Tag Archives: CNN-IBN

Signature campaign against CSDS poll tracker

As the Chinese might say, the Indian media is living in strange times even before the advent of Narendra Modi.

The Aam Aadmi Party accuses TV stations of being bought over by Modi. Sting operations reveal that opinion pollsters are willing to up their estimates of Modi for a price.

News channels show unedited feeds from Modi’s own cameras as if they were their own. Editorial changes are being made in newspapers and magazines with a change in government in prospect.

Etcetera.

Now, even the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) with its formidable reputation as a credible pollster for CNN-IBN, is facing the music.

Yogendra Yadav, for long CSDS’s face on TV during election time, is now a member of AAP, standing from Gurgaon; Madhu Kishwar is a prominent BJP votary, whose interviews with Modi are now being aired on India News and NewsX.

As CNN-IBN (now owned by Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries) airs its “Election Tracker“*, a signature campaign has been launched which scurrilously alleges that the CSDS survey is “a campaign for BJP, not research work”.

Launched by “Manjeet Singh” who claims to be from Patna, the petition on change.org headlined “CSDS poll survey for CNN-IBN will take BJP close to 272 in next 3 days. Is this Research?”, reads (uncorrected):

“It’s not news anymore that the Sanjay Kumar‘s contractors who has funding coming in to their media houses from the big corporates are forcing  Sanjay Kumar reach a figure of close to 272 in the survey.

“CSDS’s credibility is being used for this agenda. Seems that the sting operation on the survey agencies was done to enhance the credibility of CSDS’s survey just before Sanjay Kumar’s closer to 272 projections for the BJP was to appear on Television.”

For the record, CSDS’s surveys for CNN-IBN have seen the BJP numbers go up from 156-164 in July 2013 to 171-179 in November, and 192-210 in January 2014.

* The CNN-IBN election tracker is in association with Week magazine. Disclosures apply.

When a fine magazine shuts down, it is news

After 15 years of publication, Housecalls, the first-class bimonthly magazine published by the Hyderabad-based Dr Reddy‘s Laboratories, is shutting shop this year.

In her editorial in the penultimate January-February issue, its editor pens a touching lament for the printed word—and the sanity that comes with it.

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rrs

By RATNA RAO SHEKAR

Increasingly these days, we are surrounded by a cacophony of soundbites and instant news.

It is not just I, but several people I know who cannot bear to watch prime time news. And this is mostly because well known anchors by the sheer force of their voice not only thrust their judgements on us but kill every other opinion ruthlessly, even if they come from respected citizens.

Our print media is no better in its over-indulgence of socialites and celebrities who air their views on everything from fiscal deficit to fashion trends (with the same élan), which are carried along with photographs that are bigger than their opinions.

Gone are the days of independent journalism when we opened the day’s papers to read the sane and sober reflections of a Chalapati Rau, a C.R. Irani or a Kuldip Nayar.

These days, when media ownership itself is suspect, funded as it is either by a business or a political group, we do not get the kind of objective and unbiased views we could fall back on in the past.

Sadly, as many of us have come to realise, even news can be bought, and you can get column inch space in proportion to the cheques you are willing to write for the media house.

How skewed the vision of both television and print media are, can be seen from the way they have recently been going on ad nauseam about celebrity sexual assaults, a high profile murder and the retirement of a cricketer.

This in the election year, when they ought to be focusing on the other India where there are rapes and murders of young girls on a routine basis! But these are not sensational enough for the mainstream media to take up so these stories are not discussed or dissected.

Added to this cacophony of half truths and dishonest opinions, we have the unrestrained chatter on the social media.

In the absence of any self-censorship, or editors who are in effect gatekeepers (and not just people who draw big salaries), the social media for all its freedom is a far from perfect way of receiving news.

In fact, there is such a slew of one-sided opinions, even hatred by certain right wing groups, that many want to shut their Twitter and Facebook accounts and move on.

More than ever in these times we need unbiased and nuanced writing that helps us in formulating independent opinions.

