Monthly Archives: July 2013

Sen-Bhagwati row in media silly season: EPW

tt

Editorial in the Economic and Political Weekly:

“July and August are the months of the “silly season” for the newspapers in the United Kingdom; with everyone on a summer holiday the papers are compelled to look for silly stories to fill the pages. The Indian media – especially the financial press – seems to be in the midst of its own silly season.

“We are referring here to the screaming headlines surrounding the supposedly opposite perspectives on economic policy for India offered by the economists Jagdish Bhagwati and Amartya Sen. The context is the publication recently of An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen and that last year of India’s Tryst with Destiny by Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya.

“The media has successfully managed to portray the two works as representative of a clash between an economic policy that emphasises growth versus that which emphasises redistribution.

“Far from representing two diametrically opposite schools of thought, Amartya Sen and Jagdish Bhagwati are both mainstream economists, the one a philosopher-economist who made his mark in social choice and the other a trade theory economist. Where they differ is in the relative emphasis they place within economic policy.

“To use the language of sound bytes, Bhagwati believes that India must remove all barriers to market-driven growth and that a rising tide would lift all boats. Sen would call for attention to be paid to the spread of the benefits of growth and to the need for public interventions in specific areas where the market cannot play a positive role.

“Going by the headlines and pontification by columnists though, one would not realise that at the core this is the difference – of emphasis rather than of diametrical opposites. But then the prospect of a public battle between a Nobel Prize winner and a Nobel Prize winner-in-waiting is too tempting for our print, TV and social media to miss; rather they would even manufacture a clash.”

Image: courtesy The Telegraph

Read the full editorial: Silly season of policy debates

Advertisements

The reporter who scooped Olympic dope scandal

20130727-095838 PM.jpg

In his weekly column National Interest, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta writes on a pre-internet era incident from the 1988 Olympic Games at Seoul, which he covered for India Today magazine:

On one sleepless night, after India had had one more disastrous day at those medal-less Olympics, my friend Lokesh Sharma (then reporting for The Telegraph) and I were generally whiling away our time, playing with the computers at the Press Centre.

I was, in fact, playing with a new app (the Koreans had invented one then already!), where you hit an athlete’s name and could check out his/her bio-rhythm on any given date. And then Lokesh came sprinting in, as if he had seen a miracle.

Oye, tujhe pata hai kya hua,” he asked.

Kya hua?” I said.

“Oye, woh Ben Johnson, uska su-su….” Lokesh said.

Kya Ben Johnson ka su-su?” I asked.

Oye, woh uska su-su fail ho gaya,” Lokesh was so breathless.

This is just after the Canadian had made history, beating the more fancied Carl Lewis in the 100m sprint. Lokesh had overheard two lab technicians talking about his urine sample having failed the dope test.

We were now sitting on a world scoop.

But at 5.30 in the morning at Seoul (3 am in India) we were past all deadlines and it was no use for me anyway as I worked for a fortnightly, India Today. But Lokesh would always land on his feet. He sold the scoop, his greatest ever, to AFP.

No wonder he soon outgrew sports journalism to rise as India’s most successful sports entrepreneur, a kind of first Indian Jerry Maguire, and has never looked back since.

Photograph: courtesy India Today

Read the full article: Running debate

Vir Sanghvi, Modi, 1984 and Hindustan Times

In the latest issue of Open magazine, its political editor Hartosh Singh Bal writes on the re-appearance of former Hindustan Times editor Vir Sanghvi on the pages of the newspaper, to underline the the media’s janus-faced approach to the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 under Congress watch and the 2002 Gujarat riots under BJP rule:

Narendra Modi is not just unfit for the post of Prime Minister; he is unfit for any public office. But the shamelessness of such a man is best questioned by a media that is immune to questions about its own motives.

“Just this week, Delhi woke up to an article on the edit page of one of India’s leading newspapers, the Hindustan Times, by none other than Vir Sanghvi.

“Writing in the paper on politics for the first time since his misuse of the same space was rather dramatically highlighted in the Radia Tapes, he commented on the Modi campaign: ‘No matter which party wins, India is certain to lose.’

“It seems even shame has its limits.

“It is no surprise that almost a decade earlier Sanghvi had written about the 1984 massacres: ‘On the more substantive issue of whether the administration allowed Delhi to burn, all the commissions have been unanimous: yes, it did, but this was because of incompetence and negligence, not because of any sinister design. If there is a parallel, it is with the 1993 Bombay riots rather than with Gujarat.’

“Somehow, he always manages to say exactly what the Congress wants to hear. To me it seems that no matter who wins, with his piece being published, journalism in some measure has already lost.”

Read the full column: The end of shame

Also read: Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt: “We were targetted”

HT strips Vir Sanghvi of his editorial advisory role

Vir Sanghvi suspends Hindustan Times column

Vir Sanghvi says his HT column will resume soon

Why we didn’t hear Niira Radia tapes: 2 examples

86% feel let down by CD baat of journalists

After Athreya and Kautilya, enter Chanakya

Journalism, PR and the reversal of roles

With journalists hopping over to the “dark area”—public relations, corporate communications, etc—once they have had enough of the profession, it can often lead to quite paradoxical situations.

