Posts Tagged ‘BBC’

‘The poor in rural India need BBC Hindi service’

23 February 2011

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?

16 February 2011

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

3 February 2011

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

When Rajdeep Sardesai got it left, right & centre

3 December 2010

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: There were two “key takeaways”—as TV anchors remind us every night, two “key takeaways”—from the post-Niira Radia chintan baithak organised by  the Editors Guild of India, the Press Club of India, and the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) in New Delhi on Friday.

The first takeaway is what the mainstream media (MSM) will report happily. Which is that senior editors in India (as the BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder who attended the meeting reports) are “considering putting in place systems to ensure ethical practices in journalism”.

Meaning: aal iz well.

In other words, the grey hairs bowing before their Old Monk™ have fully grasped the import of the scandal that has enveloped the profession, following the publication of tapes and transcripts of conversations Radia had with Barkha Dut, Vir Sanghvi, Prabhu Chawla et al, and are poised to act.

The other takeaway is what only the tabloids would waste ink on (feel free to stop right here if your choice is broadsheet or berliner).

Which is that the president of the Editors’ Guild of India, Rajdeep Sardesai—whose favourite offline excuse for  ethical concerns in the profession is “Hamaam mein sab nange hain (everybody is naked in the public bathroom)”—actually had to stand unprotected under a very heavy downpour on a winter afternoon in Delhi today, for an hour if not more.

A downpour of criticism, that is.

The joint EGI-PCI-IWPC meeting started off well, as most introspection meetings do, with Outlook* chief editor Vinod Mehta not taking the names of the accused (because the matter is now in court and also because “my wife told me to be careful”) and striking the right balance of common sense and pragmatism, two commodities that have generally been in short supply.

“I keep hearing that this issue is sensitive and complicated, that it is not a black and white issue. I can’t understand what is so complex here. It doesn’t require an Albert Einstein or a rocket scientist.

“If you are talking to a hotel PRO and he tells you, ‘our hotel is the no.1 hotel in Asia’, it doesn’t mean you come and write that his hotel is the no.1 hotel in Asia. You check and verify before you report.

“The claim that they [Barkha and Vir] were stringing along their sources is complete bullshit. Do you think somebody like Radia would keep on giving information knowing that her instructions weren’t being followed?”

Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, who took the mike next, rightly spoke of the dichotomous times we live in—when the media which has been behind some of the most impactful stories this year stands accused in the public eye of betraying their trust, a point he had made in his HT column earlier in the day.

Sardesai’s sage wisdom would have earned a few plaudits had he stopped right there.

But, as the cameras rolled, he launched into what seemed like a set piece, enlightening the captive audience comprising largely of journalists of his “problems” with the Outlook* expose—not contacting Barkha and Vir and giving them a chance to reply; running raw footage on the website (which also incidentally features his name a couple of times); the use of pictures of journalists not connected with the 2G scam on the cover and so on.

“This is shock and awe journalism… This is bad journalism inverting the principles of basic journalism…. This rot is not new, it has been around for three decades…. In this competitive age, access is information….”

“There is no proven quid pro quo…. The concerned journalists are guilty of professional misjudgement not professional misconduct… Reputations have been damaged…,” said Sardesai in a thinly disguised defence of his former NDTV colleague Barkha Dutt.

“I think what Outlook and Open have done is completely unethical…. A lot of criticism, let us admit, is also because of a certain envy.”

Hardly had Sardesai placed the mike on the table than Poornima Joshi of Mail Today was on her belligerent feet, urging him to spare the audience his pontification.

“I find it absolutely disturbing and disheartening that the president of editors’ guild is not only condoning but also justifying carrying of messages from a corporate to Congress,” Joshi, a former Outlook staffer, said.

Radhika Ramaseshan of The Telegraph [where Sardesai worked before he joined NDTV], took objection to Sardesai’s claim that this was all old hat, that there was nothing new in what was happening, that this has been happening, so why bother.

Neena Vyas [of The Hindu] has been covering BJP for 30 years. Nobody ever accused her of misusing her access. Likewise, there are a number of journalists who have never succumbed,” she said to applause.

Vyas, daughter of former Times of India editor Sham Lal, contradicted Sardesai in his face of  a statement he attributed to her of a BJP politician’s tacit condition that he would go soft on him in exchange for information.

