Lobbyists, who in another age would have been called brokers, fixers, middle men, etc, are the flavour of the month this summer in Delhi with the (official) tapping of phones of top lobbyist Neera Radia aka Niira Radia allegedly revealing the names of two prominent media personalities.
Ergo: a panel discussion.
Background reading: Outlook: Favourite hobby horses
Foundation for Media Professionals panel discussion: “Can rural reporting be sexy?”
Monday, 25 January 2010, India International Centre auditorium, New Delhi.
10.30 am to 1 pm.
The full text of the press release issued by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) of the address made by Prabhash Joshi at a seminar held in New Delhi on Wednesday, October 28, 2009, on the blurring of the line between editorial and advertisements in the Indian media. Joshi, a former editor of the Hindi daily Jansatta, passed away last week, nine days after the address.
sans serif records with deep regret the passing away of the veteran Hindi editor and a fearless voice against media malfeasance, Prabhash Joshi, in New Delhi on Friday morning. He was 72 years old.
Founder editor of the Hindi daily Jansatta published by the Indian Express group, Joshi was a key member of the inner circle of the paper’s fiesty proprietor, Ramnath Goenka. Equally proficient in English, Joshi served as resident editor of the Express in Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Delhi.
Joshi had lately taken on a lead role against the selling of editorial space for advertisers by rapacious Indian media houses. He wrote a searing four-part series on the topic in Jansatta, which he continued to serve as editorial advisor after his retirement.
He was also a key speaker at a seminar* on the subject held by the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) in the capital last week, where he revealed the plight of the BJP leader Lalji Tandon, whose campaign in the recent elections was not covered by a single newspaper because he declined to pay for coverage. Tandon won despite the media blackout.
Fittingly, for an avid cricket fan, Prabhash Joshi’s innings came to an end as he watched India fight back in a one-day international match against Australia in Hyderbad, in which Sachin Tendulkar scored the innings of his life while crossing 17,000 runs in his career.
* Disclosures apply
Photograph: courtesy Tehelka
Read the PTI report here: Noted journalist Prabhash Joshi dies
Also read: Searching for Prabhash Joshi on Google
“Paid News”—editorial space being sold for a fee, without revealing to news consumers that it is an advertisement—is suddenly all the rage, with the Magsaysay Award-winning journalist P. Sainath weighing in on the issue.
In just the last week, the Foundation for Media Professionals (FMP) has conducted a seminar on the topic*; the communist party leader Prakash Karat has dropped some pearls of wisdom; The Hindu has editorially commented on the issue and warned of a follow-up editorial; and media-watchers like B.V. Rao, formerly of the Indian Express, Star News and Zee News, and Mahesh Vijapurkar, formerly of The Hindu, have thrown fresh light on the subject.
But the phenomenon of “paid-for news” is really the institutionalisation of an individual transgression.
Individual reporters and editors with feeble spines—in politics, in business, in cinema, in sport; in English, Hindi and every language; in every part of the country—have always been available for grabs. They could be relied upon to mortgage their minds and do the needful in exchange for cash, cars, government accommodation, house plots, and other sundry benefits (as this news item in The Pioneer hints at).
A whole band of editors and senior journalists were not loathe to calling up chief ministers (and other movers and shakers) for advertisements to shore up their bottomlines.
And several have done far worse.
In a way, they were only marginally different from “paid news” and are, in many ways, its precursor.
The key difference is that the bean counters in media houses have realised that, in a downturn, there is a small mountain of money to be made by monetising editorial space, and that advertisement as news can put some black on the bottomline. But can mediapersons have any objections over the institutionalisation of a retrograde practice without tackling the individual sins?
* Disclosures apply
Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Pioneer
The names of the key engineers who demolished the great wall in Indian journalism—the proprietors, the publishers, the brand managers, the spineless editors and journalists who refused to stand up to the advertiesrs and space sellers—are missing from the gabfest of the Foundation for Media Professionals.
Were they not invited?
Or did they decline to come?
Dialogue: Undercover reporters, scam busters or abettors?
Thursday, August 20, 10.30 am to 1 pm
India International Centre, New Delhi
Partner: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung