Posts Tagged ‘UPA’

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.

Is ‘Modi Media’ biased against Rahul Gandhi?

11 October 2013

In a cash-strapped election season which has seen “corporate interest and media ownership” converge, it is arguable if Narendra Modi is getting a free run. Every whisper of the Gujarat chief minister and BJP “prime ministerial aspirant” is turned into a mighty roar, sans scrutiny, as the idiot box ends up being a soapbox of shrill rhetoric.

In marked contrast, there is only grudging media adulation for the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi even on the odd occasion he does something right, like two Fridays ago, when he barged into a Press Club of India event to stymie an ordinance passed by the Congress-led UPA government, intended at shielding criminal Members of Parliament.

What’s up, asks Malvika Singh in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The press and the Opposition leaders began to pontificate on the language used by Rahul Gandhi. They spent hours damning the use of the word ‘nonsense’, which only meant that something makes no sense.

“They were clutching on to whatever they could find to ensure they gave no credit for Rahul Gandhi. The bias was crystal clear and gave the game away.

“Why is the press distorting the simple truth? Is it because the press would have to doff its hat to Rahul Gandhi, about whom it has been rude and sarcastic? Why is the press being partisan? Why the double standards?”

Read the full column: Put an end to chatter

Photograph: courtesy Press Brief

Also read: How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18’s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

‘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.”

***

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

The anti-Congress journo who fell for Priyanka

17 July 2013

From the gossip column of the Hindustan Times:

“Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not think for a second before announcing that she would be contesting from Rae Bareli again in 2014, while speaking to reporters at the UPA anniversary dinner in May.

“Ask her,” she had responded to a question as to whether Priyanka Gandhi would also contest.

“The question being open, many in the Congress are asking each other whether Priyanka would finally join the electoral fray. There is no clear indication yet, but she is keeping a close tab on political developments and also making some decisive interventions.

“Last heard of, she invited  a celebrity journalist known for his anti-Congress rhetoric to  tea. He went home a changed man! Diplomacy in a teacup. “

Read the full column: The Buzz

Everybody loves (to claim credit for) an expose

17 November 2010

Indian television news channels, whose fortunes rise and fall each week, routinely advertise their ratings “victory” after each major event: the Union budget, the general elections, the Obama visit, etc.

It looks like newspapers are quickly following in the footsteps of television in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, and this even as the Supreme Court was commenting acidly on the “morality of the modern media“.

The day after the “King of Corruption”, A. Raja, resigned as Union telecommunications minister, The Pioneer, Delhi, went to town in its lead story, patting the back of special correspondent J. Gopikrishnan for his 70 incisive stories that launched the crusade to get the corrupt minister out.

On day two, the paper’s editor, Chandan Mitra, wrote a glowing front-page piece on Gopikrishnan, titled “The man who felled a king”:

“For a long time, I did not even know that J. Gopikrishnan was a stringer based in Thiruvananthapuram working for The Pioneer‘s now-aborted Kochi edition. So when he came to Delhi pleading for a job at the headquarters once the Kochi edition shut in 2007, I was rather sceptical.

“I told bureau chief Navin Upadhyay that although I had noticed a few bylined stories by him, Gopi had no exposure to Delhi and, therefore, was unlikely to have any worthwhile contacts here. Navin, however, persuaded me to try him out for three months. In fact, the letter of appointment specifically mentioned this along with a “stipend” that was truly laughable by Delhi standards.

“Gopi did not break any earth-shaking stories during the trial period. But his sincerity, diligence, dogged pursuit of stories and pleasing personality made up for that. He was given a proper appointment letter after three months although his salary remained rather low.

“My opinion began to change after friends in Left parties began to mention him to me in Parliament’s Central Hall, pointing to the depth of his knowledge of the telecom sector. Officially, he was on the Left beat so I still did not attach too much significance to that.”

On day three, today, a two-column  page one story in The Pioneer (in picture, above), authored by Gopikrishnan, proclaims: “CAG report vindicates Pioneer report”:

“The CAG findings confirm every aspect of the scam The Pioneer has reported over two years in its sustained effort to build public opinion and create political pressure on the government to act against Raja.”

On day three, again, The Times of India (which has in the past week claimed credit for outing Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh housing society scam, a story which Samar Halarnkar of Hindustan Times said he wrote in the Indian Express in 2003), has stepped in to claim the honours, with a front-page box titled “TOI on the DoT“:

“Since end-2007, The Times of India has carried many reports, first by Shalini Singh, later joined by Josy Joseph and Pradeep Thakur, detailing how the manner of award of telecom licences would—and now has—cost the nation a staggering sum in the form of lost revenue. Indeed, in our edition of May 31, 2010, we carried a very detailed report headlined, ‘Not auctioning 2G spectrum costs govt over 1 lakh crore’, which has now been borne out by the CAG in its report….”

Meantime, there is a flurry among politicians, too, to claim credit.

Mail Today gives the gadfly of Indian politics, Janata party president Subramaniam Swamy, his due, for it was his petition to the prime minister in November 2008 for sanction to prosecute the corrupt ministe, that seems to have recoiled on the squeaky clean image of Manmohan Singh.

“Thankfully for Indian journalists, Subramanian Swamy, who is in hot pursuit of former telecom minister A. Raja in the 2G spectrum scam, doesn’t often break into Mandarin — a language he is fluent in…. Though married to Supreme Court advocate Roxna, Swamy has often chose to argue his cases without the help of lawyers. His two daughters — one of them a TV journalist — know that quite well!”

On rediff.com, the Rajya Sabha member  Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who has a stake in the Kannada Prabha newspaper and the Suvarna News channels in Karnataka, gets credit for raising the issue as far back as in 2007.

“In my letter to the prime minister on November 14, 2007, I reiterated that the spectrum allocation process must pass the twin tests of public interest and transparency and questioned why the licence award or spectrum award procedure did not following a tender process — a route adopted to disburse all previous licences including FM (radio) licences. The prime minister responded with a letter saying he would examine the issue.”

CNN-IBN, meantime, says it has been lauded for making public the CAG report on the 2G spectrum scam.

In this video, preceded poetically by a Tata Docomo commercial for its new 3G services, editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai says:

“…parliamentarians cutting across party lines were fulsome (sic) in praise for the CNN-IBN expose”.

One newspaper that can proudly claim to have not broken the 2G spectrum allocation scam, though, is The Hindu. When it got a chance to buttonhole the condemned minister twice whle the rest of the media were chasing him in vain, R.K. Radhakrishnan opted to lob softball questions.

Not once, but twice.

For the record, The Hindu employees’ union is DMK-run, and A. Raja belongs to the party in question.

And who’s afraid of the face-to-face powwow?

17 May 2010

Manmohan Singh, prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, completes six years in office on May 22 without once being subjected to hard-nosed questioning by an Indian journalist—print, television, radio or internet—in a face-to-face, one-on-one, on-the-record interview.

He will, however, seek the safety of the crowd once again when he addresses the media at a conference on Monday next, May 24, his second interaction in 2,160 days.

India Today editor Prabhu Chawla goes on a short trip down memory lane in his weekly Mail Today column as Manmohan Singh’s media advisor Harish Khare prepares the talking points.

Facsimile: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: Doesn’t the Prime Minister trust the Indian media?

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

13 April 2010

The Indian Express has got hold of 82 pieces of correspondence between prime minister Manmohan Singh and the president of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, after the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government came to power in May 2004, using the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

One of the first letters between the head of the government and the head of the party, published in today’s Express, deals with Tehelka, the trail-blazing e-zine, which was hounded out of operation by the previous BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) after its Operation Westend sting, before it morphed into a weekly magazine.

Read the entire article: Respected Soniaji

Image: courtesy The Indian Express

Also read: ‘Media is now part of the conspiracy of silence’

Tehelka promoters vindicated by official papers

The Tehelka man behind the biggest story of our times

Gandhian activism, fiery journalism & cocktails

Is India right in barring foreign journalists?

7 November 2009

The Great Wall between India and China is not made of bricks and mortar; it is made of freedom and liberty. Any debate, any discussion, anywhere, on the superpowers-to-be is sealed, signed and delivered by the roaring presence of those essential ingredients in plentiful on our soil, and the utter lack of it in our great neighbour.

China notoriously detests dissent—and democracy.

It bars foreign media from freely moving inside its boundaries; Tibet is off-limits to them as is Tiananmen Square. BBC was famously taken off Rupert Murdoch‘s Star Network at the behest of the comrades. Google and Yahoo effortlessly dance to the tunes of the Chinese dictators. Chinese citizens routinely can’t log into YouTube, Facebook and other media. And so on.

But has difference between “us” and “them” been erased by the Congress-led UPA government?

In barring foreign journalists from going to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh to report the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama‘s week-long visit to the northeastern State which China off and on claims as its own, has the Manmohan Singh government thumbed its  nose at India’s great democratic traditions?

Has India missed a trick in showing its inviolable sovereignty before a global audience? In behaving much like China would, has the Congress-led regime obliterated the difference between democracy and dictatorship? Or was the government right given the war-mongering that has recently been on display?

Also read: Media freedom is what separates India and China

Censorship in the name of ‘the national interest’?

Are you being served, Mr Foreign Correspondent?

23 September 2009

The ruling Congress-led UPA government in India is on a major austerity drive. Ministers have moved out of temporary accommodation in five-star hotels. Party leaders are moving around in economy-class planes and trains to send the right signals. And a Twitter comment about the “cattle-class” and “holy cows” has sent the country all atwitter.

In the midst of all this, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has embarked on his annual pilgrimage to the United Nations with a band of diplomacy correspondents in tow.

