Monthly Archives: March 2012

A quick lesson from The Hindu on court reporting

A clarification published on the home page of The Hindu today on a front-page news story by the paper’s Supreme Court correspondent J. Venkatesan published in the paper.

The story and the clarification come on the day the SC took up the issue of reporting of court cases by the media following applications from three prominent lawyers (Fali Nariman in SEBI-Sahara case, Harish Salve in the Vodafone case, and K.K. Venugopal in the Times Now case).

Every channel is a winner in great poll race

For politicians, an election is a loaded game: there is one winner and the rest are losers. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Unless, of course, it is a hung parliament or assembly.

Not so for those in the business of capturing their victories and defeats.

All three of India’s leading English news channels are claiming that they were the channel of choice on results day, March 6, when the verdict of the elections to the five State assemblies, including Uttar Pradesh, came out.

# Times Now* newspaper advertisement: “Times Now reaffirms its undisputed leadership on election counting day.” Citing TAM ratings, it claims fullday viewership of 39% (versus 23% for CNN-IBN and 22% for NDTV), and primetime (7pm to 11 pm) viewership of 48% (versus 18% for CNN-IBN and 20% for NDTV).

# CNN-IBN newspaper advertisement: “Elections = CNN-IBN & IBN7. India’s best team = India’s best results. CNN-IBN, IBN7 and The Week post-poll conducted by CSDS gets the projections right again.” On air, CNN-IBN says it was the most watched of the channels.

# NDTV 24×7 newspaper advertisment: “Who won the election without any shouting and screaming? NDTV24x7 had more viewers than all other news channels COMBINED.” Using an opinion poll by GfK-Mode in 11 cities (sample size 5,000), NDTV claims it had 51% viewership compared with CNN-IBN’s 19%, Times Now’s 15% and Headlines Today’s 10%.

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Times Now. Times Now. Times Now.

Which is why Times Now didn’t do an exit poll

How a small newspaper registered its protest

Stories of newspapers running blank editorials and news columns during the censorship era of the Emergency in the mid-1970s are legion.

But in this day and age, when space is calculated in square centimetres?

Star of Mysore, the 35-year-old evening newspaper from Mysore, ran this front-page on March 3 to protest the murderous assault on journalists by lawyers in Bangalore.

A front-page editorial noted grimly:

 “The Fourth Estate is the new target.

“In the new resurgent India, the media has played its role in exposing the wrongs done to this nation by its own people and has given voice to the weak. The Press, the fourth pillar of democracy, has so far kept check on the three other powerful pillars—the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary—and has done so in the interest of keeping the citizenry of this nation informed and to get it involved in national issues.

“This success of the media in getting people involved in issues that concern the nation is what has made the other three pillars uncomfortable…. A media that helps create awareness among the citizenry making it pro-active is not in the interest of the powerful in the other three pillars of democracy. And so, on March 2, while a certain section of lawers went on a thrshing spree on media persons, the police stood like helpless bystanders.”

Image: courtesy Star of Mysore

Also read: A blank editorial, a black editorial and a footnote

A song for an unsung hero: C.P. Chinnappa


Why ‘The Times of India’ does what it does

Back in the old days, the simple principle guiding newspaper front-page editors was, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Death, disease, despair was meat and drink.

No longer, under the gaze of brand managers.

Today, newspapers have to explain why they put news on page one, as the Delhi edition of The Times of India does today by way of explanation for the surfeit of rape and suicide stories.

Image: courtesy The Times of India

The newspaper hawker who became a millionaire

Reporters and editors—and proprietors—becoming millionaires overnight is no longer news. In India’s naxal heartland, a news hawker becoming one is.

Jaideep Hardikar reports in The Telegraph, Calcutta, on the curious case of Pawan Dubey and his Toyota Fortuner. And it is all linked to payouts made by the steel company, Essar, to buy peace from the Maoists.

“Pawan, who once hawked one of Raipur’s oldest Hindi newspapers, Deshbandhu, and his brother Narendra registered a voluntary organisation in Bastar, the Jai Johar Seva Sangthan, on January 10 last year. The police say the NGO opened its bank account on January 21 and the very next day, Essar deposited Rs 1 crore in the account.

“Investigators claim the company paid Jai Johar Rs 9.6 crore in just six months — over and above the Rs 3 crore in CSR funds it handed the Dantewada collector this year. They add that the Dubey brothers were close to Lala. In a written reply to The Telegraph, Essar has confirmed it “paid Rs 9.6 crore in aggregate on account to Jai Johar for carrying out the agreed corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities”….

The police claim Pawan is missing but the man himself, on October 20, told a news conference in Jagdalpur that he was innocent and that his NGO was working for tribal welfare.

He claimed that Rs 4 crore was still lying unspent in the NGO’s account and that Jai Johar had planted five million saplings, worth Rs 5 crore, bought from Suraj Nursery. But the police say the nursery doesn’t exist and there’s no record of where the saplings were planted.

Instead, officers claim, Pawan has bought a Toyota Fortuner and pays handsome salaries to Jai Johar’s 30-odd employees. Pawan is the president and Narendra the secretary of Jai Johar. Their younger brother Balram, mother Nathia Devi, and driver Vijay Lehre are its directors, the police say.

Infograph: courtesy The Telegraph

Read the full article: Overnight prosperity

Also read: How police are gagging media on naxals

‘Our media only bothers about elite, middle-class’

Who says good journalism isn’t good business?

Press council chief bats for ‘porngate’ journalists

Close on the heels of his missives to the chief ministers of Bihar and Maharashtra, the chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI), Justice Markandey Katju, has shot off a letter to the speaker of the Karntaka legislative assembly against the crackdown on the media in Karnataka following the Porngate expose.

