Monthly Archives: January 2013

‘Down to Earth’ is looking for an art director

Sunita Narain‘s Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the publishers of Down to Earth among other magazines, is looking for an art director.


Free speech gets a major boost (in the a**)


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, M.F. Husain cannot die in his own country. So, A.K. Ramanujam‘s interpretation of the Ramayana hurts somebody.

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

‘Arnab Goswami is corrective to babalog media’


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’

Mohun Bagan fracas claims ‘Pratidin’ editor?


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

How Rajeev Shukla became a minister

External reading: Mamata‘s men flaunt their degrees

Arvind Kejriwal taunts Ambani on TV ‘sue’ threat


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.

Yours, etc

Arvind Kejriwal


Photograph: courtesy IBN Live


Also read: ‘RIL has no direct stake in media companies’

Mint says SEBI looking into RIL-Network18/TV18-ETV deal

Rajya Sabha TV tears into RIL-Network18-ETV deal

Will RIL-TV18-ETV deal win SEBI, CCI approval?

The sudden rise of Mukesh Ambani, media mogul

The Indian Express, Reliance & Shekhar Gupta

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, Prannoy Roy & NDTV

Why the Indian media doesn’t take on the Ambanis

EPW tears into TV’s ‘hawks, hotheads, hysteria’

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

Also read: Is news TV becoming a national security hazard?

How promoters killed the TV news reporter

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