Tag Archives: BBC

Why foreign media broke news of Sonia illness

Few things have exposed the state of political reporting in India than the news that Sonia Gandhi is unwell.

Dozens of reporters, most of whom claim more “access” to 10, Janpath than all the rest, cover the Congress party.

Yet, in a throwback to the Cold War days, none knew or none told the world what was wrong, although there had been strong whispers for nearly a year.

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Neelam Deo and Manjeet Kripalani of the Bombay-based Indian council of global relations, Gateway House:

As TV channels fell over each other [on August 4] to cover in minute detail, the unseemly succession drama of the chief minister of Karnataka, and the CAG’s naming of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit in the graft and corruption surrounding CWG, by 2.30 pm foreign TV agencies, the BBC and Agence France-Presse reported that Sonia Gandhi, had undergone surgery in the United States.

The foreign news reports named Gandhi’s spokesperson, Janardhan Dwivedi, as the source of the information….

The news of Sonia Gandhi’s undisclosed illness and secret departure came as a shock to Indians… Democratic institutions like the media and the Parliament, which should have disclosed Gandhi’s condition as a matter of public knowledge, had kept silent.

The Congress Party carried no notice of its leader’s illness on its website, and it is significant that its spokesperson confirmed the news first to the foreign press.

If it felt it could not trust the Indian media with responsible reportage, the Indian media as a collective, has given it good reason. It is, increasingly part of the cozy nexus of politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi, and is often partisan in its coverage, scoffing at the public’s right to know important events.

For the record, Manjeet Kripalani is former India bureau chief of BusinessWeek magazine.

Illustration: courtesy Thomas Antony

Read the full articleGandhi dynasty, politics as usual

Also readHow come no one spotted Satyam fraud?

How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

How come no one in the media saw the worm turn?

Aakar PatelIndian journalism is regularly second-rate

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Femina has a short message for men: tidy up

Femina, India’s oldest women’s magazine, has a new television commercial to mark its relaunch. The TVC stars the actor Kalki Koechlin and is directed by the filmmaker Anurag Kashyap.

Originally published by The Times of India group, Femina now comes out of the World Wide Media stable, a Times group joint venture with BBC.

Also read: Barkha Dutt gets a letter from her sister, Bahar

When Femina ed Vimla Patil interviewed Indira Gandhi

BBC Hindi Service gets a fresh lease of life

The protests and signature campaigns have borne fruit: BBC’s Hindi Service has been saved from closure.

British foreign secretary William Hague has announced an additional 2.2 million pounds for the BBC World Service over the next three years, which will enable continuation of the Hindi and Arabic services.

Hague’s statement confirms chairman of BBC Trust Lord Chris Patten‘s efforts to ensure the continuation of the Hindi Service, which, he told PTI last week, was a “very important service”, reports Prasun Sonwalkar.

In January this year, BBC had announced the closure of the Hindi service by March, but after much criticism it was given a year’s reprieve to explore an alternate model of funding to ensure its continued functioning.

Also read: ‘The poor in rural India need BBC Hindi service’

When a film star weds a journalist, it’s news—II

Indian film stars—like politicians, businessmen, cricketers and others—rarely have anything nice to say about journalists and journalism, except when they have something to sell. Some, like Amitabh Bachchan and Ram Gopal Verma, have built a cottage industry biting the hand that feeds them to the masses.

How nice therefore to find an inhabitant of tinsel world say “I do” to one of our own.

The Malayalam heartthrob Prithviraj Sukumaran tied the knot with Supriya Menon, the BBC’s business correspondent based in Bombay, in the latter’s home town of Palghat, on Monday. A reception has been planned in Ernakulam for May 1.

The two apparently met a year ago while Supriya was reporting on southern cinema, presumably for the BBC weekend programme, India Business Report, of which she was anchor-correspondent for a while.

“My wife was working as a reporter for a TV news channel. Being a South Indian, she was assigned to do a feature on South Indian cinema. When she called me, I was watching a special screening of SRK’s Don and could not talk to her and told her I would call her back. Next day, when I returned her call, coincidentally she was also watching Don. While that feature did not happen, due to this one call, we started talking and we discovered that we had the same view on the film. Also, we were coincidentally both reading The Fountainhead at that time. And then Shantaram happened and I was so fascinated by how Gregory David Roberts painted Mumbai in the book that I wanted to come to Mumbai and see Haji Ali and Leopold cafe. She showed me around and we fell in love through Bombay that later lead to us getting married.”

