Monday, May 28, 2012

Modi's Facts Sting UPA, Rattle Media

The first one was shot dead, the second was beaten to death and the third was stabbed to death…. Relax, that’s not from some silly movie, just our real life CPM (Communist Party – Marxist). Says Firstpost: "His speech was surprisingly vivid in details of the murders that he said the party had planned and executed. He said, the party had made a list of 13 people and killed four of them – all Congress functionaries. “One, two, three, four…” he said narrating the sequence of murders. The star of the foolish street-corner spectacle that plunged the CPM into a fresh crisis is MM Mani, secretary of the party in Idukki in Kerala". Funny part is, why is the CPM killing Congressmen? The CPM is a natural ally of the Congress in ideology. They have been friends and even allies at the centre. What has been revealed is that the butchering of opponents by Communists in Bengal and other places has been a long historical process. Well, shoot, beat or stab to death even criminal parties are friends as long as they keep certain forces out. Um... You can usually tell such forces by the colour: Saffron. In this quest all crimes, murders, corruption, looting of the state or nation, everything can be forgiven.

And when those claiming to be ideological descendants of secular figures like Aurangzeb or Stalin have to fight such forces they won’t fight on “performance’. They will tag them with names: Communal, fascists, extremists and for their biggest performer; they like Hitler or Joseph Goebbels even better. Even members of the rattled, secular media join the chorus. People like Sanjiv Srivastav of Headlines Today or Kumar Ketkar of nowhere. And yes, it gets harder each time to figure which one to name from NDTV and CNN-IBN. Once their leader, Guttermouth Manish Tiwari of Congress, sets the tone, the paid mice in the media happily follow. All this because Narendra Modi not only attended the BJP national meet in Mumbai but also delivered a stinging speech against the UPA. Unable to respond to anything that Modi said, Guttermouth came up with this: "Gujarat CM is a frustrated man. It seems the soul of Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister during the Nazi regime of Hitler in Germany, has gone inside him. He has crossed all limits”. Oh! Haven’t we heard this before? Modi frustrated because Gujarat is failing, farmers are dying in Gujarat, corruption is at an all-time high and he is going to lose the next elections. I can understand that part. The good part for Manish Tiwari is that he’s only caught with his mouth open so far unlike his former media colleague, Abhishek Singhvi, who was caught with a lot more open. So let’s summarise what Modi said on May 24 in Mumbai: (These are excerpts of the essence and not a full translation)
On droughts: If the River-linking dream of NDA as conceived by Atal Behari Vajpayee was pursued there would be no drought in Maharashtra. Farmers wouldn’t be killing themselves in Maharashtra. But since UPA came to power in 2004 that dream was killed.

There’s no Neta, Neeti aur Saaf Neeyat (No Leader, Principle/Policy or good Intention). In the absence of these one can see the current state of the nation. Nirmal Baba is in the news these days. The Delhi’s central govt is no different from a Nirmal Baba durbar. UPA promised inflation will be controlled in 100 days if they came to power. They make promises like Nirmal Baba and get their own agenda accomplished.

PM has stated many times over that Naxalism is the biggest threat to the country. Yet, in the report card for 3 years of UPA2, there is not one single mention of naxalism or what actions or measures are being taken to tackle it.  PM has stated Malnutrition is a “National Shame”. That it’s a shame for all Indians. However, in the 3-year report there is no mention of reason or remedial action.

PM often talks of coalition compulsions. Our Foreign Minister (S.M. Krishna) who represents the pride of the country all over the world stands up in UN and reads the speech of Portugal. What coalition compulsions cause such a goof-up? PM is from Congress, Defence Minister is from Congress. Yet, never in our history since independence has the Centre been in consistent conflict and dispute with the Army. What coalition compulsions have created such conflicts?

Madam Soniaji says: “Promises will not do, performance must happen”. This only means all these years they (UPA) were making empty promises and she accepts there has been no performance. From Indiraji’s promise of “Garibi Hatao” there have been only promises and no performances. They merely made promises while practiced vote-bank politics.

There’s a 20-point programme since 1975 for the poor and every govt since then has followed this programme. A govt cell monitors this programme. If one sees the reports of the last 10 years the top 5 performers under this programme are BJP or non-Congress states. I raised this issue with the PM. But instead of asking Congress states to perform, the PM has stopped the ranking of states itself under the programme so the world won’t come to know.

In his 3-year report card the PM mentions national agriculture growth rose from around 2.0-2.25% to 3.0-3.25% - 1%? Is that change? In Gujarat, where 7 out 10 years there are droughts, agricultural growth is 11%. And the PM is claiming a national growth of 1% as a great achievement in his report card. If this 1% national growth continues the nation will sink and people will die. Whatever growth he claims is achieved from the performance of a very few states.