We need the resurrection of the common sense gene.

For this, certainly, we don’t need television news that numbs our senses so hopelessly that we begin to believe in a truth as given to us by CNN-IBN, or NDTV. We are ready to lynch or take out a candlelight march all based on the opinions of newscasters.

I have pointless arguments with people who believe that books, magazines and in fact writers themselves are dead, or should be dead. I say pointless, because in this intolerant world where there’s both sound and fury, we need the insight and wisdom offered to us in a good book or in a good essay.

We need the repose of the printed word.

We need to feel the heart of writers, and beauty of their ideas.

We need time to sit back and reflect.

Now, more than ever, we need the independent voice of a magazine like Housecalls which despite being supported by a pharma company was never about the sponsor or their viewpoints.

Nor were the articles Googled as is common nowadays.

Rather they were  written with integrity by writers who travelled the breadth of this country, often at a risk to their lives, looking for the good story to tell.

Since the last issue, we have been deluged by letters from distressed doctors and readers asking us why Housecalls is closing down, and if there was any way they could contribute.

I am not sure how they can help us, but am touched by the letters and feel vindicated that we were on the right track with the magazine – that what we had to say mattered and made a difference.

Now more than ever I believe in Housecalls.

Just as I do of the printed word.

Also read: A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

The loud and noisy Punjab-ification of India

Network 18’s right-wing swing on Caravan cover

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The December issue of Caravan magazine has a 16-page cover story on how the Raghav Bahl founded Network 18 has taken a turn towards right-wing politics after its takeover by Mukesh Ambani‘s Reliance Industries.

Headlined ‘The Network Effect’ and written by Rahul Bhatia, who authored the Arnab Goswami profile last year, the article chronicles a number of instances to underline the group’s rightward lurch.

# First Post editor-in-chief R. Jagannathan began attending Forbes India meetings in February 2013 as part of a planned integration.

“Glancing at a sheet of paper he had arrived with, Jagannathan yelled: ‘You’re doing it wrong. Forbes is about the wealthy. It’s about right-wing politics. You guys are writing about development and poverty. If you guys don’t get it, I’m going to make sure that you do.”

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# “Last year, CNBC TV18’s Vivian Fernandes, who co-wrote Raghav Bahl’s book, was despatched to interview Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. A person involved with the production of the interview recalled that Fernandes asked a difficult question about water conservation in Gujarat.

“Modi’s organisers had asked to see the questions before the interview, and demanded the water conservation question’s removal.

“When Fernandes sprung it on him anyway, Modi broke away from the camera and glared at a public relations executive in the room.

“‘Why is he talking like this?’ the person recalled Modi saying. ‘Are we not paying for this interview?'” The production crew realised that the interview was part of a promotion for Modi.”

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# “In the weeks leading up to the group’s first Think India conference in April, Raghav Bahl told his management that he wanted to start a foundation called Think Right.

“CNN-IBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai and deputy editor Sagarika Ghose, objected to the name, believing that it was certain to be misinterpreted. ‘they believed that ‘right’ would come to mean Hindutva, you know?’ a person involved in the discussions said.

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# “‘There was a concerted effort to drive a large visible campaign to prop up Narendra Modi in the run-up to the Think India platform,’ former Forbes India editor Indrajit Gupta said.

Each channel, publication and website had to carry promotional material of some kind. ‘They wanted a Modi cover story from Forbes India.'”

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# At the group’s senior management getaway in Macau in early 2013, “the editors’ mood sank further when Raghav Bahl let the large gathering know he favoured Narendra Modi as India’s next prime minister.

“Until last year, Rajdeep was the most important person here. Now after Mr Ambani, Modi is the most important person.'”

“I spoke to the editor again in the middle of November. ‘It’s serious. They have started putting indirect pressure on editors to not criticise Narendra Modi,’ the editor said. ‘I think Think India was created to promote him.'”

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# “Early on November 9, Rajdeep Sardesai travelled to Nagpur to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat. Two senior editors in touch with Sardesai independently confirmed that Raghav Bahl had pressed him to meet Bhagwat and other RSS leaders.

