So, young Indians cannot tell their friends in what they like on Facebook, without being “pre-screened” by Harvard types (or hauled into a police station by Shiv Sena goons). So, bloggers cannot publish their “online private diaries” without the sword of 66(A) hanging over their heads.
So, tweeters can be blocked and Savita bhabhi‘s enviable lifestyle is subject to some faceless babu’s sense of humour (or voyeurism). So, the Mahatma‘s life is beyond scrutiny in the land of you-know-who. So (oh!), Aamir Khan‘s film will miraculously not be screened, also in the land of you-know-who.
Or his TV show.
So, TV stations cannot show protests without threatened by the information and broadcasting ministry (or corporate titans). So, newspapers cannot report what their reporters see without being told that the tap of government advertisements could be turned off.
So, Ashis Nandy cannot drop his pearls on corruption without offending Dalits, tribals and OBCs. So, Salman Rushdie cannot go to a lit-fest in Jaipur (or Calcutta) without offending Islamist fundoos. So, Shah Rukh Khan cannot write what’s in his heart without offending.
So, Kamal Hassan‘s new film can be banned by a government run by a former film actor.
Sometimes, you do have to remind yourself it is a free country, don’t you?
Image: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today
Bangalore, the home of City Tab, India’s original weekly tabloid, now has a new weekly: Talk.
Edited by former Indian Express and Yahoo! staffer S.R. Ramakrishna, Talk also features a weekly satire page called Ayyotoons, illustrated by Satish Acharya.
The latest issue features Times Now* editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami.
At the turn of 2012, the columnist Swapan Dasgupta nominated Goswami as his man of the year gone by:
“Arnab’s foremost contribution to the public discourse (at least the English language discourse which still sets the tone for others) is his unending search for what “the nation” wants to know.
“The definition of his imagined community is important. Hitherto, the media was reasonably modest in its inquisitiveness. Its rationale for demanding answers was invariably couched in terms of either ‘viewer interest’ or, at best, ‘the public interest’.
“In projection the ‘nation’ as the inquisitor — and I notice that even in rival channels ‘nation’ is fast becoming a substitute to the more passive use of the ‘country’ — Arnab has succeeded in doing something quite remarkable: he has successfully made ‘nationalism’ the core attribute for assessing public life. This is a remarkable feat….
“In an environment where others were highlighting the values of cosmopolitanism, internationalism, liberalisation and oozing concern for the human rights of every extremist who sought the vivisection of India, Arnab re-popularised the validity of proud nationalism.
“For helping India recover this eroding inheritance, ‘the nation’ must be thankful to him. He has been the best corrective to the babalog media.”
* Disclosures apply
External reading: Arnab wins Bharat as ‘nation wants to know’
Nora Chopra writes in The Sunday Guardian:
A major fight has broken out among some Trinamool Congress leaders. Mamata Banerjee‘s blue-eyed boy, Rajya Sabha member Kunal Ghosh was thrown out of the office of Pratidin newspaper by its staffers last week.
Ghosh, who used to be the deputy editor of Pratidin, was told that his service had been terminated.
The newspaper is owned by Trinamool’s Tutu Bose and his son Srinjoy Bose, the party’s Rajya Sabha member. Tension between Srinjoy Bose and Kunal Ghosh has been rising over a period of time, and various allegations had been levelled against the latter.
The immediate reason was the campaign unleashed by Ghosh holding the father-son duo responsible for the three-year ban imposed on the Mohun Bagan football club by the all India football federation. Tutu Bose is the president of Mohun Bagan, Srinjoy is the vice president and Ghosh is looking for a foothold in the club.
It is believed that before sacking Ghosh, the father-son duo had taken the CM into confidence. But soon after, during Mamata’s trip to Jangalmahal, Ghosh was by her side.
Read the full column: Buzzword
Also read: How a Hindi newspaper editor became an MP
External reading: Mamata‘s men flaunt their degrees
SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Last month, India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, and its most powerful business house, Reliance Industries, shot off a seven-page legal notice to several TV news channels for airing anti-corruption activist Arvind Kejriwal‘s allegations against them in October and November last year.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, neither Kejriwal nor his advocate-partner, Prashant Bhushan, heard from RIL’s lawyers, A.S. Dayal & Associates, on their charges of Ambani’s Swiss bank accounts and hanky-panky in the Krishna-Godavari basin by RIL, which were covered “live” by the TV channels.
Not surprisingly, or perhaps not, Kejriwal is now believed to have written to Mukesh Ambani, who is now also a media player, urging him inter alia to stop “threatening the media”. Excerpts:
Shri Mukesh Ambaniji
Recently you have sent a legal notice to all TV channels in the county. Their fault is that they “live” telecast the press conference addressed by Prashant Bhushan and me on 31 October 2012 and 9 November 2012.