But Indo-Asian New Service (IANS), quoting the bride’s groom’s mother reports, that the two families knew each other for a long time and the couple were “childhood friends”.

The Times of India, quoting unnamed sources, says what attracted the film star to the journalist was her “intellectual quotient”.

The New Indian Express reports that local photographers and TV channels were not allowed inside the wedding venue. While over a dozen private photographers covered the function, the bride and groom left “without speaking to the journalists waiting outside the gate”.

Deccan Chronicle, which apparently broke the news of the “whirlwind romance” and the impending wedding only for it to be described as “baseless journalism” by the actor, reports that Prithviraj’s wedding to the journalist has broken the hearts of thousands of his female fans.

Photograph: courtesy Deccan Chronicle

Also read: When a politician weds a journalists, it’s news

Watch Supriya Menon reporting: Barter during a downturn

‘The poor in rural India need BBC Hindi service’

Eighteen leading intellectuals, including the BBC’s iconic voice from India, Sir Mark Tully, have written a letter to the editor of The Guardian, pleading for the continuation of broadcast of the BBC’s Hindi service.

“We are astonished at the news that the BBC management has decided to stop transmission of BBC Hindi radio on short wave from 1 April.

“For nearly seven decades BBC Hindi radio has been a credible source of unbiased and accurate information, especially in times of crisis: the 1971 war, the emergency in 1975, the communal riots after the demolition of the Ayodhya mosque in 1992.

“Today India is facing other serious problems: the ongoing conflicts in Kashmir, in the north-east and in vast areas in central and eastern India, where Maoist militants are fighting the state.

“Ten million listeners in India – most of them in rural and often very poor areas – need BBC Hindi radio and the accurate, impartial and independent news it provides.

“BBC Hindi transmissions are accessible in rural and remote areas and, as short-wave receivers can be battery-operated, they are available in places without electricity or during power cuts; they are an essential source of learning for schoolchildren and college students in rural India preparing for competitive exams; and they cannot be silenced in times when democracy is under threat.

“We strongly urge the UK government to rethink its decision to severely cut the funding for the BBC World Service to enable the continued transmissions of BBC Hindi on short-wave radio.”

The signatories are Sir Mark Tully, broadcaster and author; Gillian Wright; Arundhati Roy, Booker Prize winner; Vikram Seth, author; William Dalrymple, author; Ram Guha, historian; Kuldip Nayar, journalist and columnist; Amjad Ali Khan, musician; Inder Malhotra, journalist and columnist; M.J. Akbar, editor, India Today; Sam Miller, journalist and author; Sunita Naraian, environmentalist and editor, Down to Earth magazine, New Delhi; Kiran Bedi, reformist and the first woman IPS officer of India; Tessa Hamblin, director, rehabilitation, Indian institute of cerebral palsy; Swami Agnivesh, anti-slavery activist; Prashant Bhushan, Supreme Court lawyer; Dilawar K. Singh, financial adviser (defence services), ministry of defence; Neelima Mathur, foundation for responsible media, New Delhi, India.

Radia effect on PM’s invitees for TV pow-wow?

Prime minister Manmohan Singh‘s much ballyhooed pow-wow with “editors” of television channels to clear the air over the scams dogging his government, was, as was to be expected, a typically tepid, bureaucratic affair.

Only the national English TV channels—Headlines Today (represented by Aroon Purie), CNN-IBN (Rajdeep Sardesai), NDTV 24×7 (Prannoy Roy), Times Now (Arnab Goswami)—were interested in asking questions (and suplementaries, much to media advisor Harish Khare‘s discomfiture) about corruption.

Most of the rest, be they from regional channels like Sun TV, Calcutta TV or Asianet, or “international channels” like BBC and Al-Jazeera, were content with asking questions relevant to their audiences and markets (Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam, Europe, Middle East).

Questions are already doing the rounds on why some sizeable channels like Star News, TV9, etc, went unrepresented. And rumours are already doing the rounds on why at least one sizeable editor was absent.