When Vyas regaled the audience of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi “blackmailing” BJP bosses to throw RSS leader Sanjay Joshi out—after a sting operation of Joshi in a sexual act was shown on India TV (which Vyas alleged was owned by Narendra Modi),—CNN-IBN cameras telecast her allegation “live”.

“If Rajdeep Sardesai is so concerned about the raw footage of the Radia conversations being shown or reported, without giving the other side the chance to reply, how come he is showing this,” hissed a member of the audience audibly.

Vidya Subrahmaniam, also of The Hindu, contested Sardesai’s claim that there was no quid pro quo. The tapes, she said, carried enough evidence of quid pro quo since the journalists appeared to be doing exactly what they promised.

From that point on, it was downhill at top speed all the way for Sardesai, in front of several of his senior colleagues, including Bhupendra Chaubey, Vivian Fernandes and Ashutosh who had assembled in the front rows for what they had presumed would be a champagne show by their boss.

# One unidentified voice from the back rows asked, “How can you hold forth on ethics after CNN-IBN’s dubious role in the infamous cash-for-votes scandal [when it reportedly went back on a promise to telecast a sting operation commissioned by the BJP during the vote on the civilian nuclear bill].”

# Another demanded mandatory declaration of assets and liabilities by editors. “How do journalists manage to become owners of channels,” shouted the young voice, echoing former Hindustan Times‘ editor and Prasar Bharati chief Mrinal Pande‘s call for greater transparency in ownership.

# “Amitabh Bachchan read the news on your channel when he was trying to promote his film Rann, without CNN-IBN ever revealing that it was a promo for his film. You should have just said no, if you want to take the high moral ground on ethics,” said Akshay Mukul of The Times of India.

The restive audience wanted more time to question Sardesai but he beat a hasty exit before the meeting ended, citing lack of time and a prior engagement. And as he left, another voice shouted, within earshot of his wife Sagarika Ghose, “Did we just hear the president of the editors guild of India, or the editors’ guilt of India?”

Inside, at the bar, as the old residents reassembled, a young reporter chipped in: “Twitter and Facebook and all the social media have been delivering a simple message to old media in India: look within. Looks like someone’s just too happy listening to his own loud voice.”

Also read: Rajdeep Sardesai heckled over defending Vir, Barkha

The Hindu coverage of the Editors’ Guild debate

The New Indian Express: Heated debate

‘A too-argumentative Barkha squanders chance’

1 December 2010

Barkha Dutt, the “massively influential but ethically embattled” NDTV anchor subjected herself to an inquisition last night in a bid to extricate her credibility after the Niira Radia tapes were outed by Outlook* and Open magazines.

Unlike her well-lit Buck Stops Here set, NDTV situated the interrogation in a dark and spooky set, and the usually boisterous Dutt (“pretty” in the words of one editor) appeared sans her usual makeup, lending a mournful air to a rather morose affair.

In the words of the Wall Street Journal, she squandered her chance by being “too-argumentative”:

“Barkha Dutt sometimes gets flak for her interviewing style, with people saying she interrupts her interlocutors and doesn’t give them enough of a chance to speak.

“And unfortunately—especially for her, given this was a chance for her to win back alienated viewers—she was no different last night.”

BBC online correspondent Soutik Biswas writes:

“Indian journalists are fixers!” shouted a young lady in the audience during a play I attended in Mumbai last week. She even took the name of one of the country’s leading news presenters to demonstrate her point. The play was about to begin, and one of the actors was engaging in casual banter with the audience. “Do you think news is unbiased in our country?” he asked.

“Many in the audience guffawed, and the lady spoke up in outrage. At that moment it struck me how much the controversy over leaked phone conversations between some senior Indian journalists and a prominent lobbyist had enraged people. It is, clearly, the Indian media’s biggest crisis of credibility.”

* Disclosures apply

Scrrenshots: courtesy NDTV

Read the full story: A too-argumentative Barkha squanders chance

Also read: Indian media’s credibility crisis

‘A thoroughly decent man, one of the finest ever’

9 April 2010

In The Daily Telegraph, London, Dean Nelson reports the plight of the BBC’s “Voice of India”, Sir Mark Tully, “who has come under extraordinary attack in a thinly disguised novel which portrays him as a heartless philanderer and supporter of fanatics.”

