Monday, August 29, 2011

The Media Is Never With People...

Mass media biased towards Anna Hazare's cause say experts according to an article in DNA on Sunday, August 28. Bhaskar Rao of Centre for Media Studies adds in the same article: "By its very nature, television is a very biased medium. Whenever a big issue or a campaign like this crops up, news channels try to be on top of it. This is the trend that prevails everywhere," …But unfortunately in the Anna Hazare case, I think TV channels have overdone it…The main issue here is corruption, which is the elephant, but the media has given extensive publicity to "the elephant riders, which is Anna Hazare and his team". There was a lone voice of support for news television channels from noted journalist and Editor and Managing Director of Pioneer newspaper Chandan Mitra, who feels it was not the case.

Everything in the lines from DNA that I’ve quoted could be true. Except that the article misses certain points about the media. Let’s take Chandan Mitra. Apart from being the MD of The Pioneer, he is also BJP member of the RS. That’s double a privilege. The Pioneer is a journal that had many writers severely criticising the Anna movement. One even called it “spreading canards..” Truth is, the Anna campaign made an unwritten proposition to the media – ‘You are with us or against us’. Given that terrible choice there was only one way for the media to jump – the people way. TimesNow took the lead and the rest just had to follow. And follow they did with the best attempt to draft the worst camouflaged tarnishing of the campaign. They pulled out Mahesh Bhatt, Nandita Rao, Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander, Nandan Nilekani and many more that they could lay their hands on. All these worthies did their best to tarnish Anna’s campaign and hold the govt line that all this was against the constitution. Constitution! It’s a word you’d have heard more in the last ten days than ever before in the last 3 decades. Suddenly, constitution was the final line of defence for everyone against Anna’s campaign.

People may have some idea of the privileges of the media but let me give a few examples. Even the lowest level employee in a well-known media outlet extracts the greatest privileges from the system. For instance, you could glide through a curfew area if you flash your media house business card even if you are not a journalist or not have a permit. You can bargain the best discounts at hotels and many other shopping outlets. Your payments could get priority in government organisations if you’re from the media. Even a passport office gives you priority if you flash your media card. The parties of big media houses and their indulgences are something to behold. If you ever happen to attend one of them you would hardly believe these outlets actually serve the general public. So it’s only in a situation like the Anna movement that many media outlets had a compulsion to tilt in favour of common people. They had no choice. Otherwise, throughout the year they are more or less an extended PR department of the government. How do I know? I’ve been there and done that in my association with one of  the highest circulated journals in the country and probably the world. It is absolutely shameful!

The current media as we know it has come about since the reforms of 1991. Prior to that, and maybe even now, the biggest advertiser is not private enterprise but the government. The very survival of many media outlets depends on the govt. In such a situation can the media really be expected to be on the side of facts and truth? Despite all their claims those in the media who accept govt awards like the Padmas must seriously question their own conscience. I was witness to the terrible reporting of the Gujarat riots by star media celebs like Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai. They are also the ones that whipped up the most emotions during Kandahar. They are now Padma Shri award winners. Both NDTV and CNN-IBN have awarded Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi sham awards like ‘Indian of the year’. Are you seriously expecting them to represent the people’s concerns?

On January 17, 1991 I was at home in London. It’s a historic day. I watched till late night the first Gulf war that broke out. Even the BBC that normally shut down broadcast then at midnight carried on airing reports till around 3am. In less than an hour CNN, an otherwise unknown cable channel, became an international household name. History hangs on tiny chances. In the current Anna campaign TimesNow grabbed that tiny chance to become the channel to grab the most eyeballs. If the other competitors followed,  it was out of sheer compulsion and not out of any sense of reporting factually. Thus NDTV, CNN-IBN, Headlines Today and even all the Hindi channels rushed to stand by the people. This time they were all also watching people on the social networks. So, in normal times a media that is a slave of the government had no choice but to be in the right books. Make no mistake, in the days and weeks to come, some of these channels will revert back to their normal position of standing for the govt. They will do everything to indulge in mud-slinging against the Anna Hazare team just as they tried to during the initial stage of the anti-corruption movement in April and June (Against Ramdev).

