news was beamed on many TV channels till late night, terribly depressed and upset Ramdas rushed to his guest house in Srirampura, went into a room, bolted the door from inside and tried to hang himself from a ceiling fan.”

For the record, the three-time former MLA is now reported to be stable.

On the other hand, a supporter of Ramadas is reported to have committed suicide on hearing the news of the alleged suicide attempt of his mentor.

Also read: The nurse, the married man and the minister

And the milk man is pure, positive and virtuous?

How media went overboard in Padmapriya case

Mani Shankar Aiyar launches into Arnab Goswami

11 February 2014

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After a fiasco of an interview with Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, Mail Today reports that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi will now go through “mock interview sessions” before further TV powwows to prevent further fiascos.

“The duration of future interviews will be around 30 to 45 minutes instead of 90 minutes as on Times Now. According to sources, this will focus Gandhi’s impact and would reduce the possibility of the exercise going off at a tangent.

“Senior Congress leaders will also guide the Congress vice-president on appropriate body language during interviews.

“Future interviews with Rahul will be based on broad themes related to political, social, economic and other relevant issues. Answers to possible questions related to these broad themes will be prepared in advance and given to Gandhi besides a detailed background briefing.

“The responses will be framed in such a way that they focus on Rahul’s political philosophy and Congress ideology, sources said.”

In the Indian Express, former Union minister and Rajiv Gandhi‘s speech-writer, Mani Shankar Aiyar questions the choice of Times Now for Rahul Gandhi’s arengetram on English TV:

“Why the most superficial anchor in English TV should have been chosen for Rahul Gandhi’s maiden interview is really for his media managers to explain. But every time Rahul attempted to drag the programme from banality to depth, the anchor stubbornly brought it back to the trivial and the episodic.

“This particular anchor has done more than all the other channels combined to dumb down the political discourse among the twittering classes. When I ask people why they watch him, the standard answer I get is, “Not for enlightenment, just for entertainment”. And that is really what the nation needs to know!

“So, it is hardly surprising that the interviewer bristled when Rahul gently suggested that he was being “superficial”. Of course, he was. It is not in this anchor’s nature to plumb the profound. I hope Rahul finds himself a more reflective anchor when he goes beyond the tiny English-speaking audience of that channel to the broad masses in Hindi and other Indian language.”

Grapic: courtesy Mail Today

External reading: 25 questions Rahul Gandhi has still not been asked*

* Disclosures apply

Is ‘corrupt, corporate media’ scared of AAP?

25 January 2014

After hailing the Aam Aadmi Party’s breathtaking rise to power, in fact after paving the way for it with its somewhat uncritical coverage in its Team Anna avatar, much of the mainstream turned against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after he sat on a protest at a public square this week.

In fact, The Times of India, which led the wide-eyed gee-whiz coverage initially, felt duty-bound to run a comically self-important front-page clarification, explaining the sudden change in the tone, tenor and texture of its coverage.

Why, asks Vikram Muthanna, managing editor of the evening newspaper Star of Mysore. Is it because the media has too many skeletons to hide?

“The details of the Delhi incident of course were made murkier and louder by now what seems like an anti-AAP media.

“The same media which went hyper and showed us doctored tapes of AAP reportedly accepting cash, which some say cost Shazia Ilmi of AAP her seat, who lost by just 326 votes. But then once it was proved the tapes were doctored the raw footage was never shown.

“The man who made it, earlier was given ample screen, but was never brought back to be grilled. In the Delhi incident a media that gets a sound byte from all and sundry did not get too many residents’ opinions. There was also no clarity and consistency in reports, why?

“So while the media says the AAP Minister Somnath Bharti has brought bad name to India internationally, maybe selective journalism did too?

“The same media just before the elections said AAP will not get more than 6 to 10 seats, in a way encouraging voters not to waste their vote and stick with the winning horse, the BJP, only to be proved wrong.

“Is the Corporate owned media with other varied interests suddenly scared that too much anti-corruption may come knocking on their own doors or are they trying to play ball with BJP who is sure to win many more seats than any other party right now?”

Read the full piece: If AAP is anarchist, how about BJP?

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

Mukesh Ambani ‘sues’ TV channels on Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal taunts Mukesh Ambani on sue threat

Should the media too come under Lok Pal?

Is The Indian Express now a pro-establishment newspaper?

The UPA minister who is a TV news editor is…

16 December 2013

Virendra Kapoor in The Sunday Guardian:

BENDING THE MEDIA

There is this senior minister in the UPA government, who is so sensitive to what the media says and writes about him that he invariably gets on the phone to the media owner to complain against even a passing mention which may not be too complimentary about him.

Like the other day, he SMSed a popular television anchor, asking him to immediately replace a panellist debating the Assembly election results because what the panellist said about the fallout of the outcome on the minister’s own re-election chances was highly pessimistic.

Of course, the anchor retained the said panellist for the entire duration of the programme.

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