Like this advertisement released by Jaiprakash Associates to counter a story published by The Times of India on Thursday.

It’s signed by Askari H. Zaidi, a former member of the political bureau of TOI, who is now the head of corporate communications of the Jaypee Group.

The ad appears in most Delhi newspapers, except The Times of India.

POLL: Should FDI in media be enhanced?

With the economic downturn threatening to turn into a full-blown recession and with the finance minister reduced to going around the world with a hat in hand, the Congress-led UPA government last week increased foreign direct investment (FDI) in telecom, defence, petroleum refining, etc, but…

But, not the media.

On the issue of enhancing FDI in media from 26% to 49% under the automatic route as proposed by a finance ministry panel, two separate ministries swung into action. First, the ministry of information and broadcasting sought the views of the telecom regulatory authority (TRAI) and the press council (PCI).

And then, the home ministry opposed the hike, favouring control of media houses by Indians. The Press Trust of India (PTI) quoted official sources as saying:

# “Opening up of current affairs TV channels, newspapers and periodicals dealing with news and current affairs may lead to meddling in India’s domestic affairs and politics.

# “Increase of FDI in broadcasting and print media may also allow foreign players to launch propaganda campaign during any national crisis as well as when interests of any particular country is harmed through any government decision.

# “Big foreign media players with vested interests may try to fuel fire during internal or external disturbances and also can encourage political instability in the country through their publications or broadcasting outlets.”

These reasons have been touted for 22 years now and will surprise nobody. Last week, The Hindu (which was initially at the forefront of the opposition to FDI hikes in media) reported that the industry was divided on the FDI issue:

“While certain big networks like Times Television Network, Network 18 and NDTV are broadly supportive, others like India TV, Sun, Eenadu and Malayala Manorama group have objected to an increase in FDI caps.”

The Centre’s decision to not go-ahead with FDI in media in an election year will not surprise anybody. After all, it wouldn’t want to rub promoters and proprietors on the wrong side, especially when powerful corporates (potential election donors) have substantial stakes in the media.

Still, the question remains whether the media can be given this preferential treatment and, if so, for how long? Will the home ministry’s fears ever vanish? Or, will the media which talks of competition and choice as the great leveller in every sphere of life, seek the protection of politicians in power to protect its turf?

Also read: India opens another door for FDI in papers, mags

Everybody loves a good FDI announcement

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

cover-story-in

The request for proposal (RFP) document of the Gujarat government that sets ‘targets’ for the PR firm that wins the contract to promote Narendra Modi’s image

In the latest issue of Open magazine, its deputy political editor Jatin Gandhi lays his hand on a “Request for Proposal” (RFP) document of the Gujarat government that shows how “almost every day, the Indian media—and sometimes the foreign media too—is tricked or influenced by Narendra Modi‘s public relations machinery”.

Exempli gratia: “Modi’s Rambo act, saves 15,000” (The Times of India, 23 June 2013) .

The RFP besides setting targets for the PR firm that bags the contract (see image, above) also lists what is expected of a PR firm if it bags the contract to manage the Gujarat chief minister’s image.

# The hired PR firm should ‘arrange for national and international media to visit Gujarat and attend various events organized by the different departments of the Government of Gujarat’.

# ‘The number of media personnel for any event shall be decided by the Commissionerate of information after deliberation on the scale of the event.’

# “It is the Firm’s responsibility to arrange for the visits of journalists to Gujarat, any other part of the country or abroad. The expenses for the same will be reimbursed by the Commissionerate of Information on the submission of actual bills.’

The story quotes sources as saying the state government has already borne the expenses of scores of journalists, paying for their flights, travel within Gujarat and stay on assorted occasions (and multiple visits in some cases).

“Senior journalists are usually assured of luncheon meetings with Modi, with seating plans drawn up to boost their egos. The current Indian PR agency (Mutual PR) has so far arranged meetings between Modi and a range of newspaper and magazine editors.

“Starting this year, the government also has a budget allocation for taking journalists abroad on Modi’s foreign visits….

“At the Vibrant Gujarat summit earlier this year, a list of 20 journalists was drawn for a luncheon meeting with Modi. On this list was Madhu Kishwar, editor of Manushi and a fellow at the Delhi-based Centre for Study of Developing Societies, who has turned from being a critic to an advocate of Modi.

“Internal communication accessed by Open shows that the agency was wooing Kishwar, something she firmly denies.

She says that she is writing a book on Modi: “I am going to include a chapter, I think, on the myth and reality of Modi’s PR. There is no PR. I have written angry letters to the CM’s office asking for information for which I have been waiting several weeks now. They are so overburdened.”

“With Kishwar claiming she is oblivious to the machinery at work, the Gujarat government nevertheless gave her special attention because she was seen as one of the lone voices emerging from the ‘the Left liberal space’ favourable to Modi’s policies with ‘captive column space available to her in The Hindu, DNA and Manushi…’

Read the full article: The Modi mythology

Also read: ReutersModi interview: ‘sensational tokenism’

‘Network 18’s multimedia Modi feast: a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is cost-effective TRP

Modi‘s backers, media owners have converged’

The anti-Congress journo who fell for Priyanka

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