Ashutosh, the MD of IBN’s Hindi channel, has openly accused some English channel media celebs of being govt spokespersons. He mentions how some of them have acquired luxury flats and residences in a discussion conducted by Karan Thapar. Believable? Absolutely! Go and take a look at the kind of flats and bungalows that our media celebrities live in. You will not find that very different from Bollywood celebrities. Rahul Kanwal even tweets about rising interests bothering home buyers, but I really doubt it’s a problem that seriously confronts him.

Following the outbursts of Kiran Bedi and Om Puri, the Parliament has moved privilege motions against them. Hmmmm! PRIVILEGE is the key word. The media reports it but it fails in their job to defend the right of free speech of these individuals. That parliament has been endowed with such extraordinary powers is wrong. The media should be standing up for these two individuals despite their buffoonery. They will not. What they said and did may be excessive but they weren’t wrong. It’s the way people feel. What does it say about a journalist who cannot get near the people and feels comfortable in her studio when she can rush to Egypt or Libya? Barkha Dutt has learned one thing at least, that being crooked doesn’t pay! It equates with you with politicians who constantly take the people for granted.

Democracy is not a relationship between the rulers and the ruled. It’s a process between and among equals. The moment parliament thinks people are subordinate they go terribly wrong. People are not subordinates. They are the reason parliament exists. They are the reason constitution exists. They are the reason why media exists. The day our media realises that and learns to be honest our parliament will be honest. Till then, our media, more than our politicians, poses the greatest danger to our democracy.

19 comments :

  1. An excellent post. You have bared neatly the means employed by mediacrooks. Hats off to you. I wish and hope that media will become more responsible, provide us an objective coverage as news happens and do not impose their views.

    Ram

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  2. They are back to their regular antics earlier than you think.

    Last night panel discussions on various channel were worth a watch.

    the NDTV hindi version was worst. The usual and new lunatic Aruna Roy. there was one muslin lady from UP. whe was pitched against Kiran Bedi. Kiran was dumbstruck with the accusation she made.

    So far so good. as a poor lady was denied the stage, but further when when she ranted about the movement being RSS funded, they cuts her off. It so much proves the lady was a paid bakra on the channel.

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  3. You have virtually taken the pant(ie)s off for most of our celebrity journalists.. such crooks they are but in front of the cameras they shamelessly question every one as if they are angels descended from heaven, the likes of Burquas, Radeeps, Karan Thapars , first let them look at the murk in their backs before opening their nasty mouths

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  4. Barkha Dutt's loaded questions to prove her pre-determined agenda are now getting longer and longer. Her choice of panellists gives the game away as does the talk-time given to those towing the Congress line vis-a-vis those that don't.

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  5. barkha dutt interprets in english what her interviewees reply to her in english. but wait a minute her guests like Mander, Aruna roy, Nandita rao and especially Mahesh Bhatt talk in 'idiotic and unintelligible '. their answers and her interpretation are 'gobbledegook' when not malicious and insiduous

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  6. Ravinar, what is a stark reality cannot be brushed aside. The buffoons of the parliament and the socalled spokespersons of different political outfits sang in one chorus that constitution and Parliament are supreme to people of the country. I pity them. Look at the way Mani Shankar Aiyer lambasted Anna Hazare saying that even before Anna Hazare was driving his truck in the army, his Congress party was discussing the Lokpal bill. That was some 10 to 12 years ago. By that admission or claim, MS Aiyer confirmed the fact that his party was hatching on the said bill till now.

    You said it right vide the concluding para , I quote “The moment parliament thinks people are subordinate they go terribly wrong. People are not subordinates. They are the reason parliament exists. They are the reason constitution exists.”

    I remember the words of our grand baniya (no offence meant) who said as follows:

    "A customer is the most important visitor on our premises.
    He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him.
    He is not an interruption in our work - he is the purpose of it.
    We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to serve him.
    - Mahatma Gandhi"

    In the final analysis, it is the people who are supreme and the elected representatives are there to serve them.It is the responsibility of the elected representatives to feel the pulse of the people to bring in necessary legislations whenever necessary. And that is the truth.

    That we needed an uproar of the kind that has taken place under the stewardship of Anna Hazare is lamentable, for if only our elected representative have sensed the mood of the people on time, there would not have been a need for the sense of the house to romp home a bill.

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  7. @ Emmaarcee

    So well said.. we exist because they do, we exist because our forefathers existed and we exist that our future exists...

    Well said, sir!

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  8. It would have been tricky for any media in the world to cover this kind of unprecedented event and outpouring of support for a simple social activist and it would struggle to strike a balance so as to not appear pro-establishment as well as not endorse anarchy.

    Now, if we, for a moment, leave aside the commendable fact the Anna's movement and message resonated across the entire spectrum of middle class in India, we would realize that the somewhat-undemocratic demands of this preotest movement (which was democratic in nature, per se) served to instill highly unrealistic expectations in most of us. The kind of janlokpal proposed by Anna's civil society group is hardly a sufficient mechanism to tackle the astronomical level of corruption in this country. One of the best yet simple critique of JLP can be found here : http://acorn.nationalinterest.in/2011/08/14/faq-why-is-anna-hazare-wrong-and-lok-pal-a-bad-idea/

    This is not to take away from the positives of the movement, in that Indians of all hues and backgrounds came together for a common cause that affected the society collectively and not merely a given interest group in society.

    This complex situation, where neither the unreasonableness of the demands of Team Anna nor the popular expression by the people could be exclusively ignored, indeed posed a dilemma to our esteemed media houses. Frankly, in my opinion, it was not impossible for media channels to take a nuanced approach, where they could have brought attention to both the positives and negatives of this movement in equal measure.

    As always, what cause the miserable failure of our media to achieve this singular goal was its utter and shameless DISHONESTY. The reasons for dishonesty are well-documented and are aimed at essentially maintaining stauts quo and the continuing with the symbiotic relationship with the current powerful and age-old ruling party. Ravinar uses his own personal experience to point out the nature of bounties received by the media personnel and top journalists for their servility.

    This DISHONESTY of the media prevented it from being able to presents both sides of the picture, which I feel, is essential for contentious debates in any mature democracy. While unabated coverage of the fast and the popular street protests was done well (even if done out of compulsion of TRPs), a GENUINE critique of the movement was not forthcoming. This is not say there was no criticism. On the contrary, it was quite immense -> it can be observed from the various tweets of popular journalists criticizing the movement on various grounds, even as their respective channels frantically covered the protests. What was missing, like I said, was a genuine, constructive and honest evaluation and analysis of the situation. Most of the media channels offered criticism that toed the line the Congress party and/or the left-liberal activists (for the most part, the views of the two overlap). Thus, we saw the likes of Arundhati Roy, Shabnam Hashmi, Javed Akhta, Kanchan Iliah Mahesh Bhatt (the last one always makes me chuckle. Bhatt? Really?) offer red herring such as Hindu right wing conspiracy, anti-Dalit, anti-minority as reasons to oppose the movement. Of course, these found no favour with the public because, in fact, we finally had a movement that transcended these petty biases. The media had a bright opportunity to overcome its own biases as well, for a change, and offer a genuine, constructive debate on the pros and cons of a JLP and the larger issue of corruption itself. But these insights were sorely lacking. What we found instead was the media upto its usual mischief. A few journalists may have offered some logical criticism of the JLP (albeit on a forum of limited reach such as twitter or an online blog), but these were bound to be looked upon with suspicion because of the general credibility crisis that Indian media suffers from today.

    In my opinion, it was a chance at redemption that the Indian media squandered.

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  9. I hope you have noticed NDTV and CNN-IBN's attitude for the people who were at the RLG. Majority of the ending remarks by the reporters were like "Question now arises Whether this was the right way of making a protest to force the parliament and constitution?" This was said by the NDTV guy again and again even after Anna discontinued his fast. Hats off for the people who were at the RLG who did not take any offence for the repoter's bigotry. What a shame. So i differ from your point of view that Media was with the people under the pressure from people/TRP/TimesNow. The reality was media was never with the people and there were "many degrees of separation", just being there at RLG with so many people assembles did not necessarily mean that the Media was really "WITH" the people. Just one act of voilence would have facilitated the Media to on an overdrive and return to their agenda and they would have not lost a second in shaming the Team Anna. Luckily team Anna had some very good support from from some ex-media guys who guided the Team Anna through each blocks towards success. This was unfortunately not the case with Ramdev. Sad..it is.
    -Schwzik

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  10. @ Schwzik

    What does the title of the post say? Hahaha! Yes, some channels kept asking leading questions in the hope of getting some divisive answers but didnt succeed much. So they had to keep up the charade of being with the protests. The last desperate struggle was of Rajdeep Sardesai even offering a 5-point program to settle the crisis....

