Posts Tagged ‘Business India’

‘Indian TV is like nautanki, a real-life soap opera’

6 March 2013

Malvika Singh, whose parents Raj and Romesh Thapar started Seminar magazine (and whose attempt to start a news channel for Ashok Advani‘s Business India magazine in the mid-1990s is the stuff of media lore), in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“An intellectually lazy press corps that controls and operates the electronic media in India, drowning us all in its short bites and screams, virtually taking on the garb of the politician on the soap box, has dumbed down the discourse. It has no idea of how to divide reporting from analysis as it allows the two to merge seamlessly into a stream of confusion and one-sided chatter.

“The other example of that laziness can be found in the guests who appear on all the channels — about the same 40 people who are tossed about as in a caesar salad. No fresh views, no new voices.

“Television was meant to be a tool that would access far-flung views and voices in an effort to expand the real news from the ground as well as the dialogue. Instead, each channel is predictable in its reactions to political happenings and one can clearly ascertain the personal political preferences of the owners and the anchors in the construct of their programmes.

“Indian television is like a nautanki, a soap opera, watched for the ‘live’ entertainment it provides as it shows real life leaders of India prancing about abusing one another, thereby demeaning themselves in full public view.”

Photograph: courtesy Tehelka

Ex-Outlook journo is new Hindu readers’ editor

19 September 2012

The Hinduhas a new readers’ editor: A.S. Panneerselvan. A former Madras correspondent for Outlook* magazine, Paneerselvan, 49, was with Sun TV as managing editor before moving on to be executive director of Panos South Asaia. He was also with Indiaweek, the now-defunct weekly newspaper launched by Business India.

* Disclosures apply

Image: courtesy The Hindu

External reading: Paneerselvan review of B.G. Verghese book

Rajya Sabha TV tears into Reliance-TV18 deal

15 January 2012

The fears over what happens when a big business house with deep pockets and political influence across parties funds a big media house to legitimise its hitherto-hidden media interests, are coming true even before the controversial Reliance Industries -Network18/TV18-Eenadu Television deal can be inked.

Obviously, the political class is silent. Obviously, TV18’s competitors won’t touch the story for reasons not difficult to imagine. Obviously, The Hindu won’t even publish a media column for reasons not difficult to fantasise.

But there has been no serious discussion of the implications of the deal on the media or on democracy in the mainstream media. Not on any of Network18’s usually high-decibel shows since the tie-up was announced on 3 January 2012. Not even on Karan Thapar‘s media show on CNN-IBN, The Last Word.

Print media coverage too has at best been sketchy. Even the newspapers and newsmagazines which have attempted to probe the complexities of the menage-a-trois, The Economic Times and The Indian Express, Outlook* and India Today, have barely managed to go beyond the numbers into the nuance.

Rajya Sabha TV, the newly launched television channel of the upper house of Parliament, has filled the breach somewhat with a no-holds barred discussion on the subject.

Anchored by Girish Nikam, a former Eenadu reporter who wrote five years ago on Eenadu‘s travails, the RSTV debate—with an honourable mention for sans serif in the third segment—flags all the important issues raised by the deal and underlines the role public service television can play in the service of the public when the corporate media gives up—or gives in.

Some of the comments made by three of the four participants on The Big Picture:

S. Nihal Singh, former editor of The Statesman: “My first reaction [on reading of the deal] was that it was time for India to have a really good anti-monopoly law for media, which is the norm in all democratic countries in the world, including the most advanced….

“The press council of India is totally dysfunctional because of the new chairman Justice Markandey Katju, who is baiting the media, who doesn’t believe in conversing with the media, or exchanging views with the media.”

***

Madhu Trehan, founder-editor of India Today and director, content, of the soon-to-be-launched media site, News Laundry: “It need not have happened if the government and corporates were more alert. One person owns much too much….

“Already every policy is decided by corporates as the 2G tapes (of Niira Radia) show. Not only is it dangerous that Mukesh Ambani will be deciding what policy will be decided, as you know has happened in the past, but he will also decide whether we can talk about it, or criticise it or expose it….

