Posts Tagged ‘PCI’

On National Press Day, a shop floor then & now

16 November 2013

The Hindu office-composing room-1950

Today, November 16, is National Press Day.

The photograph above, excerpted from Madras then, Chennai Now by Nanditha Krishna, Tishani Doshi and Pramod Kapoor (Roli books, 2013), is the floor of the composing room of The Hindu from the 1950s, a far cry from the ultra-modern printing towers of today.

As the text accompanying the picture in the book notes:

The Hindu was the first newspaper to introduce colour in 1940 and the first to own its own fleet of aircraft for distribution in 1963. In 1969, the Hindu adopted the facsimile system of page transmission. In 1986, it began using a transmission satellite. Computer-aided photo composition commenced in 1980. In 1994, text and graphics were fully integrated in computerised page make-up and remote imaging.”

***

Below is the picture of the offices of The Hindu at 100, Mount Road, where it was housed for more than half a century, starting 1883.

hinduoffice

And, below, is the newsroom of The Hindu, as seen in circa 2005.

hindu_newsroom_chennai_20051017

For the record, Pramod Kapoor used to publish the Sunday Mail newspaper from Delhi in the 1990s before he sold it to the Dalmias who, after a revamp under T.V.R. Shenoy, shut it down.

Photographs: courtesy Roli Books, and Outlook

‘Corporatocracy is cause of Indian media’s ills’

5 November 2013

Below is the abridged text of a message sent by Justice P.B. Sawant, former chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), to a seminar on the state of the media held by the Editors Guild of India in New Delhi on November 2, to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Nikhil Chakravartty, former editor of Mainstream:

***

By P.B. SAWANT

“The deterioration in the standard of journalism that is often complained of, is on account of many contributory causes. The low mental, moral and intellectual calibre particularly at the top, being not the least important among them.

“But here, it is necessary to draw distinction between different media outlets.

“The corporate-owned and dominated media-houses have their journalists on the leash, and many times appoint them only to fill the post. On account of the hefty pay packages and alluring perks, many do not mind being the call-boys of the management.

“It is common knowledge that the views injurious to the interests of the owners, their friends, political patrons, the advertiser and co-businessmen are not allowed to be published, and the editors have to submit to the management policy from time to time.

“Gone are the days when the independent editors strode the path with majesty. They had value of their own and commanded respect and readership on account of their intrinsic qualities. The newspapers were identified by their names and the readers moved with them to different newspapers.

“That breed of journalists cannot be expected in the philistine world of today. Those who cannot adjust to the present ambience, fight their lonely battles, and except a few, fail to survive.

“Even the average readers of the day, have no time and taste for serious journalism. The values have changed and are changing fast. The role of the journalist is reduced to the commentator on the events. The comments have also to be within the framework laid down.

“Unfortunately for the last some years, the foreign element has also become prominent in quite a few editorials, main articles, reportage, and anchoring and interviews. When the government and non-government so called experts also crawl before the foreign interests, this is not surprising. And yet, some plead for the wholesale entry of the foreign media.

“There is enough documentation on the role the foreign agencies have been playing through many dubious devices including the media, to spread economic imperialism, and to weaken the countries and their governments. There is a fleet of journalists in every country on the pay-roll of the foreign intelligence agencies.

“Our journalists have to be on guard lest they fall an easy prey to the alluring alien snares. On the other hand, they should, in the national interests, expose these insidious rackets.

“Some apologists argue that today the journalists do not have lofty causes to pursue as the freedom struggle, the initial phases of nation building, sharp ideological skirmishes, wars with Pakistan, emergency, cold-war and regional hot wars, etc, which not only sharpened the pen of the former generation journalists, but shaped their characters.

“It is therefore not proper to compare the present generation journalists with their predecessors. It may at once be agreed that it is not fair to weigh the present generation with the earlier generation in any field, for obvious reasons. But it is incorrect to argue that we are not faced with as important problems as did the past generations.

“Every generation has it its own problems and some of them are graver than any faced by the earlier generations. We are today confronted with aggressive casteism and communalism, rampant corruption in every field, growing criminalisation of public life, galloping economic imperialism all over the world euphemistically called neo-liberalism and globalisation, all round environmental destruction and pollution, piling of atomic, chemical and biological weapons, blatant unilateral invasion of countries for plundering their oil, minerals and other natural resources and capturing their markets, anti-national policies and projects, treaties and agreements, enormous economic inequalities, terrorism born of deep social and economic injustice as well as of fanaticism etc. But there is no crusade against any of these national evils and disasters.

“On the other hand, the voice of the media is muted on some of these issues, lest the vested interests and patrons are hurt. The comments on these developments, when made are superficial. No attempt is made to delve into the basic causes, with the result that the real culprits remain free to indulge in their nefarious activities.