“The book is clearly modelled on my career, even down to the name of the main character,” Sir Mark is quoted as saying. “That character’s journalism is abysmal, and his views on Hindutva and Hinduism do not in any way reflect mine. I would disagree with them profoundly.”

John Eliot, the former Fortune correspondent and a long-standing friend of Sir Mark’s, said the book is an “outrageous misrepresentation” of his life and work.

“Mark Tully is well-known as a thoroughly decent gentleman and one of the finest journalists ever posted to India. This is a badly-written book which should never have passed a lawyer or a publisher. It totally misrepresents his personal life and his work.”

The Telegraph says the suspected author, veteran French correspondent Francois Gautier, had issued a statement denying he had written the book.

The Indian Express quotes Gautier as saying:

“I have never hidden behind a pseudonym to say what I think. I have been one of the rare western journalists to defend Hindus. I have done it openly, in my own name, with dedication and courage and that has cost me a lot.”

The Daily Telegraph: Former BBC correspondent attacked in novel

The Indian Express: An irritant foreign body

Also read: Has Twitter found Mark Tully‘s character assassin?

Has Twitter found Mark Tully’s character assassin?

2 April 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: Can a nearly spotless journalistic career of 45 years—30 of those for one of the most trusted broadcasters in the world—be tainted, tarbrushed and tarnished by a pathetic paperback written under a pseudonym?

If your name is Sir William Mark Tully, OBE, the answer has to seem, yes.

And the book that is causing all the damage to the reputation of the man India knows as Mark Tully is the 166-page Hindutva, Sex and Adventure written under the nom de plumeJohn MacLithon“, and published by Roli books, whose promoter once published the Sunday Mail newspaper from Delhi.

For 30 years, the Calcutta-born Tully was the BBC’s voice of India; his classic, halting signoff “Mark Tully, BBC, Delhi” as much a reassurance that all was right with the world as a stamp of authority of what we had just heard. After retirement in 1994, he settled down to write columns and books, many of them on the land of his birth (No full stops in India, India in slow motion, India’s unending journey, et al).

So much did Tully sahib endear himself to the establishment that he was decorated with India’s third and fourth highest civilian awards, the Padma Bhushan and Padma Sri.

Now, a nice little question mark has been hung at his door at No. 1, Nizamuddin (East) by a cowardly, scurrilous and unimaginative roman à clef that makes no pretence of hiding who it is based on and worse, hangs the entire body of work of a 74-year-old on his alleged political leanings without giving him the chance to respond in public.

MacLithon doesn’t, of course, take Tully’s name in the book, but in discussing the life and times and adventures of “Andrew Lyut, a radio journalist who is posted to India because he was born there and speaks a smattering of Hindu”, reviews and reviewers are doing the damage:

# In his India Today review, Dilip Bobb writes “the book is so obviously based on Mark Tully, the ex-BBC bureau chief and media star who spent almost his entire career in India, covering the region.”

# The Times of India‘s Crest edition says the “protagonist Andrew Luyt has plenty of similarities with Mark Tully. Luyt can be an anagram for Tuly. Like the famous BBC correspondent, he is born in India, works as radio journalist and quits his job over a disagreement with his boss.”

# The tabloid Mail Today newspaper remarks that “the author’s bio is both impressive and suspiciously familiar: he has interviewed six Indian prime ministers, dodged bullets on the India-Pakistan border and has covered the Mumbai riots (Is he Mark Tully? Or [former Fortune correspondent] John Elliot? The speculative list just gets bigger.)

# All three items in the gossip column of Outlook magazine’s books pages this week are devoted to the book with Mark Tully‘s name finding mention eight times, without a single mention of the name of the pseudonymous author.

So, who is causing the damage to Tully more—the book and its author and publisher, or the reviewers of newspapers and magazines, for most of whom Tully has written before—is a fair question to ask.

***

An equally good question to ask is which part of Hindutva, Sex and Adventure is causing discomfiture to Tully: the Hindutva part, the sex part or the adventure part?

