Posts Tagged ‘Press Council of India’

When B.G. Verghese is drawn into row, it’s news

24 February 2014

Nobody is safe in the treacherous minefield that is Jammu & Kashmir. Not even B.G. Verghese.

The Magsaysay Award-winning editor of the Hindustan Times, who was sacked from the Birla-owned paper when he stated that Indira Gandhi‘s annexation of Sikkim was “less than proper” —and a welcome voice of sobriety in a mediascape populated by shriekers and attention-seekers—has been draw into a messy debate by a retired Kashmiri government officer.

Syed Mohammed Yasin, the former deputy commissioner of Kupwara, where 32 Kashmiri between 13 and 60 years of age were raped by Army men in 1991, tells the Kashmir Reader today, that the Press Council of India (PCI) team, which Verghese headed, did not do its job properly by giving a clean chit to the men in uniform.

“Yasin said the Press Council of India team led by senior journalist B.G. Varghese, which later gave a clean chit to the Army, had asked him to “save the soldiers in the national interest.”

“I told him (Varghese) ‘are you not ashamed of what your Army has done in Kunan-Poshpora?’

However, he started threatening me and my family. Even the Special Secretary tried to persuade me to close the case. However, I refused to do so. Later, I was transferred from one place to another but I never comprised over my report.”

Also read: A deep mind with a straight spine who stands tall

As the year ends, a lament for the media

How Arun Shourie slighted B.G. Verghese et al

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.”

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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

‘People know TV news is just entertainment’

22 September 2013

Pratap Bhanu Mehta president of the Delhi-based thinktank, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), in an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN:

Karan Thapar: How do you view the Indian media? Do you share justice Markandey Katju‘s concern, that by and large it is obsessive, it is narrow-minded, it focuses on middle class – urban concerns, ignoring the real problems that affect India such as poverty, such as joblessness.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: My concern is not so much the issues it covers. It is that whatever it does, with a few exceptions, it is not bringing sufficient rigour and it is not performing frankly the function of being an honest broker in very, very important debates. The media is failing Indian democracy, I would agree with justice Katju to that extent.

Thapar: I know you are not a participant on television debates but do you watch them or do you find them off putting or irritating?

Mehta: You watch them in the way you would watch an entertainment show. In fact my own sense is that I think people are very wisely making the distinction that news is entertainment. It is not news.

Thapar: But of course it should not be entertainment at all.

Mehta: But of course it should not be. It’s exactly that confusion of roles that is crippling us.

Thapar: So TV debates may be entertaining but in terms of informing, educating, illuminating, they fail.

Mehta: Actually they are quite dangerous because they present a false construction of what public opinion is.

Read the full interview: Pratap Bhanu Mehta

‘Licensing journos: recipe for total state control’

22 August 2013

Ravi_pic_ram_leiceL1000002_croppedThe following is the full text of the statement issued by N. Ravi, president of the Editors’ Guild of India, on the proposal mooted by minister of state for information and broadcasting, Manish Tewari, on a “common examination” for student-journalists and a “licence” for journalists to perform their function:

“The suggestion of the Union minister for information and broadcasting, Manish Tewari, that journalists should be tested and licensed to practice the profession is a recipe for the total state control of the media.

“Licensing of journalists is an obviously undemocratic practice that has been condemned repeatedly by international human rights organisations including the Inter American Court of Human Rights. Requirements such as membership of a particular organisation, specific qualifications and licences issued by the government are tools used by totalitarian states to control the media.

“The right to freedom of expression is guaranteed under Article 19 (1) of the Constitution and it is open to every citizen to practise it through the media subject only to restrictions on the grounds specified in Article 19 (2).  The reporting of facts and the expression of ideas is the right of every citizen and to require the passing of a test and the possession of a licence issued by the government would be a violation of the very concept of freedom.

“People with varying qualifications, ideas and interests should be allowed unrestricted access in the exercise of their right to free speech through the media.

“Besides, the media deal with the whole gamut of issues touching on the society– from political, economic and social issues to health, religion, art, literature, cinema, music and travel– and unlike in the case of some of the professions such as law and medicine, there is no fixed or identifiable collection of works or coherent body of knowledge on which journalists could be tested.

“In this age of citizen journalists, bloggers and social media and Internet users, it would be ridiculous to introduce any restriction on who should practise journalism even if it were possible to enforce it.”

***

Business Standard has an editorial on the topic:

“Charitably, Tewari’s point could be taken as an opportunity for the media to introspect as to why there are many calls for it to improve the quality of its output. There is little doubt that, as the media space has exploded, much has been produced that is not of sufficient quality or reliability or even credibility.

“Of course, whether this requires a licence-permit Raj to be introduced for journalism is another question altogether—though a reflexive belief in the virtues of control is the hallmark of the Indira Gandhi-loving United Progressive Alliance, which is in so many fields apparently desirous of returning India to the 1980s.

“Actually, it is diversity that should be prized in an open society with free expression, not uniformity and “standardisation”. It is ridiculous to imagine that an examination, however tough, would, in any case, weed out the corrupt and the incompetent. If that were the case, India would have had the most incorruptible and most efficient bureaucracy in the known universe.”

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Madhavankutty Pillai in Open magazine:

“The exam and licence for journalists is couched as a measure for the benefit of the profession. It comes on the back of the Press Council of India Chairman, Markandey Katju, floating a similar proposal some months ago. Both are symbolic of our great faith in question papers despite overwhelming evidence that it is possibly the worst way to create an institution.

“IAS and IPS officers, the frame that rules India, are selected on the basis of one exam and what it churns out is an effete, morally compromised, characterless group. People with high IQ and a good memory can clear these exams but it guarantees nothing in terms of either integrity, efficiency or common sense.

“Both Katju and Tewari were lawyers and it is probably the Bar Council exam that they have as a model. Which makes what they propose even more ridiculous if you consider the state of the legal profession in India. The standardisation it has created is in the art of perpetually delaying a case, bribery as a legal strategy and the fleecing of clients.

Also read: Poll: common exam, licences for journalists?

A “license” for journalists is not a ‘sine qua non’

External reading: How licensing journalists threatens independent news media

POLL: Common exam, licences for journalists?

20 August 2013

As if the “idiots” in the media didn’t have enough problems to deal with—paid news, corruption, wage board, 12-minute-per-hour ad caps, cross-media controls, job losses, recession etc—the Union information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari has now floated the kite of a “common examination” for journalists as a precursor to giving them “licenses” to operate, a la doctors and lawyers.

Bearing an eerie resemblance to press council chairman Markandey Katju‘s “order” advocating “some legal qualification” before one can enter the profession, Tewari’s proposal has the stamp of the control-freakery which has convinced the Congress-led UPA that the media is its chief problem—not the scams, scandals and shenanigans that have pockmarked its second term.

“I think a good starting point (for media education) would be that rather than prescribing a curricula which is then standardised across institutions, possibly the media industry could think about at least having a common exam. Like you have a Bar exam, like you have a medical exam or exams which are conducted by other professional bodies, which then issue a licence, which enables you to pursue your profession,” Tewari has said.

Tewari’s proposal for a “common examination” for journalists comes less than a month after the Supreme Court of India threw out the UPA’s move for a national eligibility and entrance test for life-saving medical colleges.So, does a national eligibility and entrance test for journalists stand a chance? Is it required? Will it necessarily produce good journalists or good journalism?

Even more dangerous is the thought of “licensing” journalists? Who will do that? The government of the day? A press council appointed by the government of the day? The local journalists union? Can this license be revoked or rewarded depending on favours rendered? Will a licence in one language, one state be valid in another? Etcetera.

Above all, could an examination and licence impact the freedom of the news media?

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External reading: How licensing journalists threatens independent news media

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Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

Aakar Patel: Indian journalism is regularly second-rate

Is UPA hitting back at media for Anna Hazare coverage?

Say ‘No’ to India’s blogger control act

Narendra Modi‘s disgraceful assault on media freedom

An Emergency-style witchhunt of the media

‘Darkest hour for the media since Emergency’

POLL: Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

Steve Forbes named in Forbes India legal notice

28 June 2013
ig_dk_charles_shishir1

Top row: Indrajit Gupta (L), Dinesh Krishnan
Bottom row: Shishir Prasad (L), Charles Assisi

Three of the four Forbes India editors, who were forced out of the fortnightly business magazine allegedly for demanding that the promoters fulfill their contractual commitments on employee stock options (ESOPs), have shot off legal notices to Network 18 and Forbes Media, demanding immediate reinstatement and settlement of dues and damages for loss of livelihood, reputation and mental harassment.

Steve Forbes, the chairman and CEO of Forbes Media, and William Adamopoulos, CEO Asia of Forbes Media, have been named among the eight respondents, since Forbes India is a title licensed by the American parent organisation, Forbes.

The others named in the legal notice are Network 18 chief operating officer Ajay Chacko, editor-in-chief web and publishing R. Jagannathan, group HR director Shampa Kochhar, group general counsel Kshipra Jatana, and group CEO B. Sai Kumar.

Interestingly, neither Raghav Bahl, the controlling shareholder and managing director of Network 18, nor Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani, whose name was drawn into the controversy by the Bombay Press Club, have been named in the June 18 legal notice.

(Update: The managing director of Digital 18 Media is the chief recipient of the legal notice, which at this current time happens to be Raghav Bahl.)

The “termination” of services of Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta, the “resignation” of managing editor Charles Assisi, director photography Dinesh Krishnan, and executive editor Shishir Prasad, was slammed by the Editors Guild of India as a move that cuts at the “very root of editorial independence”.

While the first three have sent the legal notices, the fourth has chosen not to contest the case.

The notices are seen as the first step before a full-blown court case which would test human resource practices at one of India’s largest media organisations.

The silence of the Press Council of India, created to preserve the freedom of the press and to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers and news agencies in the country, has been defeaning, given the demonstrated propensity of its chairman Justice Markandey Katju to intervene in public debates.

Also read: How the Forbes India editors were forced out

Bombay Press Club blasts Forbes India purge

Forbes purge is a freedom issue: Editors’ Guild

External reading: Forbes will stick to its DNA: R. Jagannathan

Shekhar Gupta storms into India Today powerlist

19 April 2013

Thirteen out of India Today magazine’s 2013 ranking of the 50 most powerful people in India have interests in the media, but only two of them (former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie, Times Now editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta) are pure-play journalists.

The chairman of the press council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, is a new entry at No. 50, just as Gupta is at No. 45, Hindustan Times bosswoman Shobhana Bhartia at No. 39 and Star India CEO Uday Shankar at No. 26.

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No. 1: Mukesh Ambani, chairman, Reliance Industries and “virtual owner” of TV18 (up from No. 3 in 2012)

No. 4: Kumaramangalam Birla, chairman Aditya Birla group, and 27.5% stake holder in Living Media (up from No. 5): “sings Hindi film songs, although only in close family circles”

No. 7: Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, The Times of India, down from No.6 last year

No. 26: Uday Shankar, CEO, Star India (new entry)

No. 28: Kalanidhi Maran, chairman and MD of Sun Group (up from 49 last year)

No. 31: Mahendra Mohan Gupta and Sanjay Gupta, chairman and CEO, Dainik Jagran (No. 31 last year)

No. 35: Subhash Chandra, chairman, Zee television and DNA (No. 35 last year)

No. 39: Shobhana Bhartia, chairman and editorial director, HT Media (new entry): Her home in Friends Colony (West) in Delhi was acquired from the erstwhile royal family of Jind.

No. 36: Raghav Bahl, MD, Network 18 (up from No. 44)

No. 38: Arun Shourie (new entry): His dictum: “We must learn to be satisfied with enough and enough is what we have at the moment.”

No. 41: Arnab Goswami (up from 46): “Plays loud music on his iPod before every show to unwind.”

No. 45: Shekhar Gupta (new entry)

No. 50: Justice Markandey Katju, chairman, press council of India (new entry): The Ph.D. in Sanskrit asked Lucknow lawyer S.K. Kalia who entred his court, ‘Ab tera kya hoga Kalia‘?

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Photograph: courtesy Indian Express

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Also read: 12 media barons worth 2,962, 530,000,000

10 media barons in India Today 2010 power list

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

An A-list most A-listers don’t want to be a part of

Blogger breaks into Businessweek most powerful list

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The Indian Express power list

2012: N. Ram, Arnab Goswami crash out of power list

2011: Arnab Goswami edges out Barkha Dutt

2010: Arun Shourie more powerful than media pros

2009: 11 habits of highly successful media people

How the Press Council of India took shape

23 March 2013

As the fulminations of the chairman of the Press Council of India, Justce Markandey Katju, swing from the ludicrous to the ridiculous, time to look at the day—50 years ago—the PCI took seed, not for its quixotic chief to plead for a convict’s sentence to be commuted or for a sovereign nation to be declared fake, but for the high ideals of the media to be protected.

From The Hindu, dated 23 March 1963:

“A Bill to set up the Press Council will be introduced in the next session of Parliament, said B. Gopala Reddi, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, in the Lok Sabha. Considering the various problems facing the Press, he was convinced that there was no use in delaying the constitution of the Press Council.

“In his reply to the demands for grants for his Ministry, Gopala Reddi said that as soon as legislation for setting up the Press Council was passed, steps would be taken to constitute it. It would go into the various aspects of the Press like, monopoly tendencies, status of the editor, and other matters as envisaged in the report of the Press Commission.

“He pointed out that it had been agreed generally by the members of the Congress Party, the opposition members, and the Government that the powers of the Press should not be in the hands of a few persons. But the questions connected with the functioning of the Press in the country were of a legal and constitutional nature and should be dealt with by the Press Council.”

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

Justice Katju ‘Sorry’ for calling journos idiots

20 November 2012

Within days of his appointment as the chairman of the Press Council of India in October 2011, immediately following his retirement as a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Markandey Katju ran afoul of his colleagues on the council with his sweeping remark that he had a “poor opinion” of most journalists.

The “tendentious and offensive” remarks, which amounted to the fence eating the crop it was supposed to defend, were roundly criticised by the editors guild of India and the broadcast editors’ association, and by media itself.

Katju was also, often, boycotted by the industry representatives on the press council.

Now, over a year later, some kind of rapprochement has been reached with Justice Katju expressing his “regret” to the Indian newspaper society (INS), the association of media promoters and publishers.

Below is the full text of the INS press release, issued by V. Shankaran, secretary-general of INS:

New Delhi, 19 November 2012

The executive committee of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS), which met at New Delhi, considered the regret expressed by Mr Markandey Katju, chairman, press council of India, vide his letter dated 21.09.2012 addressed to the President, INS on his remarks that “majority of media people are of poor intellectual level”.

The members of the Executive Committee after deliberations decided to accept the regret now expressed by Mr. Katju.

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