“Why is Reliance interested in media? It is not for money; it is obviously for influence. Rupert Murdoch was endorsing PMs and Presidents in three continents. Now we have the richest man in the country owning the largest network. Yes, there is an independent trust, but I don’t believe that. The purpose is to control the media. You are influencing policy, you are influencing how the government decides, and now you are going to decide how the people will hear about about you and the government….

“When a politician or a government spokesman speaks, we don’t believe them, but when somebody like Rajdeep Sardesai or Sagarika Ghose speaks, or anyone at IBN7 or TV18 comes on, we presume we should believe them. Now there is a big question mark [when RIL has indirect control over CNN-IBN]….

“In a deal of this size we are looking at very subtle plants of stories, subtle angles, subtly putting things in a certain way so that people think along in a certain way for a particular way. I don’t know if anyone can shut the door. It’s too late.”

***

Dilip Cherian, former editor Business India, head Perfect Relations: “Globally we have seen when big capital enters media, that is exactly what we are about to replicate for ourselves.

“Oligopolistic tendencies are visible in global media today, whether it is Silvio Berlusconi or Rupert Murdoch, the fact is they exercise humongous influence not on media but politics. Are we headed down the same road? At this time, the answer seems to be yes. Is it good? The universal answer from the question is that it isn’t, not just because it affects the quality of news but because it affects the quality of politics….

“The entry of big capital is not new or news. What has happened in this case is a big distinction between foreign investment and domestic. Because of 4G, because the same business house owns the pipe, owns the content, there could also be another issue of monopoly. If I were the owner, I would say there needs to be a publicly visible ombudsmanship [to dispel the doubts]….

“There is room for concern, there is room for elements of self-rgulation. As a country we are not able to legislate for two reasons. One because of the influence business houses have on policy making. And two, when you bring in legislation (on regulation) up, the other group that is affected are politicians who own media houses of their own. You are talking about now a coalition of forces which the public is incapable of handling. You won’t see Parliament doing the kind of regulation they should, in an open manner, because there are interests on all sides.”

* Disclosures apply

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

Paparazzi pic of Bollywood babe sans makeup

23 June 2010

If Indian journalism is uniformly second-rate, you ain’t seen nothing yet, Aakarbhai.

Let Kanchan Gupta of The Pioneer tell you a story:

“The popular Gujarati newspaper Sandesh had an interesting story about aspiring journalists who appeared for this year’s entrance test for the media course offered by Saurashtra University.

“I have no idea about the quality of the course, but it would be safe to presume that those who applied for admission are from average middle-class families, representatives of what political parties, particularly the Congress, refer to as aam admi—the common man, average Indian, or whatever term you may want to use for the masses.

“The answer scripts have revealed that among the applicants are those who believe Warren Anderson is a Hollywood superstar and (though not connected with the Bhopal tragedy) Teesta Setalvad is a Bollywood actress.”

Journalism students please note: activist Teesta is a former journalist at Ashok Advani‘s Business India. Sandesh is India’s first stock-market listed newspaper

Read the full piece: Rip van Winkle wakes up to Bhopal

Also read: Outlook magazine ranking of top-10 J-schools-2010

Hindustan Times‘ ranking of top-10 J-schools—2010

Hindustan Times‘ ranking of top-10 J-schools—2008

Tehelka announces its school of journalism

An example to emulate for Indian journalists

10 August 2009

basharat_peer

Not too many working Indian journalists are in the book-writing habit. At least not in English. Pesky bosses who don’t give leave from work, the effort involved in finding a publisher, the commitment entailed in pursuing a different form of writing, not to speak of the fear of failure, etc, all play a contributing part.

But it’s changing.

The former Indian Express reporter S. Hussain Zaidi wrote Black Friday on the 1993 Bombay blasts; Srinjoy Chowdhury, then of The Telegraph, wrote Flight into Fear on the IC-814 hijacking; The Times of India‘s Manoj Mitta brought home the horrors of 1984 with When a tree shook Delhi.

More recently, Harinder Baweja compiled a volume on the 26/11 seige on Bombay, and so on.

And there is the odd biography like Alam Srinivas‘s Storms in the Sea Wind on the Ambanis.

The former rediff.com and Tehelka journalist Basharat Peer, who did a scathing critique of Indian journalism’s allergy for “serious, well-researched, long-form reportage” for Columba Journalism Review in 2007, has written a book on his home-state, Kashmir.