It surely can’t be the sex. A 2001 profile of Tully on BBC reveals unabashedly that he “womanised and drank to excess” as an undergraduate at Cambridge. He considered becoming a priest at the Church of England but dropped out after two terms.

Reason?

“I just knew I could not trust my sexuality to behave as a Christian priest should. And I didn’t want to be a cause of scandal.”

And then, there is the small matter of his girlfriend Gillian Wright, with whom he stays while in Delhi, and his wife and mother of his four children, Margaret, with whom he stays when in London.

It can’t also be the “adventure” part of the title. From the wars with Pakistan to the Bhopal gas tragedy, from the Emergency to Operation Bluestar, from the killing of Indira Gandhi to that of her son Rajiv Gandhi, Tully saw plenty of adventures, upclose and upfront.

What probably rankles Tully, or perhaps, what really the pseudonymous author wants to irritate Tully with, is the veiled accusation that he was a closet Hindutva supporter all along without letting the mask drop before his listeners, readers, employers and other benefactors.

Here are three of many quotes from the book that the author uses to underline Andrew Luyt’s veering towards a soft Hindutva vision:

# “I am an Anglican and some of my clergy think yoga is very un-Christian, but how can you dislike something born in your country, that has taken the world by storm.”

# “The first question he asked Benazir Bhutto was about Kashmir, since she was the one who had called for ‘Azad Kashmir’, a Kashmir free from India, which had triggered ethnic cleansing of most Hindus of the valley of Kashmir.”

# “He had expected a rabid fundamentalist, a dangerous man. Actually, Andrew discovered over the years, L.K. Advani was a gentle soul, who would probably be unable to hurt a bird.”

If this is proof of Tully’s leanings, it is old hat.

In fact, in 2003, seven years before John MacLithon’s book was published, the political commentator Amulya Ganguli wrote this in the Hindustan Times:

“For several years now, the BBC’s Mark Tully has provided indirect support to the BJP’s Hindutva cause. His contention, as reiterated in a new TV documentary, Hindu Nation, is that secularism is unsuitable for India. The reason: it is a doctrine which keeps religion out of public life, an attempt which is bound to fail —and has failed—in a country as “deeply religious” as India. Hence, the Congress’s decline and the BJP’s rise.”

Much earlier, in 1997, the remarks reportedly made by Tully while addressing the National Hindu Students’ Forum in Britain had created a big buzz.

According to the Asian Age newspaper reporting it, Tully said:

I do profoundly believe that India needs to be able to say with pride, ‘Yes, our civilisation has a Hindu base to it.‘ And for Hindus to be able to say with pride that they are Hindus.””

Stunningly, or perhaps not, the author introduction on the back cover of the book and on the website of the publisher has the exact same line as the Asian Age quote.

“Some of John MacLithon’s admirers were shocked when he declared a few years ago: ‘I do profoundly believe that India needs to be able to say with pride, ‘Yes, our civilisation has a Hindu base to it’.”

So, in a sense, the book doesn’t tell us anything humanity didn’t know or had not suspected about Tully’s political leanings; it just packages it for posterity especially with two imputations: a) We should take Tully’s overall “objective” output with a pinch of salt, and/or b) that somehow he has done Hindutva some disservice by not aligning himself openly with the cause” (as perhaps the pseudonymous author has).

# In its short review of Hindutva, Sex and Adventure, The Times of India writes that the “Hindutva bits are quite forgettable”.

# Dilip Bobb says in his review that after quitting his job, MacLithon’s protagonist Andrew Luyt settles down “with a ‘partner’ to write books which go soft on Hindutva and Hinduism.”

# An unnamed reviewer in the Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle writes that Luyt’s “very protestant upbringing and secular outlook shapes the way he views the events around him and with every passing episode his stance on Hindutva softens.”

Whether Mark Tully dislikes the Hindutva hint no one knows for sure, although one editor who has known the BBC correspondent, says the Tully’s views on Hindutva and Hinduism “do not in any way reflect” Luyt’s; in fact, he says, he would “disagree with them profoundly”.

But it is quite clear that the pseudonymous foreign correspondent’s motive is to throw mud at Tully and to draw him into the debate on his “soft Hindutva leanings”, which Tully has resisted so far. At least in public.

***

So whodunit? Who could be behind the book on Tully?