“‘Raghav is keen on promoting right-of-centre policies. He believes Indians have enterprise in our blood,’ the person involved in the decision over the Think India foundation’s naming said.”

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# “Network 18 is not alone in its rightward swing, but as Modi’s value in the attention econmy continues to rise, no one in English-language broadcasting has traded more on his appeal than CNN-IBN.

“For four days in October and November 2013, the Centre for Media Studies, an independent thinktank in Delhi, monitored the primetime political coverage of some major English news channels.

“Of the five they surveyed, CNN-IBN covered Modi for over 72 minutes, a greater duration than anyone else. At the same time, it covered Rahul Gandhi for approximately 18 minutes.”

Also read: ‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

Narendra Modi, Mukesh Ambani & Network 18

In the latest issue of Open magazine, former NDTV and Headlines Today journalist-turned-academic Sandeep Bhushan, throws light on how the television media is covering the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate” Narendra Modi:

“Several past and serving employees of the media behemoth Network 18 have told me that a heavy-duty ‘go-soft-on-Modi’ campaign is underway within the group.

“The editorial line is allegedly emanating from the ‘top’.

“A former anchor with IBN7 traces the changes in the network’s ‘line’ to a specific event. They came about only after Mukesh Ambani picked up a stake in the media group. “Arvind Kejriwal was virtually blacked out after he hurled charges at Mukesh. On the news floor, in both CNN-IBN and IBN7, every journalist knows that there are orders to rein in anti-Modi stories,” he adds.

“There are standing instructions to cut live to any Modi rally or speech”, says another journalist.

“However, Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, trashes all this. “This is all cock and bull,” he says, “There has been no change in line at any time. Both Rahul [Gandhi] and Modi are top contenders for the PM’s post. We neither deify nor demonise either of them, but analyse their pluses and minuses in great detail.”

“But if Sardesai is right, then how does one explain the cloyingly pro-Modi chant on the group’s news portal, Firstpost.com? Here is a gem masquerading as reportage: ‘Delhi on Sunday witnessed a public the likes of which it had not seen in decades’, thanks to Modi’s ‘rock-star’ image that created a ‘maddening frenzy’.

“Another story headline screams; ‘JD(U) MP makes Nitish [Kumar] squirm: Are you jealous of Modi?’ This article, on Shivanand Tewari’s recent speech in Rajgir praising Modi’s ascent, has little explanation of the ‘jealously’ angle. Yet another so-called report on the website gushes. ‘Patna blasts showed Modi’s leadership, Nitish’s ineptness.’

R. Jagannathan, editor-in-chief of First Post, defends the group website by saying. “We are essentially an opinion portal. We also carry news. We have different editors who are free to air their own views. As the editor-in-chief, I don’t interfere.” On the Ambani factor, Jagannathan says, “I report to Raghav Bahl and there are no specific editorial instructions from him.”

The Open article also punches holes in the coverage of Narendra Modi by Times Now.

Photograph: courtesy Reuters via First Post

Also read: ‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective TRP

Not just a newspaper, a no-paid-news newspaper!

Has a ‘desperate party’ bought TV channels?

Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta & Gen V.K. Singh

For the second time in 18 months, the northern edition of Viveck Goenka‘s Indian Express (sold in the south as The National Standard) has been drawn into a blazing row between the Congress-led UPA government and the then (and now retired) chief of the Army staff, General V.K. Singh.

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In April 2012, the Express put out a front-page, full-page, eight-column, triple-decker banner-headlined story that on the day Gen Singh’s petition before the Supreme Court on his date of birth was coming up on January 16, 2012, two units of the Indian Army had moved towards Delhi

In effect, that Express story—bylined “by Shekhar Gupta, Ritu Sarin, Pranab Dhal Samanta, with Ajmer Singh“—was making the thinly disguised insinuation that the general had tried to stage a coup in the national capital but without using the dreaded “C” word.

The Express story was denied by defence minister A.K. Antony, and most newspapers punched holes in the Express story, but the paper stuck to its guns.

express

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Last Friday, September 20—five days after Gen Singh had shared the dais with the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate” Narendra Damodardas Modi—the Express front-paged an eight-column, double-decker, half-page story, by Ritu Sarin, that a unit set up by Gen Singh had, among other things, tried to topple the Jammu & Kashmir government headed by Omar Abdullah.

In effect, a “C” minor.

But unlike the first occasion, when the General was still in his uniform and constrained from speaking out on its veracity, this time he has let loose a volley of personal criticism on Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, who has a demonstrated record of top-flight reporting on defence matters, both at Express and his previous port of call, India Today magazine.

First, on Twitter, General Singh called Shekhar Gupta a “UPA stooge” and gave oxygen to a number of unsubstantiated charges on his assets and income-tax returns, even drawing Gupta’s spouse, Neelam Jolly, into the picture.

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Then, on the 9 pm news on television, after he had filed an application under the right to information seeking the Army report on which Express said it had based its story, General Singh went for the jugular, both against Express and its editor.

In an interview with Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief of Times Now, Gen Singh said:

“This paper first accuses me of trying to topple the government in Delhi, now it accuses me of trying to topple the government in J&K…. How did Indian Express know about it? If there is a leak (of the Army report) to a paper, why can’t it be made available to me?

“I don’t consider Indian Express a newspaper which can be believed. Sorry. A paper which can dub a movement of two units on simple mobilization as a ‘coup’ should be thrown out into the wastepaper basket.”

Express reported the latter criticism in its editions today, quoting Times Now, but conveniently excised the middle portion, which questioned the veracity of its April 2012 “C” report.

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Then, in an interview Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN, Gen Singh answered a few questions:

Who is behind this ‘motivated report’?

When I say motivated, I am only going by what the Indian Express has reported. With my previous experience of their putting out a ‘coup’ story, I feel it is highly motivated…. If a newspaper can have this report or parts of this report, I think I as a person directly affected must have a copy.

Sir, you have also today on social media made comments about the editor of the Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta.

I don’t know if it is a personal battle for him. If a person comes to my house, has a meal, understands the situation, then goes and does a banner headline on spooking the government, and a coup, based on two units that moved, what was the agenda?

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In an interview with Nitin A. Gokhale, NDTV‘s defence editor, 17 days before the Express report, Gen Singh said:

(M)isunderstandings are created deliberately by people who hobnob with certain journalists, who seem to be having an axe to grind and there are some of them very prominent ones. Why the axe is there to grind, whether it is because they have been bought over or something else I really can’t comment on. But it appears quite obvious.

In this particular instance there was, you know, banner headlines. Army is spying, Army is bugging, Army is doing A, B and C…

I have tried to clarify it once earlier.  But I find same reports keep coming up. In fact this great paper called Indian Express had done the same report with just a minor variation of figure by the same reporter couple of months back. He has brought it up again, same thing no change in it, just a minor variation. So much for the journalistic talent that this paper has….

For a paper to say Rs 8 crore is missing, have they seen the logbooks? Have they gone through the details?  They haven’t. No, I think lot of things that this paper has been doing is totally wrong.

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While the rest of mainstream media stayed silent on the Twitter war between Gen Singh and Shekhar Gupta, it briefly popped up as a news item on NewsX, the news channel.

But, on social media, as the paper’s reputation was taking a pounding, the Indian Express scion Anant Goenka felt it fit to enter the debate (here, here).

#”To the haters: you can allege a variety of vested interests but our history shows we take up issues that no one else has the courage….

#”Fact is that Express is and has always been feared because we don’t care who hates us…I think our readers expect nothing less from us.”

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Update: NewsX, which put out a news report on V.K. Singh’s allegations against Shekhar Gupta, issued a clarification on 14 October 2013:

“News X would like to clarify that its report of September 23 in no capacity an endorsement of the claim or reflects the editorial view held by the channel with regard to Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekha Gupta. News X was only reporting the Tweets as put out by the General on his individual account.”

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Also read: What they are saying about Express ‘sue’ report

Adolf Hitler reacts to Indian Express ‘C’ report

Is the Indian Express a pro-establishment newspaper?

‘People know TV news is just entertainment’

Pratap Bhanu Mehta president of the Delhi-based thinktank, Centre for Policy Research (CPR), in an interview with Karan Thapar for CNN-IBN:

Karan Thapar: How do you view the Indian media? Do you share justice Markandey Katju‘s concern, that by and large it is obsessive, it is narrow-minded, it focuses on middle class – urban concerns, ignoring the real problems that affect India such as poverty, such as joblessness.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: My concern is not so much the issues it covers. It is that whatever it does, with a few exceptions, it is not bringing sufficient rigour and it is not performing frankly the function of being an honest broker in very, very important debates. The media is failing Indian democracy, I would agree with justice Katju to that extent.

Thapar: I know you are not a participant on television debates but do you watch them or do you find them off putting or irritating?

Mehta: You watch them in the way you would watch an entertainment show. In fact my own sense is that I think people are very wisely making the distinction that news is entertainment. It is not news.

Thapar: But of course it should not be entertainment at all.

Mehta: But of course it should not be. It’s exactly that confusion of roles that is crippling us.

Thapar: So TV debates may be entertaining but in terms of informing, educating, illuminating, they fail.

Mehta: Actually they are quite dangerous because they present a false construction of what public opinion is.

Read the full interview: Pratap Bhanu Mehta

Karan Thapar takes on Shekhar Gupta on credit

Even after a quarter-century or thereabouts of television interviewing, Karan Thapar‘s competitive edge has far from dimmed.

In his weekly column in the Hindustan Times (whose failed TV venture Home TV he helped set up in the 1990s), Thapar takes offence at the Indian Express and Mail Today for not crediting him for an interview with Union minister Kamal Nath; in fact going so far as to accuse them of “unethical practices”.

Briefly, Nath told Thapar for his CNN-IBN show Devil’s Advocate on September 7 that the CBI was well within its rights to question the PM in the coal scam if need be.

The interview, he says was recorded at 1 pm on Saturday; by 3 pm CNN-IBN began running news clips; by 3:15 pm excerpts were placed on IBN Live, the channel’s website; and by 5 pm emailed to the press, including Express and Mail Today.

Thapar writes:

“Imagine my surprise when on Sunday (September 8) I discovered that the Express and Mail Today had done identical interviews, with Kamal Nath making exactly the same point.

“Was this a coincidence? Or was it just conceivable they had seen the news clips and the excerpts and decided to put the same question to Kamal Nath so they could claim he had given the same answer to them as well?

“In other words, had they cleverly converted our interview into their own?

“Curious but also upset, I telephoned the minister. He confirmed my suspicions. Shortly after CNN-IBN began running news clips, the papers contacted him and asked the same questions about the PM and the CBI….

“I felt this was unethical. In fact, to be honest, it felt like ‘theft’. So I smsed a complaint to Shekhar Gupta, the editor of the Express, and Sandeep Bamzai, the editor of Mail Today.

“Shekhar didn’t respond. Sandeep did. He accepted what had happened was “bad form” and promised a clarification on Monday (September 9). It appeared on page 24. If I hadn’t known it was coming, I would have missed it….

“But these days honesty, it seems, is a diminishing virtue. On that count, sadly, journalists can’t claim to be very different from politicians.”

For the record, Thapar acknowledges that Press Trust of India, Business Standard and The Hindu carried Thapar’s interview, duly crediting CNN-IBN.

Also, for the record, Shekhar Gupta hosts the Walk the Talk interview show on NDTV that competes with Thapar’s Devil Advocate.

But the questions are obvious: can a TV interviewer who sends out a press release before an interview is aired claim exclusivity if a newspaper approaches the same interviewee with the same questions? Are Union ministers like Nath really “exclusive” material?

Read the full column: Honesty is a diminishing virtue