For the first time PM has accepted something in his report card. He has admitted that centre-state relations should improve, which clearly implies he has failed in maintaining these relations. Instead of treating states with respect and honour, the centre treats states like they were the centre’s municipal corporations. The UPA has caused more damage to our federal structure than any other govt. in the last 50 years. To misuse the constitution to constantly destroy states is the handiwork of this govt.

The centre proposed the NCTC which seeks to disarm the state from its law enforcing duties and encroach upon it. But in so many years the centre has not been able to extradite one single terrorist back to India. They are in charge of borders but they haven’t been able to stop the flow of arms to naxals. All money through hawala channels to terrorists are under Centre’s jurisdiction, including RBI. They have not been able to control this. State has no interference in that. Our borders are being infiltrated by terrorists and illegals but BSF is under the Centre but they are not able to stop this. Instead of stopping such infiltration they are playing politics with the states with NCTC.

In our population of 120 crores 50% are women. Yet, in his report card, the PM does not make a single mention of what the UPA has done for them. In a country of youth the PM’s report card has no mention of any skills programme for the youth. When asked, PM had once mentioned they are creating 500 skills programmes. I told him China is doing 50000 skills programmes. There is absolutely no mention of any such programme in his report.

Highly unfair of Narendra Modi! First he dares to read that UPA-3 year report and then he has the audacity to quote from the report and pin-point UPA failures. Even all Congress members, UPA members and God’s messengers in the media wouldn’t have read the whole report. I didn’t see one single program on any news channel discussing the report threadbare. Well, it’s not their job. But NDTV which reported the “Goebbels” tag gleefully has a summary of the report.  Read: Highlights:UPA II releases report card. Some opening lines from the achievement list: We need to…, Despite adverse…, Have to quicken…, Need to improve…, Public frustration and anger…, Difficult decisions…, Urge all parties…! Of course, these achievements are enough for media not to analyse if there are facts and what exactly was promised that is missing. I haven’t seen any thorough analysis.

Now, apart from highlighting Tiwari’s comments through the night and the next day and reporting on supposed infighting in BJP or Ram Jethmalani’s letter to Nitin Gadkari not one in the Congress or their alliance partners, Mainstream media, are yet to challenge the content of what Modi has said. Not one point made by him has been challenged, except an emotional “Crossing the Laxmanrekha on Army” by Tiwari. Ouch! That awful truth about the conflicts with the army must have hurt. Most TV channels blacked out Modi’s speech. Some like Zee TV carried it partly. To my knowledge only Aaj Tak carried the full speech. Rajdeep Sardesai simply couldn’t suffer more than 10 minutes of Modi so CNN-IBN quickly shifted to other stories. All the news channels and even print media were headlining “LKA, Sushma skip rally” as if that were some major calamity. And any discussion, if at all, was about what political moves Modi was plotting. He’s a politician, get used to it!

That Narendra Modi rattles the Congress party is understandable. Why is our hyper ventilating media so rattled? I guess someone speaking facts is at odds with their stated mission of propaganda and spreading lies. After all, didn’t Karan Thapar’s promo on CNN-IBN state: “I don’t want to go into the facts, the facts are disputable”. Yeah.. when it comes to Narendra Modi, facts and truth are unhealthy for the media as they learnt from the SIT report, especially when the ‘honest’ PM and Sonia Gandhi are targets.

Friday, May 25, 2012

IPL - Big Toys For Grown-Ups

Disclaimer: Most of the people mentioned in this article are those who have achieved success and fame on their own. Their skills and talents are beyond doubt and no aspersions are being cast on them. This is nothing more than a hilarious ‘Theory’. And as with all theories, this can be right or wrong. And I’m usually wrong..

Remember the movie Sharaabi? That little pest (later Amitabh Bachchan) wouldn’t sleep nights. So single parent, Pran, would feed him a spoon or two of alcohol and in a snap the little monster would fall into deep and peaceful slumber. In later years alcohol becomes his favourite toy. Well, all parents aren’t that creative. Most sing a lullaby or put the little one in the cradle and rock it. At other times when little ones wail parents try hugs and  kisses but most often hold out a squeaking toy or a one that goes “ting-a-ling” and in a few years this graduates to Barbie dolls and stuffed toys and even attractive guns that create a racket. The addiction to toys doesn’t end even as adults for some of the rich and famous kids and especially spouses. So give them a few millions or crores and indulge them in their own toy-world. In later years there might be other toys like Las Vegas, Monaco or Atlantic City. Sooner or later even those toys get boring. So they found a new toy - the IPL (Indian Premier League).

I will avoid going back to the times of Dhirubhai but let’s start with his kids and spouses.  Since she got married to Anil Ambani what exactly is Tina Ambani doing? She maybe a board member of Anil’s part of Reliance but I am not aware. However, there is a business fully operated by her. Heard about it? Not sure about the entire Vimal operation itself but Tina does operate Harmony Furnishings. Now Vimal and Harmony aren’t in anyway the biggest businesses of Reliance anymore. For a woman who was active in the film world there had to be something to keep her occupied. So let’s say Anil gave her a big toy. ‘Harmony furnishings’!  You run it, play with it, make profits or losses and do whatever you like! That keeps Tina occupied and allows Anil to run his businesses peacefully.

What about Mukesh Ambani? You won’t find Nita Ambani routinely involved in petroleum or gas or stuff like that. She operates her own domain of education. There’s the Dhirubhai International School and the upcoming Reliance University and she’s involved in a lot of related areas. That occupies her most of the time. Make no mistake that is some good work being done by her. She’s also the owner and the most prominent face of an IPL team, Mumbai Indians. Naturally! The name Mumbai Indians clearly distinguishes them from, say, Cherapunji Indians. And you’d never see Nita jumping for joy and hugging them 11 pins anywhere else. Of course, with those toys go fantasies of royalty. Some team names would outline that obsession. Kings XI Punjab, Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkatta Knight Riders. Yeah, that should tell you how deeply rooted in democracy we are.

Remember Shashi Tharoor? He had to resign as minister just because he was accused of gifting a toy worth 70 crores to his spouse Sunanda Pushkar. She is a businesswoman in her own right according to reports. But hey, even they require toys, don’t they? Unfortunately, the move backfired like some Chinese ‘toxic’ toy and now Kochi Tuskers are no more part of the IPL. It is intriguing though how the IPL ended up with so many film stars and celebs who have nothing to do with Cricket at all. Let’s see, Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airline has been in trouble for a long time. So he brings in his son Sid Mallya (He can’t sue me for not calling him SidharthA) to help resolve many of KF’s problems and set the airline back on course again. Oh wait! No, that’s not what he did! Instead, he bought an IPL team and gave it to his kid to play with it. The little one is the Director of RCB and now manages its affairs. What’s the risk, if you ever break that toy we can just go buy a new one. Yes, RCB is in the news lately and not for cricketing reasons. Don’t mess so much with those toys!

IPL Women - Big Toys Are Fun!
Preity Zinta, the successful film actor, hasn’t done a movie in about 2 years. She was associated with Ness Wadia and was helping him in managing the many Wadia group companies. Aha, you say! No, none of that. He bought her a team, KingsXI Punjab, and she’s so happy and thrilled with that toy she sometimes even invades the ground like those WWE tag team wrestlers who suddenly jump into the ring. What about Raj Kundra, the trading magnate, who married Shilpa Shetty? Given that Shilpa is originally from Rajasthan (!!!) nothing beats a wedding gift like buying an IPL toy – Rajasthan Royals. Raj Kundra is a stingy husband though. His purchase, compared to other IPL toys, was quite modest in expense.

And there’s Shah Rukh Khan, India’s greatest opening batsman ever. Both he and co-actor Juhi Chawla have long been good friends and business partners. Jay Mehta, Juhi’s husband, wanted to gift her an IPL toy but to his great joy he found that SRK was joining in. Imagine, the man who invented cricket himself is a partner in KKR. As Juhi tweeted from Florence, Italy, on May 19: “If today SRK were to get upset and quit the IPL I wonder if there d be any people watching the matches .. In wankhede or any stadium !!!” I completely agree! SRK has to be the IPL Toy Story’s biggest ambassador. Then there is that wonderful journalist called Gayathri Reddy who runs a newspaper called Deccan Chronicle. Hmmm! Newspapers only report news but playing with toys can create news. So DC gifts good looking Gayathri an IPL toy – Deccan Chargers. You hear their name and would imagine they would go hammer and tongs at everything. Well, doesn’t matter what they do as long as the toy is still wound up.

What about Delhi Daredevils. It’s one team where its owner, GMR, doesn’t want to be seen in public playing with the toy. So sometimes they get stuntman Akshay Kumar to show how to really deal with toys. Subrato Sahara Roy has the credit of being a big time cricket sponsor. But being that he spends so much money on the game he had to struggle hard to gift a toy for his son. If instead Roy were a film actor it would have been easier. Well, all ends well, his son Sushanto Roy finally has his toy. Sushanto manages the real estate business of Sahara group.

The truly odd one in the group has to be N. Srinivasan, the current BCCI president. He wants the BCCI, the IPL and CSK toy all for himself and nobody else. Haha, selfish bastard! Reports say his son is not on good terms with daddy since he became a homosexual. If he weren’t that, he would have possessed the most expensive toy in the IPL. And as all the celebs play with their toys, dance in the stands, bring in some cheer-leaders why leave the media out. Let them have a good time too with at least 2 to 3 hours of Toy Story every single day. So, politicians, film actors, real estate giants, media crooks did find a substitute to exotic casinos. It’s just that there is a thing about toys. Sooner or later the owner gets bored with them and needs a new toy. IPL was a made for media soap-opera and now the challenge is to make it even more raucous and tasteless. 

There’s a good part to all of this. You see, unless these rich kids and spouses are given some big, expensive toys, they might break something else. In the meantime, let’s play!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Advertising Avarice

So the news channels are up in protest against a TRAI notification. Maybe some other channels too. And what is their grievance? That if the TRAI advertising limit of 12 minutes per hour is enforced most of them may find the business unviable and shut down. That would probably be good for people. Some news channels are simply not even news channels. If you add up the content of any news channel for a whole 24 hours the net content wouldn’t be more than 2 hours’ worth. The rest is made up of repeats and advertisements or even religious discourses. Almost everyone has either watched IPL or any other Cricket match but you wake up in the morning to catch up on some news you are likely to find these matches being discussed and clips being played over and over again. There isn’t any news-worthiness or original content in such programmes. Still, let us give them the benefit of airing what they choose and when they choose. Even if they have collectively forgotten that ‘news’ is public service.

So what are the TRAI guidelines that seem to have upset our honest, truthful and nation-building news channels? Here are excerpts from an IndiaToday report:

The TRAI notification says, no broadcaster shall carry in its broadcast of a programme, advertisements exceeding 12 minutes in a clock hour and any shortfall of advertisement in any clock hour shall not be carried over…..The ads in the clock hour shall include all types of commercials including those promoting the TV channel itself… that the ads carried on its channels are only full-screen advertisements and there shall be no part-screen or drop-down advertisement….that the audio level of the advertisements carried in its channel shall not be higher than the audio level of the programme being broadcast in the channel.

And India Today adds its own two cents: These restrictions on advertisements will reduce the earnings of the news channels and make it difficult for them to operate. Most news channels are running into losses or operating on wafer-thin margins as they have to make huge investments in preparing the news programmes and then bearing the entire cost of uplinking the content to the satellite from where it is downloaded by the multi-service operators.

Alright, so you might be led to think the news gangs are protesting some new TRAI notification. Not at all! The 12-minute rule has existed for a long time and the channels have simply been brazenly flouting all norms and rules of advertising for many years. So what they really want is the license to continue flouting the rules else they will die. Isn’t that nice? What if I tell you I want to beat up a few people because unless I do that I can’t live in peace? So the law should allow me to break laws for my survival. The recent TRAI notice was one to only remind the news channels of the rules which channels should adhere to. It was required to issue this notification in response to many complaints it had received against illegitimate advertising by news channels. In January 2011 a NGO, Utsarg, had filed a petition against the news channels with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on this very issue. TDSAT had to then take up the matter which has finally culminated in the fresh notice by TRAI. Prior to this, in a post titled ‘Fradulent Invasion of Privacy” I had listed the evil of Pop-up ads and screen-blocking ads.

 The print news media, in contrast to TV, is allowed over 60% of paper space for ads and commercials. While I am not debating whether it’s fair or not, at least with a newspaper you have the option of skipping the ads and reading the news and content of your choice. Even so, sometimes there will such gross features that you’d find it impossible to miss the images. Hmmm, this is particularly so when it concerns products for which ads are banned – tobacco and liquor. Take a look at this Hindustan Times article on the increasing popularity of Vodka among younger consumers: “Splash of white”. Ah well, new Vodka brands launched since 2011 can’t have mega launch campaigns or ads. But if you wanted to know which the new launches are, HT is there to tell you. And not just that, the huge images of Smirnoff and KetelOne aren’t even the new brand launches listed. That makes me wonder if Smirnoff and KetelOne and others make this a form of ‘paid news’. Only HT can confirm or deny. HT is not the only one, many other liquor and tobacco products are carried as “Features” with images larger than even normal ads in almost all newspapers.

If journalism was also about ethics, our TV news channels have absolutely no qualms about breaking rules, carrying surrogate advertising by every liquor brand and even carrying propaganda for political parties. The 12 minute advertising limit can surely be negotiated and increased a bit but beyond that all the fraudulent pop-ups and screen-blocking ads during programmes must surely stop.

Lastly, it would be naïve of anyone to believe that our news channels survive purely on advertising revenue. That used to be the old model. If this were true for the present then no news channel would be able to explain the illogically high investments many are still receiving from the corporate sector. Recently, Reliance has made huge investments in the TV18 group (CNN-IBN), Aditya Birla group has made investments in Living Media (Aaj Tak, Headlines Today). Surely, if Reliance or Birla wanted to seek great profits then news media is hardly a great prospect going by the wailing of the news channels over thin profits or losses. If the current 24-hour model of news TV advertising is not generating enough profits I find it hard to believe there can be a 48-hour model. The greed and avarice that drives the lust in our news channels to deliver a cocktail of Bollywood, Fashion shows, Cricket, Beauty Pageants, Page 3 culture, Surrogate liquor ads, Propaganda is really not about News at all. A serious investigation into the finances of major news channels by a statutory body, like CAG or ED, will reveal a lot more than “News”.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

NDTV - Train With The Beast

It’s not surprising or unusual that, with a couple of exceptions, most of NDTV’s female anchors are fair and lovely. True for other channels too. And they get fairer in the studio than while reporting from the ground. So some years back NDTV had this great debate on “We The Poodles” on whether Indians preferred fair skin. Reason for the debate? Excessive marketing of fairness creams in the market. They had all the beauties and advertising gurus on the show sparring over the issue. Every aspect of skin-colour preference was heatedly argued. All except one – Do fairness creams really work? Now, if the debate had conclusively established that these creams don’t work then it would have been a big blow to the fairness industry. That would have also meant a big blow to ad revenues for the channel. But TV debates aren’t meant to establish anything but deliver the good drama and theatre they are supposed to. So the tone of the debate was more on the ‘racist’ bias of Indians toward fair-skin rather than spurious creams.

P. Sainath, award-winning journalist, once remarked in an article that the Times of India had long become a vehicle for marketing as against a journal. There have been long periods when TOI has even gone without a proper editor. The simple reason is that TOI is clear who its readers are. Recent combative ads by The Hindu pretty much describe TOI as a paper for the page-3 watchers. People who don’t seek to be educated but who are sure to know the nick-name of Hrithik Roshan (Duggu). I often joke that the most ardent watchers and fans of NDTV have to be those who have a mini-bar at home. Frankly, there is nothing wrong if NDTV has clearly identified its segment and caters to their tastes. Trouble only starts when they also extend their preference on important topics to find users to suit their tastes. 
Every year around January NDTV unfailingly releases an ad for its broadcast training school. The ad headline reads ‘Train with the best’. The pics in the ad will tell you who they think are the best in the business. The best of the best. So one aspiring journalist fell for it and decided to intern with them. I don’t and cannot know what Khadija Ejaz learned at NDTV but I am sure as hell that she learned a few lessons that she won’t forget easily. The most important lesson would be not to indulge in journalism of the NDTV type. That is enough said by me. Let us stroll through Khadija’s experience with NDTV. She narrates it in an article titled ‘Voice of the People’ - When the opinion of the unattractive sweaty Indian is less important than that of his better looking, English speaking, compatriot. Excerpts below:

Diesel prices had gone up, and the input desk at NDTV in New Delhi had dispatched me to get reactions from customers at a gas station. Vox pop, they call it in the business, the voice of the people. I was interning in reporting that very hot month of June, so off I went…. Except that it was Saturday morning. Except this was diesel. Only a handful of people passed through the gas station for diesel that whole couple of hours, but I did speak to them and uplink their reactions back to the newsroom…. but I received a call from the edit bay telling me that the reactions I had got were not good enough and that I’d have to get more. I can’t remember exactly what I was told was lacking in the footage, but I remember the gist of it: the people didn’t look good/educated enough for TV. They spoke Hindi too. There’s a word for that in India: ghhaati. Low class.

Haha! I have reason to believe Khadija must have spent some time in Mumbai or in Maharashtra. ‘Ghaati’ is not common to the whole of India. Ghaati, for low-class, that she refers to is usually a term used in Maharashtra for the labourers from the region of Western Ghats and therefore the name. Sorry for interrupting, let’s read on:

But it was a story about diesel. The only people who bought diesel at gas stations were truck drivers, autorickshaw drivers…and other people’s drivers in general. Weren’t these the people whose reactions you’d want in a story about diesel? They were the ones who’d be affected by the price rise, right? I didn’t understand the issue with the Hindi either. Sure, we were an English channel, but we subtitled non-English footage all the time. It was not a big deal, so what was so different this time? I’d tried explaining that to the person who’d called me from the newsroom, but I was very silkily asked to just get some English bites from better-looking people who weren’t uneducated drivers…I got it. They wanted freshly-scrubbed white-collar reactions for the white-collar-catering Inglis channel. Didn’t matter if white-collar India didn’t care about diesel prices.

… I felt a little ridiculous. My intelligence and integrity felt vaguely insulted, but I still went. I put my Hindi aside and put on my best American accent because I was representing an English news channel to the English-speaking persons of India…. Only the previous month, when I was interning in the edit bay, had I been asked to edit vox pop footage that had come in from Kashmir about another price rise. I’d put the bites together, all of them in Hindi, and was then told by a young employee that they couldn’t put that footage on air. But why, I had asked, the bites had good content. The girl had laughed. “Have you seen their faces?” she had said, screwing up her pretty light-skinned nose at me, the poor newbie. “We can’t put such visuals on air.”

Such people? Dark-skinned people from lower-income families? But what about the content? That footage never made it on the air on our English channel, but our Hindi channel ran it all day long. So the English channel only showed the good-looking people of India? But what about content? What about what we had initially been told at NDTV about journalistic ethics and the real issues and how journalism was supposed to be a pillar of democracy, the voice of the people? Or was it the voice of certain sections of the people depending on the segment of India you were catering to? The unattractive sweaty Indian is also a part of India. In fact, he is about 90% of India.

Journalistic ethics! Pillar of democracy! Voice of the people! I broke out in laughter. If only Khadija Ejaz had met me before interning at NDTV I would have explained to her what to expect. I would have asked her to first check out the areas and houses where all the ‘best’ journos lived. She wouldn’t find sweaty Indians there. She would have then been trained on which people to interview. She confuses ‘trucks’ for real trucks. In our TV channel lexicon ‘truck’ means those swank SUVs driven by people who don’t sweat or stink. Khadija should have spoken to me before-hand. I would have educated her on what Barkha Dutt, and even Sagarika Ghose, really think of middle class and lower class Indians. She should have read many of their articles. At the very least I would have shown her Sagarika’s tweet about “Ugly Indian males”.

Never mind! Khadija has the benefit of learning the ropes the hard way. That if and when you apply for work at NDTV or any Indian TV channel make sure you use an abundant dose of Fair & Lovely. Make sure you invest in the best of deodorants or perfumes. Nothing wins like a ‘sweet smelling’ journalist. Come January NDTV will have another of their training school ads out. I recommend they make a small correction though. Instead of ‘Best’ I think “Train with the Beast” would be far more appropriate.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

What Goes On Within Four Walls Of NDTV?

Comedian Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's ‘The Colbert Report’, coined the term "Truthiness" as the notion that truth doesn't lie in books and facts but rather, in your gut. Before his own show Colbert frequently appeared with Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show. Both lampoon the American media and politicians and expose their lies on a daily basis. Neither Stewart nor Colbert interpret news reports. They just quote reports and statements and nail the lies behind them or their funny side. What should be even more amusing is that most US citizens trust satirist Stewart for real news. On another front Bill Adair, the chief editor of Politifact states: “Whether the fact has actually died or is just on its death bed, I think it means it's a great time to be in the fact-checking business”. Yes, that’s right, given the lies that our news channels and papers spread, for many in the social media it’s a great time to be in the ‘fact-checking’ business. And may I add, they are doing a great job of it. Most can sense the absence of ‘Truthiness’ when they watch TV reports, especially where it concerns NDTV and Gujarat riots and Narendra Modi.

There has to be some motivation for NDTV, also other late-joiners like TOI and Indian Express, for the extra-ordinary mud-slinging they have indulged in against Narendra Modi and Gujarat. So much that the SIT closure report which absolves Modi of any wrong doing on the riots is unpalatable for them. And now their entire faith in the prospect of screwing Modi hangs on a tiny fable. It’s a story concocted by Sanjiv Bhatt that he was present in a meeting held by Modi and that the CM had made statements encouraging “Hindus to vent their anger” against Muslims for the Godhra train  horror. The SIT has established, through witnesses, that Sanjiv Bhatt was not present in the meeting of February 27, 2002. Not just witnesses, other evidences – factual and circumstantial including mobile records, clearly establish the lies of Sanjiv Bhatt.

There’s some history to this. It is not just as a channel that NDTV has been campaigning against Modi. It is some of its members who have been in that business long before NDTV came into existence as a separate news channel. Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai were the pioneers in this endeavour even while they were with StarNews. But now it’s the newcomers on the channel who have been delegated that assignment. Which should explain a statement by NidhiRazdan, which she reportedly made, on her show Left,Right,Centre on May 10: "Some would say Hafiz planned 26/11 in the four walls, hence it is not an offence".(Thanks to @ssudhirkumar for reporting this ). Even on a live show that looks like a well prepared and well rehearsed statement. This followed an article on NDTV website “Gujarat riots: Illegal orders within a room no offence, says SIT report on Modi”.

Truthiness in an observer’s gut will explain that the headline itself is mischievous and intended to camouflage the actual explanation of the SIT. The SIT only hypothetically stated that even if the ‘alleged’ statements were made by Modi then such a statement within four walls does not constitute an offence. More importantly, circumstantial evidence and subsequent actions by Modi do not in any manner suggest or imply that he made that statement or carried it out. So the wisegal Nidhi tries to equate the “alleged” statement with possible statements by Hafiz Saeed, the wanted Pakistani terrorist, within four walls with Modi. Make no mistake – the unstated implication is that Modi is as much a terrorist as Hafiz Saeed. I am surprised Nidhi stopped at Hafeez Saeed and did not go on to make a comparison with the ‘Viagral’ adventures of Osamji within four walls.

By Nidhi’s logic Hafiz Saeed would not be guilty of terrorist activities if he plotted them within four walls. “Take that, all you goats who died in 26/11”. It doesn’t matter to NDTV or Nidhi Razdan that Saeed, by subsequent conduct and actions, had carried out whatever he may be accused of plotting within four walls. This is how our news channels compromise our actions against terror. Oh wait, NDTV is the only channel that also broadcasts in Pakistan, to my knowledge. Is that a motivation? I have stated in no uncertain terms earlier that the manner of reporting and lies spread on the Gujarat riots by our news channels may have even inspired many terrorists and terror attacks. Balance and sensitivity has long been lost on NDTV. No wonder Chetanya Kunte after the 26/11 carnage accused them of ‘Shoddy Journalism’.

This is not the first time that NDTV has perpetrated reports lacking in Truthiness. In February 2012, just around the 10th year of the Godhra horror they pulled out another fairy tale. Not surprising, considering their group editor is frequently obsessed with Alice In Wonderland. They put out this report: ‘2002 Gujarat riots: Former judge says there's audio tape with evidence against Modi’. Both reports are by NDTV reporter Rohit Bhan, but these days anyone can draft any report or even affidavit as a TOI journalist will tell you. The atrocity of this report can be measured by the following content in it:

Justice Suresh says that during his trip to Gujarat, he met Haren Pandya, who was then a minister in Mr Modi's government. Mr  Pandya allegedly said that the chief minister had called a meeting in February, hours after a train was set on fire at the Godhra station. Justice Suresh says that Mr Pandya' conversation with him and retired Supreme Court judge PB Sawant was recorded on an audio tape. But Mr Pandya pleaded with both judges to not attribute this information to him. "He said he will come and meet us provided its kept confidential and his name should not be disclosed ...we agreed on that...only some of us Justice Sawant, myself and one or two others were there ..and then we heard him, recorded his statement but we kept it very confidential," Justice Suresh told NDTV.

Now, this judge was specially interviewed by NDTV in February 2012. Interesting how after Haren Pandya’s death the judge claims an audio tape that for “confidential” reasons cannot be disclosed or aired. Even if Haren Pandya did make a statement to these judges, they claim to have already discussed it with the SIT. So what NDTV was trying to imply by this report and the interview is for you to figure out. But hey, it helps to add any fuel to the fire started by NDTV.

If Politifact were to assess NDTV’s reportage over the years I am quite certain that they would have scored “Pants on Fire” on a number of occasions. Facts established by special investigating bodies do not seem to count with NDTV. So what exactly is NDTV’s motive behind such a long witch-hunt? So much that there is a sharp and militant unwillingness to accept even the SIT’s report. Looks like they will not be happy unless and until some kangaroo court of their own choice pronounces Modi guilty and sentences him to death. Of course, they aren’t alone but they are the most voluble in this campaign. Far from justice for any riot victim or justice for the sake of supremacy of law, the motives surely have to be something else and somewhere else.

The most apparent motive is obviously the decimation of BJP as a political party through their anti-Modi campaign. This becomes even more obvious with elections in Gujarat around the corner and general elections in 2014. The increasing noises about Modi as PM candidate is probably also sending chills down their spine. The most disturbing aspect for me is that there might be very powerful forces behind NDTV’s campaign. The blatant violations and disregard for routine norms of ethics in journalism suggest a “larger” (A term Nidhi Razdan would love) conspiracy that only time will tell. The involvement of many Indian journalists and their being beneficiaries of Ghulam Nabi Fai must be borne in mind. One never knows how many such Fais are lurking around the shadows and feeding our journalists and media outlets.

There’s only one question that hasn’t been answered for a long time. How does NDTV, a channel which has constantly lost share value, consistently made losses still manage to stay afloat? Well, Deep Throat did say “Follow the money” and I hope someone will. Only that will finally reveal whose war is being fought by NDTV and what goes on within their four walls. Going by Indian media ethics it won’t be another journalist or media outlet that will bring the truth home. It will be probably be some comedian who has a gut feel for Truthiness.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

SIT: Nero Never Fiddled

The Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Rajghat, Delhi has the epitaph “Hē Ram, the words he spoke just before he died after being shot. Thousands pay their respects to Gandhi here every day. Every one of them reads the epitaph and the Mahatma’s last words have been taught to us in schools and history books. But did he really say those? No one has compelling evidence that Gandhi did say ‘Hē Ram’ and none has ever been presented. He could well have said anything else or maybe even nothing at all. This is how myths work. It starts with somebody’s imagination or hallucination, somebody influential. Then it creeps into history books and the media dishes out propaganda. Before long the myth becomes the established and accepted truth.But not forever.