According to the Outlook bibliophile, while signing the contract with Roli Books 18 months ago, the pseudonymous author took great pains to protect his identity, even inserting a clause that treated the “divulging of his real name as a breach of contract.”

But unnamed friends of Tully are quoted by the magazine as saying that the “strangely written” prose and the hero’s “unusual sex” antics are a giveway.

“Mark’s friends say the man behind the book is a French journalist and avid Hindutva supporter, who, like Tully, has been based in India for decades but unlike Tully, is married to an Indian. This journalist published an autobiographical novel in French in 2005.”

Mail Today, which has run two items on the book, claims that after the first piece appeared, the author got in touch with them.

“After we reported the guessing game set off by the soon-to-be launched book, the author chose to ‘come out’ in a manner of speaking and get in touch with us on email: ‘It should be absolutely normal to defend Hindus in a country where 80 per cent of the population comprises Hindus and which has shown throughout the ages that it is pluralist and tolerant. But unfortunately ‘ Hindu’ has become a dirty word in modern India.’

“The mysterious author says that he has spent many years working on the novel—which has lots on the sexual peccadilloes of a Hindutva-loving foreign correspondent in India—but had always known that his peers would brand him immediately after the publication of the book.”

If nothing else, the phraseology of the Mail Today-John MacLithon correspondence suggests that the pseudonymous is obsessed with two of the three elements in the title: Hindutva and sex.

One editor claims he received an email out of the blue from the suspected author asserting that Mark Tully was the author but that he had written it under a pseudonym “because he is scared of coming out openly…. But I have not and I am much more radical than Tully.”

But, surely, if Tully wanted to out himself, he would have chosen a more dignified way of doing so, at least by writing a book in better English with a better publisher?

On his Twitter account, the editor-in-chief of the Madras-based New Indian Express, Aditya Sinha, asks this question:

As if on cue, the said French author, Francois Gautier, has a piece on the books’ pages of The New Indian Express on Sunday, in which he drags the names of other people—Bernard Imhsaly, David Housego, John Elliot and Gautier himself—who could have written the book under a pseudonym but zeroes in on Tully (click on the image for a larger frame).

Already, in its short life, the book has kept the gossip mills active, but in the long term, is it likely to end up besmirching the BBC and its voice in India?

Then again, the Hindutva herd, uncomfortable with the idea of independent journalism, is likely to ask another question: has it become a crime for a journalist or a journalism organisation to be associated with Hindutva?

Photograph: courtesy Outlook magazine

Also read: MARK TULLY: The 7 habits of highly effective journalists

‘In India, we realise nothing ever dies finally’

‘Learn to take the rough with the smooth’

Everybody loves a good car, not a good filter

10 December 2009

The announcement of the launch of Tata Nano, the small car produced by the Tatas, saw the media falling over itself heralding the arrival of the “People’s Car”.

The fact that the car was priced at Rs 100,000 was enough to result in long front-page stories; glowing feature articles on Indian engineering and enterprise; breathless test drives; and fawning editorials and interviews with the man behind the car, Ratan Tata.

So, how does the same media treat the launch of Tata Swach, the water filter/ purifier that is priced at Rs 749 and Rs 999, and in a country like India is likely to reach more people and change more lives, and launched by the same man.

In alphabetical order:

AFP (news agency): 540 words

Associated Press:  772 words

BBC: 245 words

Business Standard: 381 words

DNA: 308 words

Press Trust of India: 477 words

Economic Times: 400 words

Indian Express: 415 words

Hindu Businessline: 461 words

Hindustan Times: 162 words on the filter, 333 words of an interview

The Times of India: 202 words

Copenhagen, anybody?

Carbon intensity?

Photograph: courtesy Paul Noronha/ The Hindu Businessline

Also read: And Ratan Tata sang, PR kiya tho darna kya?

If we can get a car for Rs 1 lakh, why can’t we…?

There’s nothing lost if the Nano isn’t produced

‘What Henry Ford did then, Ratan Tata has now’

Can India survive the Nano?

Tata, turtles and corporate social responsibility

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Tatas scrap the Nano?

BBC journalists secure abducted cop’s release

23 October 2009

BBC News_Subir Bhaumik_23012009

It’s one of journalism’s oldest questions: should journalists in the line of duty play a part in unfolding news events?