Shivanand Kanavi, former executive editor of Business India, who wrote Sand to Silicon on India’s digital rise, reviews Peer’s attempt to fill a vital hole in Indian journalism—and finds three gaping holes.

***

Shivanand

By SHIVANAND KANAVI

Basharat Peer’s “Curfewed Night” is a welcome first-person account of Kashmir of the last two decades. Peer’s book is lyrical, intense, partisan and cynical in varied proportions at the same time.

A simple linear narrative of events since the 1980s as seen by a Kashmiri boy (the author), Curfewed Night will help in educating the vast mass of Indian people who are distant from Kashmir in every way, who are not activists of the human rights movement, and who are the chief target of the Indian State’s one-sided propaganda about what’s been happening in Kashmir in the last two decades.

The book begins at the beginning that is the author’s childhood. This part is lyrical and at times cute. It could have been the retold story of any articulate, sensitive boy from any Indian village to any urban or exotic audience. Then comes teenage and the romance of the Azadi movement; the blind fury and brutality of the security forces clearly reflecting their hate and an occupationist attitude towards the Kashmiris.

Peer tells the story of the emergence of the struggle of Kashmiri youth, armed and trained across the Line of Control (LoC) by our friendly neighbours and the impact of all this on their friends and families. The author’s own brief inner turmoil to cross or not to cross the LoC, the romance of a sexy AK-47, and the pressure from the family to follow a more traditional middle-class road and, above all, a concern for self-preservation, are all conveyed very convincingly.

Then comes the life of a self-exiled student and later of a young journalist in the 1990s, with a longing to tell the “untold story of Kashmir”; the evolution of the author with exposure to a normal life and ‘freedom from searches’; exhaustion setting in about indigenous militancy with no hope of a quick victory and so on, seems a little rushed.

Peer then gives us an invaluable, authentic picture of the emergence of jihadis from Pakistan equipped with laptops and satellite phones ready to unleash terror, where the random victims are not necessarily military targets, while a hapless population caught in the cross fire continues to grieve over the loss of a generation.

Peer excels when he brings out journalistic gems like the story of the ikhwanis, turncoat militants who became a part of Indian counter-insurgency; chameleon-like careerists who smoothly switch roles between militant, reformed militant and politician, a cryptic hint of the alienation of separatist politicians from the ordinary aggrieved Kashmiris; or the schizophrenia of a swaggering para-military officer who unexpectedly melts in a media room when Peer starts  recalling the life he spent in Delhi.

Despite these excellent points, however, there are some rough edges and glaring lacunae as well.

Peer’s style is very uneven and varies between the raw and the sophisticated. It is possible that the account has been written over a long period of time during which the writer himself has evolved. However, that does not absolve the responsibility of the publisher’s editorial team to play their role, which is more than spell checking.

Peer completely omits the Kargil war and is similarly silent about the Indo-Pak peace yatra that started with the Lahore bus trip by Atal Behari Vajpayee and has gone through its yo-yo moments.

These are glaring blemishes to ignore, especially from a trained journalist.

Peer stumbles often in maintaining distance and some circumspection regarding his own emotions and concerns. For example, there is too much shock expressed when a youth who is dandily throwing grenades and sniping armymen gets killed in an encounter.

Surely, Peer did not expect such elements to be given a medal by the army?

I am sure the militant himself was mentally ready for “shahadat”, even though youth are prone to feel temporarily invincible in the early stages of any insurgency. The fact of the matter is in such armed insurgencies there are very few armed men surviving till the end game (say in PLO or IRA).

Peer also exhibits a casual disdain for the changes that are occurring in India in the last two decades and rubbishes them with the label of a discredited “India Shining”, an affliction of many a blinkered anti-establishment writer.

In fact there is every reason to believe that these changes are also occurring at least in Srinagar and Jammu if not in rural J&K, albeit in a small way, and that is affecting the attitude of a section of Kashmiri youth (mostly born post-Gawakadal) who want to move on.

The fact that despite the hysteria of the Amarnath agitation in Jammu and Srinagar, the prime movers of the agitation on both sides viz BJP and PDP did not win either Srinagar or Jammu seats in the general election says something. There are long queues for recruitment into new BPOs opening up in Jammu and Srinagar.