We, in our press conferences, informed the citizens of India on how you illegally pressured the government for a hike in fuel prices. Our expose was covered “live” by many TV channels.
You have sent them a legal notice for defamation suit.
I am not able to understand this.
If you have been defamed by Prashant Bhushan and me, then we are at fault. Why has the notice been sent to TV channels and not us? This clearly reveals that your motive was to exert pressure on the TV channels….
According to your company, the “live” telecast by TV channels is a case of defamation.
Just think through: is it really me or Prashant Bhushan or the TV channels who have defamed you, or have you yourself defamed your image by your acts?
I request you do not try to threaten the media of this country.
There could be a few people in the media who are biased; they can follow you.
Still, there are many journalists who work for this country. They will not be influenced by you. History is witness that such journalists come forward to save democracy.
There could be some media houses where you could have directly or indirectly invested money; they could come under your control. But the journalists working for them will not.
Photograph: courtesy IBN Live
Also read: ‘RIL has no direct stake in media companies’
The Economic & Political Weekly has an editorial in its January 26 issue on the dangerous role played by Indian TV channels when the news of the beheading of an Indian soldier on the border came in two weeks ago.
“Television news,” says EPW, “is fast becoming the most dangerous extremist in India’s civil society.
“It has not just been the reporting of news but rather the sustained and well-planned build-up of a mass hysteria over the issue. It is not just one, or a few, channels which are guilty of this. With a few, and notable exceptions, television news channels and anchors have competed with each other to get people angry and hysterical.
“Stilted news, half-truths, outright falsehoods, a careful selection of “opinion makers” and “experts” who push hawkish positions and a shrill intemperate language have all been deployed each evening in a calculated move to ratchet up anger in the drawing rooms (and by extension, the “street”) and thus enhance viewership.
“In this particular context, the television channels have single-handedly built up a serious, yet minor, issue into a national hysteria. The parties and politicians of the right – from the Shiv Sena who collected a bunch of stragglers to attack Pakistani hockey players to leader of the opposition, Sushma Swaraj who demanded 10 Pakistani heads for the one soldier who was beheaded – merely took up the issue which was built up from scratch by these television channels.
“There are various reasons given for this behaviour of television news channels. These include the overcrowding of the television news space with more channels than are sustainable with the concomitant pressure on finances requiring increased advertisement revenues through higher viewership, which lead to the need to constantly create sensational news to lock in viewers.
“Television news channels are not only competing with each other for viewers but with general entertainment channels, sports channels and even non-television events as they try to get more eyeballs. Many of these pressures on television news are not unique to India and different media cultures have found solutions to this in ways that address their specific contexts. However, the Indian television media seems to have decided to use shrill chauvinism as a way out of this.
“The Kargil war of 1999 first illustrated the potential for such a business strategy but it was the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008 that finally seems to have convinced India’s television journalists of the profitability of rabid demagoguery. There is nothing inevitable about this business strategy and those who have initiated it and been its willing purveyors have to assume responsibility.
“As various people have already noted, by getting coerced by television news’ manufactured hysteria and sending back the Pakistani hockey players and postponing the agreement on visa-on-arrival for the elderly, the Government of India has allowed its foreign policy to be held hostage by Indian television media’s dangerous chauvinism.
“There is no easy way out of this dead end that we appear to have reached. Government regulation of media is dangerous and unacceptable, but equally so is a media that often outdoes India’s virulent right-wing in stoking xenophobia.
“Can we think of creative methods of oversight on the media which do not involve government or corporate influence? Or perhaps, should we reclassify television news channels as general entertainment (of the “Big Boss” reality television variety) and deal with it accordingly?”
Read the full editorial: Frothing at the mouth
Sandeep Bhushan, a former reporter with NDTV and Headlines Today and now a journalism educator at the Jamia Milia, on the implications of the growing intervention of owners/promoters in determining news content in TV broadcast news networks, in The Hindu:
“The most far-reaching is the redefinition of the role of the editor. Increasingly his/her profile not merely entails leading the pack in the TRP race, but crucially acting as the “front” for the promoter in order to provide an appearance of both credibility and acceptability within the industry.
“The promoter’s line — his whims and fancies, idiosyncrasies and perhaps, most damagingly his political “preferences” — is increasingly the editorial line. It is not my case that this state of affairs uniformly prevails in all TV broadcast networks. But any “insider” will confirm that this is pretty much the picture by and large.
“This has resulted in growing centralisation of newsgathering operations. Editorial monitoring is closest with regard to “political” reportage because it is here that the government of the day can be really hit hard.
“In my experience of reporting “political” stories it was virtually impossible to generate a story in the field and hope that it got aired unless it coincided with the editorial “line.” “Political” stories invariably emerged from the “top.” Often a reporter may not even have a say in the particular “angle” of a story to which only he or she has privileged access. This has virtually taken the (political) reporter out of the scheme of things in broadcast journalism.”