Below is the full text.


The  Hon’ble Speaker
Karnataka  Legislative Assembly,

Respected Sir,

Re: Proceedings against mediapersons for telecasting MLAs  watching porn

Some MLAs of the Karnataka legislative assembly were filmed watching porn in the Assembly hall. Instead of commending the mediapersons for their professionalism, proceedings have been started against them.

In my respectful opinion such proceedings against the mediapersons jeopardize the freedom of the media guaranteed as a fundamental right by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India, and seek to create an impression that it is the media which has brought the House into disrepute rather than the MLAs  involved.

I am informed that an inquiry committee has been set up by the House to enquire into the matter.

In my respectful opinion the inquiry committee can certainly ask the mediapersons concerned questions to ascertain the correct facts about this sordid affair. But from what I could gather, the question being asked give the impression that the mediapersons are being treated as an accused of some offence, and are being grilled accordingly.

Since grave Constitutional questions are involved in this episode I would like to dwell on the matter in some detail.

In our country it is the Constitution which is supreme, not the legislature or executive. The people of India, in their wisdom, and following the examples of the American and French Constitutions, did not give the legislature absolute sovereignty but only limited sovereignty.

Thus the Indian Constitution does not incorporate Hobbes’ theory of absolute sovereignty (see ‘Leviathan’) but instead it incorporates Locke’s theory of limited sovereignty (see ‘the Second Treatise on Civil Government’) and Rousseau’s theory of sovereignty of the people (see ‘The Social Contract’).

Hence neither the legislature nor the executive can violate the constitutional provisions, particularly the fundamental rights like Article 19 (1) (a).

In a democracy it is the people who are supreme, and all authorities, whether legislative, executive or judicial, are only servants of the people. This is also borne out from the Preamble to the Indian Constitution which states:

“We, the People of India,………… hereby adopt, enact and give ourselves this Constitution.”

Since the people are the masters , and the legislators only their representatives, surely the public has the right to be informed of the activities of the legislators. And the media is an agency of the people to give them this information.

Hence I do not see what wrong the media has done by telecasting the watching of porn by the MLAs in the House. To my mind the media were only doing their duty to the people of informing them of the shameful manner in which some of their representatives were behaving.

In this connection I would like to refer to the following words in the judgment of Justice Hugo Black of the US Supreme Court in New York Times  vs. U.S 403 U.S. 713, 1973  (the Pentagon Papers case):

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers deserve to be commended for serving the purpose which the Founding Father saw so clearly. In revealing the workings of the government which led to the Vietnam War the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.”

To use similar language, far from deserving condemnation, the mediapersons who revealed to the nation the disgusting scenes of MLAs  watching porn in the House deserve to be applauded for their courageous reporting.

Ordinarily, in a democracy all proceedings in a Legislative Assembly must be freely telecast and reported so that the people, who are the supreme authority in a democracy, know how their representatives are behaving. There may, of course, be exceptional situations where this cannot be done.

For example, in the Second World War many secret sessions of the House of Commons were held so that Nazi spies may not know the views of the British political leaders. But such secrecy can only be in exceptional situations. I fail to see what was the exceptional situation in Karnataka which could justify prohibiting mediapersons to report events in the House.

I would therefore respectfully request you to reconsider your decision and withdraw the proceedings against the mediapersons, and instead take strong action against the M.L.A.s who have brought disgrace to the House.

Justice Markandey Katju

Chairman, Press Council of India

How CNN-IBN predicted the UP elections right

Exit polls have lost much of their sheen after some priceless flops. But Yogendra Yadav and his team at the centre for study of developing societies (CSDS) came closest to predicting the Uttar Pradesh elections right, for CNN-IBN, with just a sample of 7,000 in a state of nearly 15 crore people.

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Bangalore lawyers not to represent media houses

N. Manjunath, a photojournalist with Karnataka Photo News, is beaten up by advocates at the City civil court in Bangalore on Friday.

Lawyers prone to wearing nationalism and patriotism on their sleeves have vowed not to represent terrorists (like Ajmal Kasab, the gunman caught alive during the November 2008 siege of Bombay).

But the media too?

The Indian Express reports that the violence unleashed upon media personnel and equipment by lawyers in Bangalore has taken a strange turn with the Karnataka state bar council on Saturday resolving that “it would not represent any media house in future litigations “for showing advocates in poor light” in the last few months.”

K.N. Subba Reddy of the advocates association of Bangalore is quoted by First Post as saying:

“We have also decided not to take up cases of media houses as they have portrayed lawyers badly.”

The lawyers are also reportedly planning to withdraw from cases they are appearing for the media.

The faceoff between lawyers and the media is showing no signs of ending soon.

TThe Times of India reports that on Friday, an advocate, acting on behalf of six colleagues, slapped a notice on five local TV channels, seeking apology for the language used against advocates. On Sunday, they filed seven cases against the media and cops in the Ulsoorgate police station.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: How Kannada channels hit back at lawyers

How the BJP turned Karnataka politics into a cartoon

Why news of the porn scam did not reach Athani

The porn film the BJP ministers should have watched

‘Mail Today’ rises in the land of ‘The Daily Mail’

Making use of the five-and-a-half hour time gap, Mail Today, the tabloid daily from the India Today group, has expanded its footprint to the United Kingdom.

Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie explains the move in a note on page 3:

“Targeting the large south Asian population in London, Mail Today wants to connect with the diaspora by bringing the best of Indian news packaged in a modern avatar. It gives us great pleasure to bring a slice of the new rising India.”

Both The Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian launched by M.J. Akbar, currently editorial director of India Today, have editions out of London.