Naveen Kapoor of the news agency Asian News International (ANI), who is accompanying the PM to New York, has this telling line in his report on day one:

“Following the [austerity] order to a tee, the [airline] staff did not serve expensive biscuits and eliminated caviar, but in a concession to the media accompanying the delegation, served all those on board the choicest of liquor en route to Frankfurt, where there will be an overnight halt.”

Link via Mahesh Vijapurkar

Also read: The Top-10 austerity moves India really wants to hear

Is that tap water the austere madam is drinking?

Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?

How come nobody heard or saw the worm turn?

29 May 2009

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Hindsight, as the moronic aphorism goes, is always 20/20.

And we have been seeing plenty of hindsight dressed as foresight over the last fortnight following the announcement of the results of the general elections, which bucked the “anti-incumbency” cliche and put the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance back in power.

# Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has said the politics of aspiration trumped the politics of grievance. CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai writes that it is a vote for decency in public life. Outlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta sees it as a vote against hate and abuse.

# Journalists aligned to the BJP like Swapan Dasgupta have said the BJP failed to keep pace with the realities of a new India. The BJP spokesman Sudheendra Kulkarni has said stability won over change. Atanu Dey says the Congress managed the media better.

# Many analysts have seen in the surprise Congress win, a vote for youth. Political psychologist Ashis Nandy detects a vote against arrogance. The economist Bibek Debroy among others has attributed the Congress win to its social welfare programmes. Pratap Bhanu Mehta has said the era of votebank politics is over.

And so on and on.

And on and on.

The grim truth is that all this is post-facto rationalisation by media sages, policy wonks and psephologists, ever so wise, as so many of us usually are, after the event.

Like the blind men who felt the elephant, they touch different parts of the gargantuan electoral animal now that it has come to rest, and they feel different things.

The reality is nobody in our media—television, newspapers, magazines—and nobody at the top, bottom or middle, knew what was going on. And what we were being peddled for days and weeks was drivel as wisdom.

Why?

And how does this happen election after election?

In 2004, the media had “called the election” in favour of the BJP-led alliance and was acting as if “We, the People” should only go to the polling booths and fulfil their prophecy.

Well, “We, the People” decided to spring a surprise and put the Congress-led alliance in office.

In 2009, most media vehicles somewhat got the winning alliance right, but chastened perhaps by the 2004 experience, weren’t willing to stick their neck out beyond giving a wafer-thin margin for the UPA over the NDA.

In reality, the huge gap of over 100 seats between the victor and the vanquished; the surprise showing of the Congress in States like Uttar Pradesh where it had been written off; the number of first-time MPs belowed the age of 40 (58); the number of women elected (59), etc, shows that there is something truly, incredibly, unbelievably wrong in our mass media’s connect with the masses.

Of course, the term “media” is a loose, general one because there is no one, single media oeprating uniformly, homogenously in every part of the land. There are various shades to it, in various languages, in various forms, in various States and regions, etc. And then some more.

Still, how could almost all of them get so much so palpably wrong?

Did the tide turn in the favour of the Congress inside the secrecy of the voting booths preventing our esteemed men and women in the media from knowing what was happening?

Or was it building up slowly but we were too busy or distracted to notice?

If it was the latter, why?

Is there a disconnect between mass media and the masses? Is the undercurrent of democracy too difficult to be spotted? Or are our media houses and personnel not equipped with the equipment and wherewithal to detect these trends?

Given the poor presence and even poorer coverage of the mainstream media in the rural countryside, it is understandable that we were unable to get the rural countryside wrong.

Why, even the one English paper with a “rural affairs editor” was backing the wrong horse which, it turns out, wasn’t even in the race at all, all the while.

Little wonder, the electoral magic being ascribed to the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme and the farm loan waiver—moves which were dismissed as wasteful expenditure by the neoliberals in the “free market” media—went largely unnoticed.

But what about the urban pockets?

The powerhouses of our media pride themselves on being fiercely urban and urbane; serving the aspirations of the middle-class and the wannabes. Yet, the fact that so few of them could detect the ground shifting from underneath the urban, middle-class BJP’s feet shines an unkindly light.

The Congress and its allies (DMK, Trinamool, NCP) won all the metros—Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi, Madras—except Bangalore and Ahmedabad. Why, for example, was it difficult to detect the anger of the urban middle-classes against the BJP’s abuse of prime minister Manmohan Singh before counting day?

Or their thirst for fresh, young faces before they were elected and sworn in?

Certainly, the function of the media is not to serve as a soothsayer. It is not expected to tell us what will happen in the future. Nevertheless, it is expected to have a finger on the pulse. Two successive electoral failures suggest that we are consistently holding the wrong vein and coming to the wrong prognosis.

Indeed, on current record, we seem to be living in an echo chamber, hearing our own voices, and relaying it to the world as gospel truth. Or selling our space and airtime without batting an eyelid.

As a piece on the Satyam scandal on this site asked:

Is journalism that doesn’t shed light journalism?

Or puff?

Or PR?

Or Advertising?

Caveat emptor!

Also read: How come media not spot Satyam fraud?

Media owners, journalists holding democracy ransom

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