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  11. Ravinar, don,t agree that chandan mitra is crooked as other media celebrity. He is the one of the sensible , articulate person who talks sane things
    we come to this stage (of mass movement ) because we could not defeat the current government in the last election because of media bias ..telling all kind of lies like .. if BJP ..narendra modi.. Varun gandhi .. RSS ..propagating false seculirism as tricks to silent the oppositions..
    I also do not think media is crooked because they are waiting for govt advertising ..they are crooked because of ideology ..getting fund from anti national and currupt and want to keep gandhi dynasty .. (even BJP govt would have given add revenue to them ) if you remember mediacrooks even during NDA rule created situation in favour of congress for example against india shining, kandhar hijak case .talakha scandal ..so it is not that media is bothered for Govt Advertising ..

    current news channel is also not behaving like news reporting .. there sentences are biased and misleading forget about the the debate they act.

    we are talking curruption at the top level and i think only election(defeating the currupt govt) can give the viable solution . Bringing new set of legislation won't help as we already have anti curruption unit ,CBI ,CVC etc ..
    see how a currupt govt was selecting a currupt CVC(Thomas) .. in the same way what is the gurranty that Lokayukkta will be fair.. see what the did in Karanataka .. and how the Congi covt at centre is forcefully installing a Lokayukta in Gujarat ..

    Thanks,
    Pankaj

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  12. @ Pankaj

    Thanks.. The post doesnt make any comment about Chandan Mitra other than his dual privilege of being in the media as also the RS. The articles in his paper doesnt mean a direct comment on him as a mediaperson/MP.

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  13. Think about the movement without Anna. Think about the said elephant without Mahut. Could it compel lawmakers to call an emergency session of parliament on Saturday? It is because of media only, people got know everything live in their drawing rooms. Yes, there are issues other than this, which could have been highlighted as well. All the media are not in the same line. Even some of them still campaign against Anna. If viewers want, they can switch over to a different taste.

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  14. I think you are wrong at least with Anna case.As the movement is for people and india.Media has no chance to support this.This is not any cricket event and filmy.why ur not blame media when they show more on cricket and film.Noone will agree with you.

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  15. India desperately needs people like the one who wrote this article. when I watch star news or other media channels, I wonder why nobody is able to see the obvious. how it becomes a controversy if annaji wrote a letter where he feels he wants to expand hi team but the corrupt politicians and false promises are all absolved without a discussion. the politicians and our very pm manmohan promised to bring a strong lokpal in aug after april 5th fast and brought a lootpal instead which threatens whistle blowers of punishment up to 5 years and assures the corrupt that lokpal can do nothing aginst corrupt as it is going to be under its feet. All this makes my beleif more and more strong that we are not living in a DEMOCRACY. It is worse than dictatorship because, in a dictatorship we know the enemy clearly. but here we have elected dictators who splurge money, muscle and liqour and get votes and call themselves elected representatives. we are heading for a disaster if we dont fight this. we are not living in a democracy. SITUATION IS VERY GRAVE

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  16. The media needs to concentrate on the topic of the movement that is anti corruption and not people who are against it.

    IF they are digging holes in anna's team then i would really ask them to give the list of things possessed by people in parliament..let's see how many come clean chit!

    TO the RUBBISH MEDIA SERVICE IN INDIA..."GUYS YOU YOURSELF NEED A REALITY CHECK"

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  17. I couldn't agree with the Article more. These so called 'journalists' like Barkha, Arnab, Rajdeep, his wife just scream on TV. The comments sent to them are screened and only which favours them are flashed. They should be regulated. They are trying to get away by saying...freedom of epression...they are holding the country to ransom...I couldn't agree more with the interview the chairman of Press council of india gave to Karan thapar...these are poeple with little knowledge and dangerous

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  18. Even TIMES NOW has become a stooge of Congress now, I used to wait for Arnab's News hour debates once and now they are all worthless topics with pseudo-intellectuals and pseudo-secular self claimed scholars creating a clamor and wasting the precious time, which was once used to pull the government collars and make them answer some tough questions.

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  19. wonderfully written and should also go and see this: http://scamsutra.com/ here this person gives example with pics and all to prove that how things are twisted the way THEY want it..

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