In the latest issue of Open magazine, former NDTV and Headlines Today journalist-turned-academic Sandeep Bhushan, throws light on how the television media is covering the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate” Narendra Modi:
“Several past and serving employees of the media behemoth Network 18 have told me that a heavy-duty ‘go-soft-on-Modi’ campaign is underway within the group.
“The editorial line is allegedly emanating from the ‘top’.
“A former anchor with IBN7 traces the changes in the network’s ‘line’ to a specific event. They came about only after Mukesh Ambani picked up a stake in the media group. “Arvind Kejriwal was virtually blacked out after he hurled charges at Mukesh. On the news floor, in both CNN-IBN and IBN7, every journalist knows that there are orders to rein in anti-Modi stories,” he adds.
“There are standing instructions to cut live to any Modi rally or speech”, says another journalist.
“However, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, trashes all this. “This is all cock and bull,” he says, “There has been no change in line at any time. Both Rahul [Gandhi] and Modi are top contenders for the PM’s post. We neither deify nor demonise either of them, but analyse their pluses and minuses in great detail.”
“But if Sardesai is right, then how does one explain the cloyingly pro-Modi chant on the group’s news portal, Firstpost.com? Here is a gem masquerading as reportage: ‘Delhi on Sunday witnessed a public the likes of which it had not seen in decades’, thanks to Modi’s ‘rock-star’ image that created a ‘maddening frenzy’.
“Another story headline screams; ‘JD(U) MP makes Nitish [Kumar] squirm: Are you jealous of Modi?’ This article, on Shivanand Tewari’s recent speech in Rajgir praising Modi’s ascent, has little explanation of the ‘jealously’ angle. Yet another so-called report on the website gushes. ‘Patna blasts showed Modi’s leadership, Nitish’s ineptness.’
“R. Jagannathan, editor-in-chief of First Post, defends the group website by saying. “We are essentially an opinion portal. We also carry news. We have different editors who are free to air their own views. As the editor-in-chief, I don’t interfere.” On the Ambani factor, Jagannathan says, “I report to Raghav Bahl and there are no specific editorial instructions from him.”
The Open article also punches holes in the coverage of Narendra Modi by Times Now.
Photograph: courtesy Reuters via First Post