Should they be the eyes and ears of their audience at all times, as expected of their profession, regardless of the situation? Or, are there occasions when exceptions can be made like, say, a life at risk?

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr Sanjay Gupta, MD, while reporting from Iraq in 2003, conducted an emergency brain surgery on an Iraqi boy. Yesterday, in West Bengal, two senior BBC journalists helped broker a compromise between the State government and Maoists, leading to the safe release of an abducted police officer.

The policeman had been kidnapped after a raid on the police office three days earlier and held him hostage demanding the release of 14 tribal women.

According to a report in The Times of India, the BBC journos stepped in and acted as “facilitators and served as a bridge between the rebels and the government” when the leader of the Maoists Koteshwara Rao alias Kishenji, refused to deal directly with State officials.

“Initially, the government was a bit confused. On Wednesday morning, they sought our help. Having worked in the North-East for several years, I have been involved in facilitating several such hostage negotiations. We wanted to start a dialogue immediately but couldn’t since we needed at least one government official to participate but there was none,” the BBC’s veteran eastern India correspondent Subir Bhaumik is quoted as saying.

Subir Bhaumik later reported the story of the policeman’s release for the BBC without mentioning the role played by him in it. All’s well that ends well, of course, but what if the journalists had been caught in the crossfire between the Maoists and the State police?

There is also a strange irony in the involvement of journalists to secure the policeman’s release from the grip of Maoists. In late September, a top Maoist leader Chattradhar Mahato had been nabbed by police who were dressed up as journalists of a Singapore TV station. The impersonation had led to an outcry among journalists.

Photograph: courtesy Subir Bhaumik

Read the full reportJournalists brokered cop’s release

Also read: Dressing up (and dressing down) as journalists

Michael Moore takes on Sanjay Gupta of CNN

Sting camera that Amitabh Bachchan didn’t see

17 October 2009

bachhancamera

The BBC’s “star of the millennium”, Amitabh Bachchan, has always had a hate-hate relationship with the media, except when he has had to love it to push a product or push himself, which is usually the same thing.

In the first week of his 67th year in the solar system (birthday: October 11),  Mr Bachchan has got his long legs entangled in a classic multimedia landmine.

This time with the Bombay tabloid MiD-DaY.

The paper’s executive editor Abhijit Majumder had sought an interview with the actor to mark his birthday, his 40 years in Bollywood, and the launch of BiggBoss 3. Bachchan, says he was initially willing to do an interview only by email, but relented to give a face-to-face interview.

The interview was published and, not surprisingly, as is usual with celebrities who think an interview is an advertisement, Bachchan complains on his blog that “it did not do justice to the responses I had given”.

What was surprising, says Bachchan, is that a video clip of the interview appeared on MiD-DaY’s website.

Writes he:

“I had never expected either the paper or any one else to have posted something which I would be unaware of. [And] now realize why Mr Majumdar wanted a personal meeting. He had placed a small “sting” camera on the table in front of me, without informing me that the interview was being video taped as well. He never told me that they had a video net facility in operation and that the recorded interview would find a place there.”

Bachchan accuses the editor of dishonesty and says the reason he had sought a one-on-one interview was with the “mala fide intent of recording the interview to be used as a live input on a video electronic facility medium that your paper runs.”

Video electronic facility medium, indeed.

But Majumder has hit back in the paper, printing a photograph of the actor sitting comfortably in front of the “sting” camera, and charging the actor of introducing a new word into journalism: a “sting of one’s own legitimate interview“.

Majumder says he had mentioned to Bachchan in the presence of the paper’s photographer and two unknown gentlemen who also seemed to be videotaping it, that the interview would be recorded on audio and video; that he had asked the actor’s secretary if he could bring along a photographer and somebody to video-record the interview.

“Either you are lying or I am. I would like to believe it is neither; it’s just your memory playing tricks at twilight.”

Of course, it is possible for a 67-year-old to have not spotted the device in front of him. Maybe he thought it was a simple tape-recorder like in the good ol’ days.

But an actor who fails to see a camera lens?

Photograph: courtesy Pradeep Dhivar/ MiD-Day

Link via Anamika Sengupta

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