Then again, the recent prolonged strikes in Srinagar post-Shopian and a suicidal destruction of the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris engaged in the tourist trade, tells us not to get carried away too much and that the old is still very much alive.

On the whole, Basharat Peer’s Curfewed Night is a welcome addition to conte3mporary history, written with passion and pathos.

It is surprising that we have so few of these in India (at least in the English language). Why don’t we have more such attempts to tell the story of Manipur, Nagaland, Narmada valley, the jungles of Orissa/ Chhattisgarh/ Jharkhand, Dharavi, Emergency, Amritsar ’84, Delhi ’84, Mumbai ’93 or Gujarat 2002 in print or in film?

Why don’t we have our Norma Rae, Erin Brokovich or My heart lies buried at Wounded Knee? An Amu (Delhi 1984) or a Parzania (Gujarat 2002) are not enough.

Hopefully, more writers will follow Peer’s lead.

Photograph: courtesy Outlook magazine

Also read: How every journalist can write that dream book

Just a couple of things you might like to know

21 March 2009

“Full Disclosure” is an alien concept in Indian media where edit masquerading as ads, ads masquerading as edit, editors masquerading as party spokesmen, conflict of interest, etc, all cohabit in a blissful orgy. Rarely is the reader or viewer told if there is a slippery wheel within a wheel, as if news consumers have an allergy to it.

Former Business India editor Omkar Goswami now has a show titled Question Time on NDTV’s business channel, Profit. Last week, he interviewed “one of the cleverest persons I’ve had the pleasure to know”, Nandan Nilekani, one of the founders of the Information Technology giant, Infosys.

Full disclosure No. 1: Infosys co-founder N.R. Narayana Murthy is an independent director on NDTV’s board.

Full disclosure No. 2: Omkar Goswami is an independent director on the board of Infosys.

Maybe, neither disclosure is required because both interviewer and interviewee are stellar professionals in their own right. Maybe, neither disclosure would have added to the body of knowledge at the viewers disposal. Maybe, the viewer is just not interested in these details.

But….

Tehelka promoters ‘vindicated’ by official papers

9 February 2009

First Global, the brokerage promoted by Shankar Sharma and Devina Mehra which had a 14.50 per cent stake in the webzine turned magazine Tehelka, has scored a major victory with official documents reportedly showing that the firm had been harassed by market regulators on trumped-up charges, after the then BJP-led government had been shamed by a Tehelka expose that caught the BJP president taking a cash bribe on camera.

According to a story in Business Standard, official documents obtained from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act show that First Global had no “advance knowledge” of the stock market crash of March 2001 following the Tehelka story.

Titled “Operation Westend“, the investigation by journalists Aniruddha Bahal and Matthew Samuel resulted in the resignation of the then BJP chief Bangaru Laxman, defence minister George Fernandes, and plenty of egg on the BJP’s face.

But it also resulted in a massive witchhunt against the webzine and its promoters.

Documents obtained under RTI show that the brokerage—first Asian firm outside of Japan to become a member of the London Stock Exchange —had no role in hammering down the stock markets. In fact, it did not figure in the list of the top-50 sellers from mid-February to mid-March 2001.

But, because of its links to Tehelka, First Global was stripped off its registration; Shankar Sharma and his wife and partner Devina (a former Business India journalist) were arrested as they were about to board a flight to London (Shankar was arrested two more times); and hundreds of cases were lodged against the duo in an extraordinary act of political vendetta that eventually resulted in the closure of Tehelka online before its resurrection as an offline magazine.

First Global, which “paid more taxes than companies like Proctor & Gamble, Ranbaxy, and Titan“, was also forced to shut shop.

The assault on Tehelka resulting in its closure, was one of two standout cases of media harassment by the former BJP government, whose prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani was recently decorated by India’s leading English language broadcaster NDTV with a “lifetime achievement” award.

“Always in favour of anti-terrorism laws, he abolished Press Censorship and repealed anti-press legislation during his tenure in 1977-1979 as the I&B Minister,” read the citation. Advani is also credited for his Emergency era comment on the Indian press: “When you were only asked to bend, many of you chose to crawl.”

Photograph: courtesy rediff.com

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