Radhika Ramaseshan reports in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The owner of an English channel had been requested to be present instead of deputing a colleague.

“The owner-editor of another Delhi-based channel was also told he would be welcome. Other channels were sent a general invite.

“The caution came against the backdrop of the Niira Radia tapes featuring conversations of some journalists.”

Also read: Did Niira Radia tapes have impact on Padma awards?

A pre-Google ‘Bomb Mama’ of nuclear prolificity

The passing away of K. Subrahmanyam, the bureaucrat turned strategic affairs expert and journalist, at the age of 82 after a valiant battle with cancer, has provoked a flurry of warm tributes in newspapers.

The former Economic Times editor Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar, who brought “Subbu” into ET, recalls Subrahmanyam’s prolificity:

“Many journalists have trouble coming out with even two column ideas in a week, but Subrahmanyam wanted to write almost every day, so wide was his repertoire and so deep his enthusiasm.

“I once asked how he came up with so many ideas. He replied, ‘It’s easy. I just have to watch CNN or BBC and I get so angry that I have several things to say!'”

In The Times of India, which “Mr Subs” joined as a consulting editor after his retirement from the IAS in 1987, Jug Suraiya writes of the seniormost member of the edit page who earned the nickname “Bomb Mama”—an affectionate portmanteau encapsulating the Tamil Brahmin‘s hawkish advocacy of a nuclear India.

“Nuclear weapons are anti-life, and I believe in the sanctity of human life, I told Mr Subs once.

“‘Why do you restrict yourself to human life? Why not the sanctity of all life?” replied Mr Subs, who is a strict vegetarian, while I’m a peacenik carnivore with a queasy conscience.

“”Touche,” I said, ceding the intellectual and moral high ground to him.

Subrahmanyam, however, wrote in 2008 of the irony of The Times of India not taking up his offer to write the editorial the day India went nuclear in 1998:

“My colleagues, including the editor in charge of the editorial page, declined my offer. They told me that they were anti-nuclear and, therefore, the editorial would disapprove of the test. They knew I was in favour of India acquiring nuclear weapons and, therefore, I could not write the edit.

“I was amused at the irony of the situation. The same paper had provided me a powerful platform in the eighties to campaign for the nuclear option and in the nineties against India acceding to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Now when India conducted the tests and finally brought about the fulfilment of my three-decade-old campaign, I could not write the edit about the subject.

“Fortunately, at that stage I had a call from H. K. Dua, who was functioning as the editor of the paper. He not only asked me to write an article but also offered to feature it on the front page of the paper.”

In the Indian Express, the veteran political commentator and the former editor of The Times of India in Delhi, Inder Malhotra, writes of Subrahmanyam’s encyclopaedic knowledge:

“He was blessed with a phenomenal memory and an equally prodigious capacity for work. Whenever in doubt about any fact, I rang him up and, as a kind and gracious friend, he gave me the information I needed in a jiffy.”

The ToI tribute in the print edition quotes colleagues who worked with him as saying that, before Google, the one-stop information kiosk was Subbu:

“We joked about sending him to Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) and sharing his spoils. He would say, ‘But I will get stuck on film questions.’ You can always use phone-a-friend to call us, he was told.”

In The Hindu, Siddharth Varadarajan writes on the essence of Subrahmanyam, fast vanishing in modern-day journalism:

“For one who worked in government for many years, Subrahmanyam prized his independence which he saw as the key to his integrity. I have had three careers, he once said when asked why he had turned down the offer of a Padma Vibhushan — as a civil servant, a strategic analyst and a journalist.

“’The awards should be given by the concerned groups, not the Government. If there is an award for sports, it should be given by sportspersons, and if it’s for an artists, by artists.’ The state, he believed, was not qualified to judge different aspects of human endeavour.”

For one who was at the centre of many of India’s biggest events, “Bomb Mama” found himself become a bargaining chip for hijackers in 1984, an incident the Hindustan Times recalls:

“His reputation was such that in the 1984 hijacking of an Indian Airlines flight to Lahore, the hijackers tried to argue during their trial that Subrahmanyam’s presence on the aircraft proved New Delhi had engineered the whole thing so he could “examine Pakistan’s nuclear installations.”

External reading: B.G. Verghese on K. Subrahmanyam