Read the full article: The death of the reporter
How should a newspaper which has been pursuing a scandal for over a decade react when a rival journalist scoops a confessional interview with the personality at the centre of the story? Or looks likely to lob softball questions?
If you are Rupert Murdoch, you advice the interloper.
Oprah Winfrey‘s interview with cycling champ turned cheat Lance Armstrong, recorded on Monday, will air tonight on Discovery, and the channel has advertisements in Indian newspapers today announcing the show timings.
But in the run-up to the recording, the Chicago Tribune, the home-paper of the City where Oprah’s channel OWN is headquartered, The Sunday Times of London took out an advertisement, with 10 questions Oprah should ask.
The questions come from chief sports writer David Walsh who spent 13 years investigating allegations that Armstrong had taken performance enhancing drugs.
Editorial in Business Standard:
“It should go without saying that the media has a role in informing and educating a citizenry about the issues of the day, providing background, context and holding the powerful to account. A case study in how not to go about this is currently being provided by the electronic media in its coverage of recent raids and counter-raids on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, in which two Indian soldiers have been killed, and one allegedly subjected to post-mortem mutilation.
“Instead of questioning the narrative, news television and some print outlets have instead blatantly beaten the drums of confrontation, hyping even relatively calm statements by the army chief into belligerent displays of national machismo. Coming at a time when the government is attempting to move forward on dialogue with Pakistan that is very much in the national interest, the question should be asked: are some of India’s news channels, and their pursuit of eyeballs, turning into a national security hazard?
“If the electronic media dragoons a weak Indian government into raising the ante with its Pakistani counterpart at a time when it needs instead to be an ally against the powerful Pakistan military’s ability to hijack the security agenda, then the national interest will suffer a serious blow. More, it will count as a signal ethical failure on the part of whichever media outlet is sacrificing context to sensationalism.
“A handful of bellicose television supremos cannot be allowed to dictate a foreign policy that hurts the interest of India’s citizens.”
Mani Shankar Aiyar in The Indian Express:
My friend, the cine artiste and poet, Farooque Sheikh, has summed it up better than I ever could. He describes the TRP war being whipped up by our hysterical TV anchors as “dangerously boring and boringly dangerous”.
It is precisely because one had anticipated outrages of the kind that occurred on Sunday, January 6 (and have a much longer ancestry than TV anchors and their guest cohorts are willing to acknowledge—such, for example, as revealed by Praveen Swami in The Hindu, that I have for so long been advocating “uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue” as the only way for India and Pakistan to resolve their issues and normalise their relations.
Editorial in The Hindu:
“Few spectacles have been as unedifying as the contemptible baying of warmongers these past days—most of it, it bears mention, emanating from TV studios located at a safe distance from the nearest bullet.”
Read the full BS editorial: Crossing a red line
Read the Express column: The hostility industry
Read the full Hindu editorial: Stop baying for blood
External reading: Was an Indian soldier decapitated?
On the back page, editor Chaitanya Kalbag writes:
Shine on, you crazy diamonds
“I remember back in the 1970s, when a new India was just over a quarter of a century old, Geoffrey Moorhouse, in his foreward to his Calcutta wrote: ‘The imperial residue of Calcutta, a generation after Empire ended, is both a monstrous and a marvellous city. Journalism and television have given us a rough idea of the monstrosities but none at all of the marvels. I can only hope to define the first more clearly and to persuade anyone interested that the second is to be found there too.’
“The Japanese possess a very fine aesthetic, and their poets transformed what they observed into written pointillism in the form known as haiku—a 17-syllable composition in three lines. Read this haiku by Basho (1644-1694): ‘Seen in plain daylight/ the firefly’s nothing but/ an insect.’ So true. it is only against the ink-black night that light flares out brightest, and it is only against the backdrop of the rancour and vitriol that we respond positively, and eagerly to good news and tidings of the better side of human nature.
“We have much to look forward to, there really is a lot that is going right. When every “news-hour” on prime-time television actually a showcase for a shouting, berating, finger-wagging “anchor”—heaven knows what they are anchoring when they are ricocheting so much—you are hard put to really get near the real news. If you read the vernacular press you information couched like agendas; you rarely get dispassionate reportage.
“So where do you turn for positive news on what is happening across the vast United States of India? You will find one repository of good news at www.goodnewsindia.com. Its progenitor D.V. Sridhran writes that he stopped the website in 2006 to concentrate on a land restoration project. The website has been revived in 2012 and you will find several good stories.
“We do have a responsibility to ourselves to chronicle the tides rolling in. It is not easy finding these inspiring tales. Our antennae need to become super-sensitive to pick up those feeble radio signals. Sometimes we do tune in to them, and the sounds we hear are music to our ears.”