Posts Tagged ‘Virendra Kapoor’

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.

How corporate ownership shapes TV news?

5 February 2013

Virendra Kapoor, former editor of the Free Press Journal, in his column in M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian:

Money speaks

The growing intrusion of corporate money into the media is beginning to show in myriad ways.

For instance, ever since a big industrial group made a huge investment in a multi-channel television group, its news channel has become rather staid.

While other English language channels debate major controversies of the day, and generally excoriate the government for its various acts of omission and commission, this channel’s focus has shifted to “soft” or non-controversial topics.

A minister has only to pick up the phone to complain to the corporate boss that untrue things were said about him in a panel discussion for the channel to be chastised by its paymaster. Discretion being the better part of valour, the channel generally steers clear of major controversies, thus leaving the field clear for the other English language channels.

Likewise, thanks to corporate pressures, the channel now feels obliged to use the services of controversial journalists who lack even basic skills of proficient writing and clear articulation.

Read the full column: No holds barred

Everybody loves writing about Pankaj Pachauri

9 January 2013

It is not often that the same piece of political gossip appears in three different newspapers in two different cities on more or less the same day. But in the snakepit of power that is the nation’s capital, it is all in a day’s work, especially if concerns the media advisor to the prime minister, Pankaj Pachauri.

***

JANUARY 6

Diarist Nora Chopra in The Sunday Guardian:

All is not ‘theek hain‘ for PM adviser

Pankaj Pachauri is in major trouble. The communication adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had organised the telecast of Dr Singh’s infamous “theek hai” speech. Pachauri was even present during the recording. But if his colleagues in the Prime Minister’s Office are to be believed, he did not check the final version of the speech that was telecast, although it was his job to do so.

Earlier, the information and broadcasting ministry and the Press Information Bureau would check what would be telecast, but now it’s Pachauri alone who is responsible for it. Many in the UPA say that Pachauri should have been extra careful, particularly after the Prime Minister’s off-the-record comments on Bangladesh got uploaded on the PMO’s website. That incident ensured the ouster of Pachauri’s predecessor Harish Khare from the PMO.

Pachauri has been apparently asked to give an explanation on how the goof-up took place.

**

JANUARY 6

The Telegraph Diary

Under watch

The lacklustre statement of the prime minister on television on the Delhi gang-rape case was followed by an even timid “theek hai”, but that has not stopped fingers from being pointed at Pankaj Pachauri, the PM’s communications advisor.

Pachauri is believed to be responsible for the telecast as well as the goof-up because he, reportedly, was present when the recording was done.

The Prime Minister’s Office now accuses him of clearing the final version of the recording without editing the last bit that has caused so much embarrassment to the PM. Now that there has been a slip, Pachauri is also being blamed for the previous fiasco that had the PM’s off-the-record comment on Bangladesh being uploaded on the PMO website.

The call for Pachauri’s head has grown louder with heads already rolling in Doordarshan. Incidentally, these are not those of the honchos. Most believe small fry have been sacrificed at the altar of the bigger ones. Any way, following the incident, the director-general of news at DD is now seen sitting in the newsroom monitoring the news personally. If you see the newsreader stuttering, you should know the reason.

**

JANUARY 7

Grapevine in the Hindustan Times:

Getting his wires crossed

After Pankaj Pachauri‘s entry into the Prime Minister’s Office as communications adviser, the link between Prime Minister Manmohan  Singh and the information and broadcasting ministry had weakened. Pachauri kept the Press Information Bureau (PIB) – that had earlier bought two special audio recorders to crosscheck the PM’s speeches and remarks before their release – at bay.

He soon became the final authority as far as communications from the PMO were concerned. But after the recent ‘theek hai‘ goof up Pachauri seems to be in troubled waters. Also, the current information and broadcasting minister Manish Tiwari enjoys a far better rapport with the PM than his predecessor and meets Singh frequently.

Not quite theek hai here.

How did Robert Vadra vanish off the front pages?

29 October 2012

A week is a long time for the media in Scamistan. The ripples caused by Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law Robert Vadra‘s real-estate dealings have given way to the hera-pheri of BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s.

The veteran editor and columnist Virendra Kapoor writes in The Sunday Guardian:

You can be forgiven if you believe that Nitin Gadkari‘s is the only scam in town. Saturation coverage by television channels in the past couple of days should have ordinarily left no one in doubt that he is at the centre of the biggest scam of our times.

Even newspapers which have virtually become an extension of the ruling establishment seemed to have suddenly discovered merit in Gadkari’s financial shenanigans, splashing as front-page lead the alleged wrongdoing by his companies while being completely oblivious to the humongous misdeeds of the leading lights of UPA.

Admittedly, it is hard to take on the incumbent powers. Editors simultaneously charged with the responsibility of keeping a close watch on the bottom-line, theirs and the paper’s, have to necessarily suck up to the corporate and political bosses — never mind the pretence in social and professional gatherings. But what of the cash-rich media houses straddling huge print and television empires?

Apparently, a strong word was conveyed that they should leave Sonia Gandhi‘s son-in-law well alone. Ministers, including I&B boss Ambika Soni, are said to have reached out to the media houses, gently suggesting that further interest in the doings of Robert Vadra and his multifarious business activities would be most unwelcome.

Now, when you treat journalism at par with selling soap cakes it is not hard to fall in line with the political establishment, is it?

So, the switch, instead, to Nitin Gadkari’s private companies.

Read the full column: Hammer Gadkari to save Vadra and other scamsters

Swamy and his media friends (and enemies)

25 December 2011

In the latest issue of Tehelka magazine, Ashok Malik has a profile of the “irrepressible” Subramanian Swamy, the maverick economist-politician behind the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

The profile is occasioned by Harvard University’s recent decision to not renew Swamy’s teaching contract for a venomous column in DNA in July on “How to wipe out Islamic terror“:

“There’s an old story about Subramanian Swamy that even if apocryphal and probably untrue still merits retelling simply because it’s part of urban folklore in Lutyens’ Delhi.

“One day, a powerful editor with a blackmailing tendency walked into Swamy’s basement office in his south Delhi residence, and threw a sheaf of papers on the table.

“‘Dr Swamy,’ he thundered, ‘I have a file on you.’

“Unperturbed, Swamy reached out for a folder in his bottom drawer, placed them on the desk and said, calmly, with the chilling certitude so typical of his voice, ‘Mr Editor, I have a file on you’.”

Swamy, who is currently seeking to re-enter Parliament through the BJP, brought down the Atal Behari Vajpayee government in 1998 by getting arch-rivals Sonia Gandhi and Jayalalitha to drink tea together; another matter of course that Sonia is now a prime target of Swamy and Jayalalitha’s recent court appearances are based on a Swamy plea.

“At the end of the day, Swamy is trusted by few but ignored by even fewer. He can plug into extremely diverse social groups — serious economists, the loony right, the Janata parivar, the TamBrahm fraternity. He can hold both Ram Setu and N. Ram [the Marxist editor-in-chief of The Hindu] close to his heart (or profess to).

“For all his right-wing politics, the Hindu has been a loyal platform and publisher. His dogs have come from N. Ram’s litter, as indeed have Sonia Gandhi’s dogs — but that’s another contradiction, for Swamy to spin another day.”

Elsewhere, Swamy becoming persona non grata for Harvard thanks to his newspaper columns provides occasion for James Fallows, the national correspondent of The Atlantic Monthly, to recount the role played by Swamy in his getting into journalism:

“In the late 1960s, I had been a freshman at Harvard, ready to study around the clock in preparation for medical school. To earn extra money I had signed up as an ad salesman for the Crimson, and during the unbelievably bleak and frigid January “reading period” of my sophomore year, I was in the newspaper’s office one night, laying out an ad dummy for the next day’s paper.

“All the regular writers and editors were gone, cramming before final exams to make up for the courses they had skipped through the semester. So when a variety of fire alarms and sirens started going off, for what proved to be a big fire at the Economics Department building, I was the one on hand to run out after grabbing a camera and a reporter’s notebook.

“I had seen snow only once in my life before going to college; and in my high school jobs, manning smudge pots in the local Southern California orange groves on “cold” nights, we would trade tales about whether human beings could actually survive exposure to temperatures that dipped below 32F. But at the Economics Department, it was so cold — well below 0 F back in those pre-warming days — that the Cambridge Fire Department had trouble putting out the fire: water from the hoses would freeze in the air.

“I saw an upset-looking gentleman alongside me watching the fire. I asked why he was there. He said that all the notes and research for his current book, inside that building, was literally going up in smoke. That was Subramanian Swamy, then a young economics instructor. I wrote up his story in the paper — my first story for the Crimson, and the beginning of my shift from the ad staff (and pre-med) to the news staff.”

Let the record show that Swamy’s daughter Suhasini Haidar is a journalist with CNN-IBN; his sister-in-law Coomi Kapoor is a consulting editor with the Indian Express as is her husband Virendra Kapoor, a former editor of the Free Press Journal.

Let the record also show that James Fallows had narrated this story in 1996 at a commencement address at the Meddill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Photograph: courtesy Shailendra Pandey/ Tehelka

Also read: Does Swamy‘s DNA column amount to incitement?

Is UPA hitting back at TOI, India Today, DNA?

Swamy & friends: a very, very short story

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