“Journalism, one thought was for educating the people, and not for satisfying their curiosity by any feedback.

“The lack of independence of the journalists is the main weakness of journalism today. That is on account of corporatocracy is undisputed. It can only be cured by the ownership of the media by the journalists themselves either through co-operative or company structure. The venture will succeed, if the journalist concentrates on journalism, and hand-over the administrative and business part to the professional managers. The Le Monde of France may serve as an example.”

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Also read: The editor who decline the Padma Bhushan

Also read: Editors Guild backs Times Now in libel case

HT springs to TOI’s support in Times Now libel case

Another substandard post by unqualified journo

14 March 2013

He hasn’t quite spelt out which colleges we should go to, what subjects and courses we should take, in which language, or what pass-percentage is OK.

At least not yet.

But Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju‘s “order” on “some legal qualification” before one can enter the profession of journalism has been met with near-unanimous ridicule from mediapersons.

***

In the Hindu, Outlook* chairman Vinod Mehta calls the move “absolute rubbish”:

“Some of the greatest journalists the world has produced have been without university degrees. I am a BA fail and was academically the most undistinguished student in school and college. And I haven’t done too badly.”

NDTV group editor Barkha Dutt, who has journalism degrees from Jamia Milia and Columbia school of journalism:

“The best training is on the field. While I can see the arguments about ‘declining standards and quality in journalists’, I do not believe the answer was in ‘more degrees’. (paraphrased)

Sashi Kumar of the Asian college of journalism:

“Most hard-nosed reporters who do unconventional beats, break scoops and exposes, are in the regional language press. And they are not necessarily MAs or PhDs. This is an ill-considered move and reflects Justice Katju’s ignorance about the field, and strikes at the root of freedom of expression.”

***

In a letter to the editor of The Hindu, the veteran sports correspondent Partab Ramchand writes:

“It might be relevant to mention that I am a matriculate (second class) and I joined the profession virtually straight from school nearly 45 years ago without any training whatsoever in journalism and with just a knowledge of sports which I followed closely from my school days.

“I never saw the portals of a college and have never felt any regret in this regard.

“I have worked in various leading newspaper groups, heading the sports department on a couple of occasions, have gone on international assignments and am an author of 10 books on cricket. I fully endorse Barkha Dutt’s view that the best training is on the field which is exactly what I went through.”

* Disclosures apply

Infographic: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

TV news channel editors too blast PCI chief

Has Justice Katju been appointed by Josef Stalin?

Justice Katju ‘sorry’ for calling journos idiots

Bonus: How much is one divided by zero? Don’t ask

In case you can’t believe what you’re seeing…

26 October 2012

‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

31 October 2011

The Press Council of India (PCI), a statutory body for “preserving the freedom of the press and maintaining and improving the standards of newspapers and news agencies”, has a new chairman: Justice Markandey Katju, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India.

In an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN’s weekly programme Devil’s Advocate, Justice Katju, known for his “mayhem, humour and quotability” in the courtroom and his long, ponderous newspaper articles, lets loose:

Karan Thapar: In a recent interaction with newspaper and TV editors, you said the media have become irresponsible and wayward, and that the time has come when some introspection is required. Are you disappointed with the media?

Justice Katju: Very disappointed with the media. I have a poor opinion about the media. I mean this. They should be working for the interests of the people. But they are not working for the interests of the people and sometimes, politically, they are working in an anti-people manner.

You have said one of the basic tasks of the media is to provide truthful and objective information to form rational opinions. Is that not happening altogether or is it not happening sufficiently?

You must first understand the historical context. India is passing through a transitional period in our history. Transition from a feudal-agricultural to a modern-industrial society. This is a painful and agonising period. When Europe was passing through this period, media played a great role. It was a great help in transforming European society.

Is that not happening in India?

No. Just the reverse….

Indian media is very often playing an anti-people role. One, it diverts the attention of the people from the real problems, which are basically economic. 80% people are living in horrible poverty, unemployment, facing price rise, healthcare. You divert attention from those problems and instead you parade parade film stars, fashion parades, cricketers, as if they are the problems.

Two, very often the media (deliberately) divides the people (on religious lines). This is a country of great diversity because it is a country broadly of immigrants. We must respect each other and remain united. After every bomb blast, almost every channel report that Indian Mujahidin or Jaish-e-Mohammed or Harkatul-jihad-e-islam have sent e-mails or SMS claiming responsibility. Now an e-mail can be sent by any mischievous person, but by showing this on TV channels and next day in the newspapers the tendency is to demonise all Muslims in the country as terrorists and bomb throwers.

