Thursday, March 29, 2012

Tweet-Crimes & The Real Watchdogs

After Radiagate rattled the media and the nation CNN-IBN ran a programme on lobbying and whether it should be legalised. Supporting the legalisation of lobbying were quite a few tweets that did not seem genuine. Fake tweets have been employed some channels to further their agenda quite frequently and consistently. Take for instance a Twitter handle called @campuscola. Tweets from this account frequently appear on TimesNow but if you look closely almost all of Campuscola’s tweets are to just one programme: Arnab Goswami’s  NewsHour on TimesNow. Naturally, it makes one wonder why anyone would be so obsessed with the NewsHour. But unlike fake Twitter accounts there are many others who have actually become the real watchdog over the mainstream media.

If TV news is instant and a hit and run operation it no more escapes the scrutiny of the social network just as instantly. And to suit their bias, slant and agenda news channels are now famous for twisting and manipulating tweets hoping nobody will notice. But the exact opposite is happening. Every goof up, every deception and every abuse of tweets are instantly spotted by tweeters and relayed over the twitterworld.

Blogger @Scamsutra has painstakingly listed how fake tweets are milked by news channels to further their agenda. His detailed post ‘Milking fake tweets’ around May 2011 has a long list of tweet-crimes by our news channels. He’s not the only one, Anil Kohli (@anilkohli54) started a post in December 2010 on his blog site which he updates frequently with incidents of tweet-abuse by news channels. Apart from tweet-abuse Kohli also lists misuse of videos and tweets manipulated by news channels and you can read the whole lot in his continuing post titled: ‘Twitter a case of Fatal attraction….’

In November 2011 when Sagarika Ghose and CNN-IBN carried out a fraud on its viewers through wilful deception involving a ‘Look-live’ interview of Sri Sri Ravishankar as a LIVE programme, tweeters were quick to expose the channel again. For that sorry episode the channel not only apologised publicly but Sagarika apologised to Sri Sri personally as well. However, I still strongly believe that for such a farce Sagarika should have been sacked from the channel. They don’t seem to learn though. The latest in the continuing episode of tweet-crimes comes from Arnab Goswami’s TimesNow. Arnab was doing his best to rubbish articles on Narendra Modi by TIME magazine and the Brookings Institute. In support of this enthusiastic Modi-bashing TimesNow went on to brazenly manipulate a tweet by me to appear as if it supported the channel’s theories and agenda. The ‘Sack Sagarika’ episode has now forced all channels to prominently display on screen whether the programme is Live or Recorded. This is the power of social network in action.

The abridged and manipulated tweet as used by TimesNow and my original tweet are captured in the pic to the left. This pic was created by another observant Twitter user @Surnell. The original pic of the abridged tweet was captured by another sharp tweeter @DilipSanchora. It is somewhat hard to believe that a channel like TimesNow has operators who can’t seem to understand simple tweets and in their enthusiasm to quote tweets in support of their programme end up twisting up, manipulating and completely altering the meaning of a statement. Are they really that dumb? Quite possible! Are they indulging in wilful tweet-crimes to support their agenda? Quite possible!

All it took was one stern email to TimesNow’s legal cell and within a week they caved in. On March 26 the channel scrolled an apology that ran throughout the duration of its NewsHour programme. The scrolled apology couldn’t be captured on video but this is what the apology read (partly shown in the 2nd pic provided by @Equateall):

On March 19, 2012 a tweet by @mediacrooks was abridged by us ….  the error is regretted and an apology offered”.

That is one part. The better part is that the Press Council of India (PCI) or the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) need not be the only bodies for taking up illegitimate and illegal behaviour by news channels or even other TV channels. Tweeters have become the watchdogs, observers, investigators and evidence providers and do a far better job than PCI or NBA would ever do in keeping TV-crimes in check. I have mentioned a few of the people on Twitter but I am sure there are many more. 

The media celebs who form a huge mafia and once touted their power of peddling anything and being able to influence viewers no longer hold such complete power. The media mafia is as much under scrutiny on Twitter as they imagine they are scrutinising others. This time around, TimesNow has been allowed to get away with an apology but the damage could have been far worse. Hopefully, MSM’s tweet-crimes will stop as with their other crimes.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Saving Shekar's Indian Express

The post ‘India’s Worst Journalists of August 2010 still remains a popular one on this site. That says a lot of what people generally think of our media celebs.Here’s what I wrote then about Shekhar Gupta, the Editor of Indian Express:"He is the chief of a fast-sinking newspaper and bides his free time (of which he has a lot) in a mundane program called "Walk the talk" on NDTV. Voters found a lot of similarities to BBC's 'Simpson's World' but lacking in any substance. Much of the interviews or discussions on this program is a platform to scratch the back of the interviewee. If you are looking for any serious questions or answers this is certainly not a program for you. In fact, some voters have very strongly suggested that the title of the program should  be called  'Time Pass”.

Ramnath Goenka must surely be having sleepless eternity where ever he is with the current state of affairs at the IE. A newspaper that was strongly anti-establishment, stood for courage in reporting and exposed many a misdeed has now been reduced to a doormat and mouthpiece for the Congress. One should read the series ‘Indira as Commerce’ by Arun Shourie which unseated A.R. Antulay as CM of Maharashtra or the IE stories of the Bhagalpur blindings which still stand as India’s best investigative reporting. All that is past. Today there are two IEs. One is Indian Express and the other is the New Indian Express. NIE has a decent circulation of around 2 million, mostly in the South while IE is negligibly sold mostly in the North and West with negligible circulation.

Kingfisher Airlines has been in the news for quite some time now with its financial mess. There was news about SBI willing to bail out Kingfisher but it backed off owing to protests by its own unions. So KFA is currently stranded with its wings clipped. If the Govt. were to step in and bail out KFA, that too is sure to generate a lot of heat and protests. I don’t have financial information about Shekhar Gupta’s IE but I have little doubt that it is being regularly bailed out and on oxygen supplied by the Govt. Of India (GOI). And since such generous doles to a newspaper are not clearly visible to the public, both the GOI and IE can get away with it. And the bank that bails out ‘friendly’ newspapers? Yes, it’s the Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity (DAVP). It falls under the I&B ministry, currently headed by Ms.Ambika Soni.

FullPage Min of Agri Ad
I get at least 3 newspapers of which IE happens to be one. I usually only browse through them as most of the articles and news reports are already on the net before the paper hits you. Let’s take the main paper of IE for Sunday, March 25. What caught my attention was a piece titled “Reinventing Rahul” by Lord Hairstyle Icon. In a cursory glance I found mention of Bollywood and Joy Mukherjee here and there and quit reading further. One of my wiser choices. But what was difficult to escape noticing were three whopping colour ads. Heavy, expensive ads going by the sizes. Not sure, but I am quite certain that this in all-edition ad for the IE.

The IE edition of March 25 has a quarter page of matrimonials, five tender notices from various govt. bodies filling up another quarter page. That’s it! No other real ads of any substance. Let’s get to the colour part of the ads. There are three in-house ‘filler’ ads of IE itself . After that, all that IE had were three whopping colour ads by none other than the GOI

HalfPage Customs Ad
So what’s wrong with that? Well, none of the GOI ads aren’t about anything specific but a general awareness drive for ESIC, Ministry of Agriculture and Customs & Excise. Take a lot at the pics. If you were a commercial organisation valuing the money you spend on ads, would you really be advertising in the IE? With half-page and full-page ads? I seriously doubt that. But that’s not a problem for the GOI as it spends our money as doles for the friendliest of newspapers. I didn’t find the same ads in the TOI, which has a much larger circulation. So naturally, I wonder why this special love and affection by the GOI for Indian Express. Many in the business, even Aditya Sinha of DNA, will tell you how the DAVP works as a ‘Carrot and Stick’ organisation.

HalfPage ESIC Ad
It is for good reason that most media organisations have a special cell or people dedicated to managing and massaging the DAVP and State Information Departments. I have every reason to believe that in the competitive world of newspapers and TV it is hard to survive without GOI doles and bail-outs. This won’t be visible to the public eye therefore not as much outrage as a Kingfisher bail out. It is our hard earned money being spent mindlessly. All that a media outlet has to do is to surrender their soul to the Congress and their credibility to the devil. Staying alive is important. The GOI may be saving many other friendly newspapers and TV channels with our money. Saving Indian Express is one thing! Why should it be with wanton use of our money? The best part? One doesn't have to return these bail-outs, not even interest payments. It's free!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sexed-Up Media Mafia, Caught With Pants Down

The term ‘sexed-up’ for the media came to prominence in 2003. In May 2003 Andrew Gilligan, a BBC journalist, reported allegations that a dossier published by the British Govt of Tony Blair had "sexed up" the military capabilities of Iraq in order to bolster the argument for going to war with the country. Following the scandal Gilligan had to quit his job and there was greater tragedy to follow. Gilligan's source was biological weapons expert David Kelly. Kelly was found dead, having apparently committed suicide, shortly after being identified as the source for the story. That was serious business but where our Indian media is concerned ‘sexing up’ their reports is a fairly routine affair. This becomes even more pronounced on a bad day for their masters, the Congress, and if they could get something to tar the BJP with. Business as usual!

So on March 21, a day when the Congress was wiped out in the by-polls in Andhra Pradesh,  the media mafia found a thrilling story in the form of two BJP MLAs in the Gujarat assembly being caught watching porn pictures. That’s it! From Rajdeep Sardesai’s CNN-IBN to every scumbag’s Aaj Tak and the filthier cousins of NDTV, TimesNow, Headlines Today all went to town with the story from noon till night. TimesNow, of course, is quickly acquiring the status of ‘liars to the nation’ in an effort to beat other English channels for TRP.

All the channels played the video of the MLAs with their Ipads with grainy pictures and the Ipad images blurred. Not one channel bothered to stop and verify if there was really evidence of the MLAs actually watching obscene material on their Ipads. Truth is: The channels did have the evidence to the contrary but they chose to stick with the lies. The videos, without the blurring, can be watched here and here. One posted by Deshgujarat and the second one by Congress leader in Gujarat, Arjun Modhvadia. In what is visible one MLA is actually scrolling pages from left to right. Hardly looks like keenly watching anything in particular at all.

The channels played the video, grabbed by a journalist called Janak Purohit of Gujarat Samachar (A local daily from Ahmedabad) who claimed to have reported the incident to the Speaker of the Gujarat assembly. So today, after the Forensic Laboratory cleared the Ipads of having any obscene content and thus clearing the MLAs, the channels are playing the same videos again. This time the video images weren’t blurred and it was quite obvious that there was no evidence of any dirty pictures being watched. So why did the channels blur the images earlier? Simple! Spread the lies, cause as much damage to BJP and through that to Narendra Modi, and then later claim no evidence. The old rule: Stick the convict badge, then worry about the crime and evidence.

Interestingly, Rajdeep Sardesai, the father of the media mafia’s conscience, tweeted about the incident (at different times) and here are some:

I think it's a tad unfair to pronounce the Gujarat MLAs guilty of watching porn without any corroborative evidence. (22.10 March 21)
Shoot and scoot journalism will be the bane of our profession. We pass judgements too easily, often without fact checking. (22.16 March 21)
@dineshdasa1 Well, I said it 2 days ago, the BJP MLAs alleged to have watched porn were not given fair hearing in media. (17.20 March 23)

All that after a lot of damage was attempted. Read the last tweet above: “..not given fair hearing in media”. Haha! This moron actually believes media has the right to conduct a hearing? This is the same disease that Arnab Goswami, Barkha Dutt, Rahul Kanwal and others suffer from. They have indeed come to believe that their sexed up channels are some form of court where hearings are conducted and verdicts dispensed instantly like a toilet roll dispenser.

There is an online news site called On this issue this site had a quick double take. Here’s how the site reported the incident at first: ‘Gujarat porngate brought to you by BJP again’ (March 21) : “Once bitten, twice shy (not) that's how the proverb should run for the Bharatiya Janata party. It appears the saffron party has not appeased the gods, clearly as the 'moral' fabric of the upright political outfit is being shredded by its own members over and over again”. Now, a day later on March 22, the same site somehow discovered extra-ordinary wisdom and intelligence to report: ‘Porngate’ exposes faction ridden Gujarat Congress’. The second report implies that one faction of the Congress sexed up the fake porngate incident to draw attention away from a by-poll win by another faction of the Congress.

After Radiagate and Barkha Dutt’s brokering for Congress, this is what Rajdeep Sardesai had to say: “Conversation between source and journo is legitimate. if quid pro quo is shown, expose it. else, dont destroy hard earned reputations”. This, when it was clearly evident what Barkha was up to and the man was defending the indefensible. Yet, when it comes to others the question of facts does not bother him one bit, especially if it concerns BJP or its members. To his credit, Rajdeep does express the flaws of the media when his conscience strikes. But all the anchors must wonder how and what they would feel if such a terrible report about them had been aired. That they were watching porn while at work. They must wonder what their families, friends and colleagues would think.

Our sexed up media owe a sincere apology to the two MLAs to whom they have caused immense distress and damage. I wouldn’t be surprised if the MLAs sued that scumbag called Janak Purohit and even some news channels for the fake report. This is not the first time the media mafia has done a ‘whack job’ on BJP members. The BS Yedurappa case is still not very old nor is the Shehla Masood case. The recent death of IPS officer Narendra Singh in MP which the media attributes to a mining mafia is another case where reports were turned in without full facts.

Till now some journalistic bimbos were compared with Rakhee Sawant … not too long before these bimbos are equated with Poonam Pandey for sexing up reports. Hard to believe that a noble profession like journalism is now being completely run by a mafia of pimps of the Congress who try everything to sex up their reports and still fail to launch. This time they were caught with their pants down and skirts up!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TIME Strikes, TimesNow Bites

Many will remember that grand ‘pre-screening’ scheme of Kapil Sibal to silence major Internet operators. What you should also recall is that it wasn’t some Indian media outlet that broke the story, it was the New York Times. In much a similar manner the Indian media, and the Congress have  been rattled by certain media events. The disgustful conduct of the Congress over Salman Rushdie during the Jaipur Literature Festival to appease muslims received a resounding slap from the voters of UP. As if that wasn’t enough Rushdie came to India over the weekend for the India Today Conclave and had the choicest words for them. “All the years of kneeling before mullahs didn’t work, Rahul” said Rushdie figuratively spanking Rahul Gandhi and the Congress. It’s a slap for our media too. They didn’t stand up when it counted the most against a communal Congress. Well, just as NYT had exposed the sinister plans of Sibal two other articles the last week rattled the servantile Indian media; one from TIME magazine and the other from the reputed think tank of Brookings Institute. Increasingly, any misdeed of the Congress or UPA now seem to be coming out only through foreign publications while our own media mafia seem hell-bent on covering up for them.

It wasn’t just any other article. It was about Narendra Modi! TIME featured Modi as a cover story and Brookings wrote a sort of two-page essay on him. Both were almost identical in their story – Modi, the most loved and loathed politician in India, an effective administrator and asked the question if he can lead India. That’s it. And suddenly the Skype fell on Teesta Setalvad, Vinod Sharma, Mukul Sinha, Shaktisinh Gohil (Gujarat Congress), Sagarika Ghose, Rajdeep Sardesai and, of course, Arnab Goswami.

A few weeks ago during the 10th anniversary of Godhra it already appeared our media had nothing to really say and was suffering from Modi-fatigue. The lies and untruths about Modi were no more being bought by people. It was clearly ‘Game over for Indian media’ and as with the Sibal censorship plan it is now the foreign media that is reporting on Indian issues with a lot more balance. The same TIME is often lampooned in the US for its bad reporting on US but their world editions do report fairly on other countries. You can expect a similar behaviour from Indian journals where you will find them being more objective about Syria or Egypt but absolutely biased and untruthful when it comes to India. This is obviously because in India our media is driven by their own political agenda of serving the Congress. TIME and Brookings do not have such a compulsion.

Teesta Setalvad (who else?) naturally responded by stating it was a PR exercise by Modi. She brandished Frontline and Outlook magazines, with cover stories about Modi and Gujarat riots, as proof of TIME not being reliable. Oh yeah! Frontline and Outlook are fountainhead of honesty and fair journalism, in her dreams. The Gujarat Congress responded with: “Even Laden and Saddam Hussein were featured on TIME cover”. They forgot Gandhi and Nehru were also on TIME cover so Shaktisinh Gohil and Arjun Modhvadia, Gujarat Congress leaders, may now need to ponder if Gandhi-Nehru are also in the same league as Laden and Saddam. Sagarika Ghose of CNN-IBN, the journalistic-bimbo, even suggested TIME may not help Modi escape his “Image trap”. Haha! If the articles in TIME and Brookings were worthless why were these people so worked up and agitated? ‘Pulitzer winner’ Shobhaa De (Yes her name has two As) even asked “Who reads TIME magazine anymore… drop all the fuss about Narendra Modi, who cares”? LOL! Yes, she doesn’t care that’s why she had to tweet her wisdom over the issue.

The best, of course, was saved for by TimeNow. Nobody does it better than Arnab the Armpit. His pompous suggestion: “India is too big to be determined by opinions in TIME or Brookings”. Nobody said TIME or Brookings were in any way the opinions of India but you can trust Arnab to see imaginary devils. And he brought the Congress spokesperson, Vinod Sharma of Hindustan Times (Yes the same guy with the DGP Rathore smirk), to set the record straight. I don’t think TIME or Brookings may influence many opinions but they surely managed to rattle Vinod Sharma into a Raging Bull, who wasn’t willing to let anyone else speak. What’s Vinod’s argument? That he would have accepted an article favouring Narendra Modi in ‘The Economist’ rather than TIME. After his fretting, fuming and kicking and screaming for a few minutes Vinod Sharma had to be chastised by India’s Bahu, Smriti Irani. After being badgered and interrupted frequently, she had a good estimate of how Agent Vinod might be treating his staffers and had to remind him: “I am not one of your staff writers that you can snuff out… let me finish”. From being a great alternative to Congress channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN Arnab has reduced TimesNow to a mere doormat of the party. Worse still, like the other two cousins TimesNow too has started quoting tweets in support of their nonsense.

I could hardly believe on being told by friends on Twitter that TimesNow quoted a tweet of mine during the hearings against TIME and Brookings. I really have to wonder if TimesNow has sunk that low to be quoting MediaCrooks, an account that regularly lampoons our media. So it was indeed a surprise on learning they quoted me as under:

@Mediacrooks: “India is too big to be determined by a TIME or Brookings article..” 

I should be so lucky and thrilled that a news channel should be so fair and balanced to quote one of its most consistent critics. Ah well, some clerk at TimesNow forgot to read the name and the account handle. Enthusiasm! The actual tweet read as under:

@Mediacrooks: “Arnab, If India is too big to be determined by a TIME or Brookings article why are you debating it? Who r u fooling? @thenewshour @timesnow”

This is not the first time a news channel has misquoted and misused a tweet to appear as if it supports the channels theory. That’s the lesser problem. But it is this same twisted manner in which news reports are made or stories are spun in the media that should be of concern to any viewer or reader. It is the consistent lies that the India media has perpetrated that make articles by TIME and Brookings not so much about Narendra Modi but about exposing the lies of our media. That’s why it hurts them.

All the carefully crafted lies and untruths about Narendra Modi and Gujarat were already coming undone in bits and pieces. But they are now coming undone in torrents. The media mafia’s turf is under constant threat by the likes of Rushdie, TIME, Brookings and more will come up from abroad. TimesNow is not the only one using lies to peddle their debates. It’s a disease across the Indian media. TIME has struck, one can only hope our media hears the bell tolling

Update: Here's a screen shot of TimesNow manipulating my tweet.Thanks to @DilipSanchora who sent this in:

Friday, March 16, 2012

Before You Die, Call The Media

I, Spin Master, do swear in the name of God that I will faithfully execute the office and functions of Editor of the News of India, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Truth and that I will devote myself to the service and dissemination of facts and accurate information to the people of Republic of India”. Does any editor or journalist have to take such an oath of office? People in the judiciary (Yes, even lawyers), political office, public office have to take such an oath but not our editors. They have the absolute freedom to say or write anything and not be held accountable in any way whatsoever. And this freedom is mostly used to spin, for propaganda and in extreme cases, utter lies.

With hardly any facts, with little information on what exactly happened our news channels have already concluded that the death of Narendra Singh, IPS officer, who was crushed by a tractor in MP (on March 8), was the work of a mining mafia. Fact: Narendra Singh was reportedly fighting to curb the mining mafia. Fact: he confronted a tractor laden with stones from a quarry. Fact: in what followed the confrontation Narendra was crushed and killed by the tractor. Tragic. For a young, reportedly upright and honest, police officer to die in this fashion is a devastating blow to the force and for his family. His father made a very emotional statement: “I gave MP a diamond, they gave me a dustbin of ashes”. And he is right. Narendra’s wife also feels an organised mafia is behind her husband’s death. Quite understandable given her loss and grief. But much before full facts are known the media terming it as an act by some mining mafia is bewildering. For a change, I too write without the full facts out in the open.

Like politicians, media too relies on the fickle memory of the public. Still, most will remember the Aarushi murder case, the more recent Shehla Masood murder case where the media simply went berserk with speculation and their own motives for the murders. The Aarushi case remains unsolved and the Shehla Masood case has turned out to be a crime of passion rather than a Land-Mafia snuffing out a RTI activist as the media originally spun it. They even tried linking some BJP members in the case. In the case of Narendra Singh, predictably, the media went to party with the ‘mining mafia’ angle. Not even one reporter knew whether he was crushed by the front wheels, rear wheels or crushed by the stones as the tractor wobbled or fell sideways. Nothing! What’s the reason? Simple, once again a pro-Congress media mafia was targeting a BJP CM. Not just the CM, it allowed others to allege even the CM’s family was involved in the mafia.

Some channels (I think either TimesNow or CNN-IBN, I do not recall now) even pulled out reports from a long time ago on the mining mafia in the Morena area for an “I told you so” spin to the gruesome death. Off in a flash to the Stonehenge in Morena was Arunoday Mukherjee of CNN-IBN to show us the stones, why they are valuable, their properties and so on. Everything to establish a mining mafia was involved in the death of Narendra Singh. Not one single media outlet bothered to investigate the incident or verify any facts. You see, we haven’t taken any such oath to do so. Not one single media outlet bothered to check if the story was corroborated or if there is any other side. No sir, ours is the only story and we are right.

Dr. Ved Pratap Vaidik, a social activist and a frequent supporter of Baba Ramdev, had this to write on his blog about Narendra’s death: “The other angle”  (This summarised excerpt is a loose translation from Hindi but I believe it is accurate and I am open to correction):

There are now varying reports in the newspapers. Manoj Gujar, the farmer driving the tractor was confronted by Narendra Singh, who asked him to stop at gun point. Fearing for himself Manoj started speeding the tractor. At this Narendra Singh jumped on to the tractor and tried to take control of the steering wheel. In the ensuing struggle Narendra slipped and fell and was crushed by the tractor. Manoj’s brothers say Narendra was a good police officer and they had no conflicts with him and that people speed up tractors to escape the police who demand huge bribes. As far as any mafia is concerned the driver is not serving any and his family has a good farming business. His family was constructing a second house for which he was carrying stones on the tractor. Police state his family is not even remotely connected with crime and no there is no question of working for any mafia.

I have provided the above excerpt for an alternate view of the incident and cannot vouch for the accuracy of Dr. Vaidik's notes. I do have doubts on why a criminal backed by a strong mafia would want to mow down a police officer. Given their clout, the mafias usually take care of their wiseguys from police trouble even after arrests. We haven't seen anyone being affected in any of the mining mafias and scams from Goa, Karnataka or AP. Have we?

The case has now been handed over to the CBI which has registered a case of murder against unknown persons. I am not thoroughly convinced this could be a murder in the usual sense of the word. A murder is usually pre-meditated with a strong motive. I don’t believe Manoj Gujar started out with his tractor and stones that day with the intention of running over a police officer. I also believe that the IPS officer may have indulged in avoidable bravado but this is going to run against popular opinion. I also do not believe a large organised mafia is behind this incident. I also know police officials on the highways harass freight carriers and indulge in extortion. I have seen this not just in MP but also in Rajasthan and UP. And this is money for no particular reason at all – it’s not even a bribe to overlook some irregularities. This is just milk money. Honest polices officers like Narendra Singh maybe exceptions but the sight of them still scares drivers. 

A few days after this incident in MP another one happened in Tamil Nadu. A young 23 year old man was mowed down by a truck carrying sand. This time the noises about ‘sand mafia’ came up but died down quickly. The man must not have been significant or the political dispensation in TN maybe of no interest to the media. The media didn’t feast on the young man’s death as they did on Narendra Singh. Maybe these heroes should call the media before they undertake any confrontation with the mafia and not let media run riot with imaginary causes of their death. After all, media is the super mafia.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

India's Biggest Mafia

Of the thousands of comments on this blog site there a handful of commenters that call it a Pro-BJP site. Some add humour by calling it a ‘BJP-funded’ blog. To me, this suggests that these commenters probably do not work in a media outlet or have little or no understanding of how media houses work. And this is not in any way to suggest that all other commenters do. If funding or profit was the only motive for a political blog the only sensible thing to do would be run a Pro-Congress blog. I guarantee you the returns can be handsome. But then again this is not a political blog. If it were, the title and tag line of the blog would have been very different. In the previous post one commenter summed it up stating “…any criticism of the media is pro BJP and anti-Congress. So criticism of media=criticism of Congress?”. This is what has become the mantra of Congress sympathisers. They have been consumed so much by Paidmedia, they are no more able to distinguish the party from much of the media itself. So what’s it all about? Well, there are many gangs in India and this blog is dedicated to just one gang – The media. Lately, the choice of the media to describe such gangs is “Mafia” so let’s begin with some minor understanding of the mafia.

Originally, to be a Mafiosi you had to be of Sicilian origin. In foreign lands the term ‘Paisan’ is also used to describe Italian, Sicilian descendants who could be part of the mafia. The mafia then is a network of many bosses controlling many different turfs and activities. We call it crime, they call it business. And the businesses extend from smuggling, extortion, match-fixing, gambling and so on. Each turf is headed by a ‘Made-man’ who is the local boss. Only a Sicilian or Italian can be a boss. His foot soldiers (who could be of any race) are known as ‘Wiseguys’ (or fashionably ‘Goodfellas’). It’s the wiseguys who do most of the dirty work. So just as after Watergate almost every scandal is suffixed with ‘Gate’ every gang has come to be termed mafia, at least in India.

Our media has successfully tagged every such gang as mafia. So you have Land mafia, Mining mafia, Liquor mafia, Timber mafia, Corporate mafia, Trade mafia, Fake-currency mafia and the list can go on and on. They usually leave out two mafias. Both are bedfellows. One is the political mafia and the other, even more dangerous one, is the Media Mafia. Look deep into our media. You will find extortion, blackmail, murder, connections with anti-national elements, black money. Everything you can associate with a regular mafia you will find in equal measure in the media too. But since they claim to be ‘God’s own messengers’ they will never expose their own mafia.

Every mafia thrives on a few specific sources of income, what’s that for the media mafia? Advertising and through that revenue the power to influence opinions! Circulation, viewership may help the ad rates but they don’t directly generate great revenues. And so this mafia came up with the great idea of paid news too. Earlier, in the print media the art was to bring out spurious supplements which may look like a casual entertaining read but were actually ‘Paid for’ supplements. Now that art has taken the form of great scientific methodology. Take even Bollywood! Every movie release has a scientific methodology to it. Or even ever wondered why Ram Gopal Verma’s movies are trashed in the media even weeks before release?

Now, let’s come back to the question of why any anti-media article or site invariably appears to be anti-Congress. No need for a history class but India has long been ruled by the Congress, and still is, and therefore the greatest income source. Don’t be under the illusion that the corporate world alone is a great ad revenue source. In the past most print media would find it hard to even survive without govt ads and most of them had a person dedicated to dealing with the govt ad department (The DAVP or the State Information Depts.). Now add to that all the PSUs, the various govt. bodies (like PWD, Municipality, Water resources etc.).  Aha you say! It is bigger than any corporate segment and bigger than the land and mining mafias. Yes indeed, it is so damn lucrative that in most states almost every political party has its own media outlet. Yep, even the Congress in some states. Surprisingly, it's only the BJP that doesn't have one yet. 

So you’d ask if it’s all about govt doles why Congress alone? Let’s take Indian Express for instance. This once strongly anti-establishment newspaper is now a big Congress mouthpiece. Why? Because internal divisions and competition has more or less threatened its existence. It survives. And how do you think it does? Now if there were a BJP or some other govt at the centre yes there would be dole outs too but with the Congress the dole outs can be extra-ordinarily disproportionate. How do you explain Shobana Bhartiya being an RS member? Do you expect her Hindustan Times to be fair and balanced? HT has another extension – NDTV. They are linked by the informal association of their editors who appear in each other’s media outlet. How do you explain a financial disaster such as NDTV still on air? How do you explain a consistent loss making CNN-IBN still on air? (Only recently they’ve been bailed out by Reliance).

A media house like Hindustan Times or NDTV having a bias in favour of Congress is not a crime. It is when most of the national media outlets have a severe bias in favour of Congress that it becomes a MAFIA. And it is true that most of the media outlets have become a Congress mouthpiece. The recent elections and coverage of politicians would tell you enough. It is when their bias leads them to commit crimes by spreading untruths, fake reports, excessive spin, fake and fixed debates and even utter lies against the opposition and other parties that blogs like these are born. This mafia has found a very profitable equation with the Congress at the centre. Why would they want to change that, eh? In fact, they will do their best to ensure there is more of Congress in as many states as possible. Isn’t that why all the scams of YSR and Jagan Reddy are only coming out after the former’s death and the latter’s quitting the Congress? Now wait for the Gujarat elections where it’s a clear BJP V Congress fight. Watch how many lies and spins will show up.

Okay, so how else does it profit to be a mafia in league with Congress? List all the names: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and all the deaths and anniversaries and every major project launches after their names. Where do you think the huge ad and media spend goes? And to all of this, just add ‘Paidnews’. How does it make it profitable to be a mouthpiece for anyone but the Congress? So just like the mafia bosses our editors guard their turf and have regular meetings all together. Secret meetings! The last such opportunity would have been the very SECRETIVE RahulGandhi-‘Off the record’ breakfast meet. Their ‘wiseguys’ are on the field, on the ground and extend the bosses’ work. How do you explain the now commonly used term ‘Hit-job’ in relation to articles by journos? That’s a mafia term, isn’t it? Wait a few years it will be properly known as a "Whack-job"!

In December 2011 Umesh Agarwal premiered his documentary on Paid News under an event of Moneylife (edited by Sucheta Dalal). This documentary titled “The open frame” is now on youtube and other sites going by the name “Brokering news”. Although limited in its effort one must commend the effort of the producers and the director. Do watch the video below:

The documentary does not touch upon the ‘mafia’ like work of the media for very obvious reasons. (It was produced in association with Prasar Bharti). Here’s what Umesh Agarwal had to say after the premiere: “Every aspect of news be it political, business, sports or entertainment had a price tag. Even panel discussions on an important national issue were ‘fixed”. Guests were invited to give the discussion a particular slant. Selection of guests wasn’t dictated by the editorial policy of the group but there were other considerations”.

The 'Made-guy' is free to kill anyone, anytime, even the wiseguys. But no one can kill the Made-Guy unless a majority of all the bosses approve. Does that explain how and why many of our editorialists continue to hold their jobs despite their crimes? 

And that is that! Next time you hear an anchor or an editorialist mentioning the word Mafia just imagine, it could be the media's ‘Wiseguy’ or ‘Made-guy’. It's simply India's biggest mafia talking to you.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rahul Gandhi's Stunted Evolution

Pictures do tell a lot more than mere words. And this one does too. After a brief statement to the press on March 6 after the UP loss Rahul Gandhi walked away with his sister. So the Sarees are gone, jeans are back. Don’t have to deal with the beggars for a while. I wonder if anyone will interview Priyanka Vadra in the near future and ask her a question about one of the silliest statement from this campaign. Her frequent advice to voters was if they had a Congress govt in UP they too would benefit from the Centre’s schemes. She’s supposed to be more intelligent and articulate than RG but that question reveals a very unintelligent mind. As for all the statements, theatre and ‘angry man’ approach by RG, reams will be written. Never mind all that.RG is sinking his party pretty much like another man has sunk his airline.

Now from November 14, 2011 till about mid February 2012 the usual suspects in the media, like NDTV, CNN-IBN, TimesNow and their cousins in the Hindi media more or less reported only one campaigner in UP. If it wasn’t RG “coming of age” on CNN-IBN it was how “RG had evolved” on NDTV, that was the script. That guy Akhilesh Yadav was around only in some stray clips here and there. Then suddenly after around the 3rd or 4th phase of voting all the Editors and Bureau Chiefs and reporters were doing exclusives with Akhilesh Yadav, in his flights, in his bus and even in his home. Some featured even his kids on the bus. What changed? I suspect only one thing: that by mid-February the exit polls which were held back the channels must have clearly indicated Samajwadi Party was winning handsomely and Akhilesh Yadav was becoming a hero. Rajdeep Sardesai finally went on a flight with Akhilesh to interview him. Even CNN-IBN and StarNews got that part right. So quickly increased focus on AY. RG was now an also-ran. Akhilesh also gave quite a few one on one interviews which RG seems either incapable of or deems it unnecessary.

Exactly at the same time as the media’s exit polls started showing the real picture RG called for a secret, off the record meet of editors of various media outlets (February 18). Your guess is as good as mine that some of these editors would have told him what their exit polls are showing. They may not have been permitted to make it public but they can certainly share it in an “off the record” meet of this nature. Such is the crawling nature of our media that editors shamelessly even attended the breakfast meet. It is fair to believe that even the Congress pollsters would have given him the feedback about the SP’s better showing.

After four phases of voting Barkha Dutt even held a special programme on “How RG has evolved”, followed by a very interesting ‘Barbecue’ debate by Prannoy Roy and then again another programme for the ‘Muslims of UP’ by Barkha. The muslim debate was particularly in the light of great announcements for them by RG, Salman Khurshid and Digvijay Singh. It is one thing for Digvijay to say “I am responsible” and also for RG to say “I am responsible” but the question really is what are they going to do next? If RG really wants to “evolve” as a leader he will need to take some decisions. It doesn’t help to be surrounded by the likes of Digvijay, Salman or Beni Prasad who are capable of undermining a campaign without external help in stupidity. RG himself needs to learn that lines like “elephant eats money” maybe humorous a couple of times but spoken too often become a stale joke that people stop buying. Another serious lesson that these guys need to learn is “minority appeasement” doesn’t work either. Like others, muslims too refuse to be fooled anymore. He can also learn that media doesn’t help win elections.

RG could even learn from a part-time politician, Vijay Mallya. He sunk an airline much as RG is sinking his party. There is an interesting article by M.J. Akbar in India Today (Earth on Earth) about how Mallya sunk his airline by focusing on all the other things. That he still expects banks to bail him out. There is one thing for a few ministers or party-men to be rated as non-performers but when the top leader himself is seen to be repeatedly failing then either the talent or skill for that particular business is missing. Except for the liquor business which Mallya ‘inherited’ he has nothing but a string of failures to his credit. At the moment all signs are that Kingfisher may not be revived. There is interesting blog about the history of Kingfisher’s murky dealings which have meticulously chronicled by @TheKaipullai titled ‘The Curious Case of Vijay Mallya and his bailout. And one more scam!’. Perhaps in another country Mallya would have been kicked out of the business by his board. But much like the Congress, dynasty sustains many of our business groups too. Each time he campaigns there are huge noises in the media about his having “evolved as a political leader”. His sycophants may not tell him but so far it looks like stunted evolution.