Third, the media must promote scientific ideas to help the country move forward, like the European media did. Here the media promotes superstition, astrology. You know, 90% of the people in the country are mentally very backward, steeped in casteism, communalism, superstition and so on. Should the media help uplift them and bring them up to a higher mental level and make them part of enlightened India, or should it go down to their level and perpetuate their backwardness? Many channels show astrology, which is pure humbug, total superstition.

You began by saying that you had a very low opinion of the media, that you were deeply dispapointed. I get the impression you don’t think very much of the media at all?

There are some very respected journalists…. General rut is very, very low and I have a poor opinion of most media people. Frankly, I don’t think they have any knowledge of economic theory or political science or literature or philosophy. I don’t think they have studied all this.

So the media is in effect is letting down India.

Yes, absolutely. Because media is very important in this transitional period. The media deals with ideas, it is not an ordinary business, dealing in commodities. Therefore, people need modern scientific ideas. And that’s not happening.

View the full video: ‘Media deliberately dividing people’

Also read: What the stars foretell for our avivekanandas

H.D. Kumaraswamy will become PM one day: astrologer

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The only place black magic works is in your mind

How Big B has pushed India to regressive, new low

Can the Sai Baba make Shashi Tharoor win?

Why Indian media can’t laugh at Murdoch’s plight

18 July 2011

SANJAY JHA writes from Bombay: Rupert Murdoch, the emperor of media leviathan News Corporation, shuttled on a transatlantic flight over a tumultuous week-end that saw a popular British Sunday tabloid bite the dust, never to rise again.

News of the World (NOTW) was founded prior to the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857, but closed with a 72-hour notice period in tragic infamy on account of startling revelations about its surreptitious hacking of private mails and messages, in a manner both macabre and sleazy.

For Murdoch, the closure was not a generous act to protect the Holy Grail but a calculated trade-off for acquisition of the more alluring BSkyB.

Greed is a driving ambition, often meeting a ruinous end.

It could happen in India too.

Despite much heart-burning and pious pontification, the Press Council of India report on paid news accumulates dust in dark dungeons, like used files. It does manifest our questionable standards, the media’s inability to smother its own insuperable demons.

While we hyperventilate to the world, our own backyard emits a sordid stench. Paid coverage is stealthy advertising, which legitimizes self-promoting campaigns on unsuspecting readers posing as dispassionate reporting. It is indeed an ethical violation of astronomical proportions, but everyone seems nonchalant, blissfully blasé about it.

Dileep Padgaonkar once famously stated that The Times Of India editor was the “second most important man in India”. That was not hubris or a silly exaggeration , it was a near-factual assessment. But today no media big gun can make such lofty claims.

Multiple channels and news publishers have made mass distribution of news our new business reality.

Once I waited every Sunday morning to read Khalid Mohamed’s review of a Bollywood blockbuster. Now several experts miserly dole out glittering stars on Friday itself, even as thousands of faceless bloggers become the new film critic.

It’s literally first day, first show.

Media is now truly democratized; so truly there are no king-makers. With Facebook, Twitter and blogs gathering high-speed on the social networking highway, media activism has also assumed formidable power to influence public opinion, so far considered the sacrosanct preserve of an elite club.

India’s subterranean media revolution is underway.

Media organizations must also frequently take core ideological or strategic positions on sensitive issues, it will enhance their quality. That’s what often distinguishes the print media from television. The snarling watchdog needs to be just that; it can’t have a shrill bark, a toothless bite and lazily snooze when Rome burns, reacting only under extreme provocation.

For instance, last year when Shiv Sena became a quasi-sarkar in threatening to black-out Shah Rukh Khan’s My Name is Khan, the conventional protocol of TV channels of giving both sides a voice was rather superfluous , even preposterous.

Even to a naïve outsider, Shiv Sena was indulging in unlawful transgressions exploiting media platform shamelessly to espouse its parochial claptrap. The worst indictment of the media is when it willingly succumbs to made for TV manufactured events.

Whatever happened to professional discretion?

Aren’t leaked reports also obtained often with at least moral illegality with an in-built clause of quid pro quo?

In a country bedeviled by innumerable scams, a deadly diabolical nexus between criminal elements, political leaders and business-builder behemoths, media is critical. But discharging that onerous responsibility is not a child’s play.

Like WikiLeaks, one foresees alternative mediums to emerge to fill the gaping vacuum created by status quo coverage these days . Investigative journalism has become comatose in a commercially dictated news content age. Something is gone missing.

Are we becoming tabloid-like, allowing any bearded spiritual free-agent, violent wife-beater or a just-released bone chopper to capture India’s attention? Can we then be so self-righteous as to take umbrage under “mere reporting”?

Oh, come on! For all the political faux pas of the government, the media should have used its own grey cells to fathom Baba Ramdev’s bona fides. The modern-media is society’s crucial “ influencer”, not a reseller of titillating tales. Media integrity is a non-negotiable instrument. We need to enforce it.

I hear several grumble ; why does the media never do a comprehensive follow-up to serious unresolved issues instead of chasing the next wife-thrashing maverick promoting his televised marriage? Whatever happened to several disproportionate assets cases against powerful CMs?

Who really covertly leaked the Radia tapes, and why?

How is Lalit Modi “ officially absconding” and purchasing large mansions in downtown London without a valid passport? Whatever happened to the Srikrishna report on the Bombay riots?

Narayan Rane had publicly stated that he was aware of powerful people who knew about 26/11 terrorist attacks—really? If so what happened? Despite singular success stories like Jessica Lal, the CWG and 2G scams, Gujarat riots and several successful petitions, paradoxically enough, media itself is losing the perception battle.

Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live! ridiculed media to atrocious levels but to appreciative applause.

In India, where our daily lives resembles a cacophonous collage of absurd and horrendous tales, news television often degenerates into infotainment category. The truth is that good news is boring.

It’s like breathing. It’s predictable, monotonous, rhythmical, but it is also bloody necessary.

Or else we have the kiss of death.

We are too often celebrating India’s unseen imminent demise, our own pornography of grief. It is time we appreciated that even thorns have roses. At least one channel has begun to share a daily dose of cheer.

Competitive journalism is natural marketing warfare, after all, newspapers and TV channels are not in the charity trade. But intent is pivotal. Phone hacking is unambiguously unethical. Bribery pay-offs of police personnel is contemptible. Killing news to protect favoured parties is equally lamentable.

But isn’t paid news also guilty of disingenuous, distorted presentation of facts?

In the long-run , media houses that practice quintessential consecrated ethical behaviour will survive. Others will flounder.

The editor is media’s conscience-keeper, its guardian angel. They are the ones who must separate the wheat from the chaff, and ensure that the chaff does not get headline attention. But the quarter to quarter pressures of EPS for the publicly listed media companies can result in editorial compromises.

The editors need to be sacrosanct, inaccessible to advertisers and CEO’s business plans, working behind a Chinese wall. Editors should have no employee stock options, and must not be on boards of these companies either; that will eliminate conflict of interest issues.

Instead, they should be compensated by equitable fixed salaries, benefits, bonuses, and given flexibility for research projects, reimbursed higher learning expenses and encouraged to author books and take up teaching assignments.

We need to de-link organizational bottomline numbers with editorial policy.

Editorial independence is a must; they cannot be the brand managers with brains. Also, celebrity editors could do with relative anonymity . Anonymity powers the personal brand. Proximity to suave glib talking industrialists or political power-brokers can be jeopardous as was evident in the Radia tapes.

David Cameron flushes crimson on his selection of the arrested former head of NOTW, Andy Coulson. Tony Blair too is red-faced. And more is still to surface.

Every media company must make public its own independent advisory board with an ombudsman , besides an industry watchdog. Ethical workshops are needed, as young recruits can be susceptible to short-cut methods for quick career windfalls.

Press, public relations , big business and the politicians will have to tread with circumspection as there could be grave overlaps on account of the vested , conflicting interest of each. The unholy nexus is no longer a well-concealed secret. The path is slippery , shaky and serpentine. It is easy to become the news of the world. Very easy.

Good night and good luck!

(Banker turned web entrepreneur, Sanjay Jha is the founder of Cricket Next. This piece originally appeared on the website Hamara Congress)

Image: courtesy Time

Journo who broke Dalai Lama story passes away

24 November 2009

From The Hindu:

Guwahati: Veteran journalist Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa, who broke the news about the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet through Tawang in March 1959 and his seeking asylum in India, passed away at his Chandmari residence here on Monday. He was 87. He is survived by his wife Aparajita, a son and three daughters.

Rajkhowa was also the first Indian journalist to have interviewed the Tibetan religious leader.

The Dalai Lama’s request letter for asylum had reached Rajkhowa by mistake in Shillong, where he was based as the correspondent of the The Assam Tribune, a local English daily published from Guwahati.

The messenger, who carried the Dalai Lama’s request letter written in English, reached Rajkhowa instead of a government official to whom the letter was addressed and who was residing near the journalist’s residence.

Rajkhowa used to recall how he first copied the whole letter before sealing it once again for handing it over to the messenger for delivery to the official and thus broke the story about the Dalai Lama’s flight in The Assam Tribune.

Born in Phukan Nagar in upper Assam’s Sivasagar district, Rajkhowa started his career as a sub-editor with The Assam Tribune in 1946. Later he joined the Shillong office of the English daily in 1951. In 1973, he shifted his base to New Delhi and worked in different national newspapers.

Rajkhowa was also a member of the Press Council of India.

Photograph: courtesy The Assam Tribune

Read The AssamTribune obituary here

Read The Assam Times obituary here

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