Closer to present day, for years some in the Indian media have reported that the Supreme Court had rapped the Gujarat govt over the 2002 riots with: “Neros were looking elsewhere when Gujarat was burning". Did the SC actually say that? Let’s assume they did. But Arjun Modhwadia, Congress leader in Gujarat has promised to prove the SC statement is true in the Gujarat Assembly. He is struggling to establish this though. He is searching for evidence and so am I. Whether Modhwadia presents the evidence in the Gujarat assembly or not, over the last decade many celebrity media anchors have used the supposed statement of the SC to equate Narendra Modi with Nero. Story is that the Roman emperor was famously fiddling while Rome was burning so he could make a palatial complex out of the ruins. So much was invested in painting Modi as a murderer and looking the other way during Gujarat 2002 that the SIT Closure report must have come as a shock to a huge industry of liars. The SIT investigation is neatly summarised by Offstumped and to cut a long story short I am just quoting his summary here:

... the thrust of CM’s speech everywhere was that the incident was heinous, organised and that the culprits would be brought to strictest punishment.. . . .it is not the case that the Chief Minister made any assertion concerning- the obligation of any religious community to do such acts, as are likely to cause disharmony. He did not make any appeal to Hindus or Muslims to take up arms against each other.’it is reasonably concluded that no utterances on part of Shri Narendra Modi could ‘be attributed suggestive to any intended promotion of hatred ill-will etc.. amongst religious groups…

… the Learned Amicus Curiae has agreed with the various recommendations made by the SIT on the different issues inquired into /investigated by the SIT. However, the Ld. Amicus Curiae is of the view that, at this prima facie stage offences u/s 153A(I )(a)& (b), 1536 (I 166 and 505 (2) IPC are made out against Shri Narendra regarding the statement made by him in the meeting. In this connection, as discussed, above SIT is of the view that the offences under the aforesaid, sections of law are not made out against Shri Narendra Modi. In the light of the aforesaid facts, a closure report is being submitted for favour of perusal and orders

Since the SIT closure report did not suit their taste the media typically hung on grimly to the utterances of the Amicus Curae (AC) and kept suggesting Modi could be prosecuted based on the AC’s report. The AC has offered his opinion which does not constitute evidence. His opinion has also been considered and reported upon by the SIT. Let us do a roll-call of the vicious actors in the decade long campaign against Modi – Teesta Setalvad, Shabnam Hashmi, Arundhati Roy, Harsh Mandar, Sanjiv Bhatt, Mahesh Bhatt, Mallika Sarabhai … where do I stop? It’s too long. And then there’s another list from the media. Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Arnab Goswami, Vinod Sharma, Vir Sanghvi…. Again too long a list. All of these characters should hang their heads in shame and should actually apologise for the untruths they spread about Modi and Gujarat. In their Hate-Modi campaign they have even scoffed at the development of Gujarat and the progress the state has made under him. Such a campaign cannot be anything but ‘motivated’ and requires huge funding to sustain.

SIT makes the biggest bonfire of media lies 

The lies, the half-truths have all come to haunt the biggest personalities in the media. It is even unfortunate that some of them, also involved in other scandals, continue in their jobs. Many members of the Congress party have also wilfully indulged in encouraging the lies about Gujarat. After the SIT report, the next investigation has to be into the funding of NGOs like those of Teesta, Shabnam and the activities of Sanjiv Bhatt and many others. And what do we do with all the fake reports by the media over the decade? I have a modest suggestion! Put them all together and burn them in the biggest bonfire in your neighbourhood. The other lesson people should have learned by now: Never trust one word of what the news media says except for the bare news they report. They have lost all credibility and if they wish to regain it, the 5-star criminals must resign. The SIT has burned their lies and deceit. And let the bonfire of their reports and vanities be as hot as the fires of Rome.

Of the gang of crooks in the news media there are a few who still have people’s respect. One of them, Ravish Kumar of NDTV (Hindi) recently tweeted and I translate his statement: “Government’s lie and the media turns those lies into truth”. That’s the modern media’s daily job. In all of this the activists and media crooks have even forgotten that if ever a case were to be indeed brought against Narendra Modi he has every right to legal defence. Whether Modi will ever need it is a matter of conjecture but no man in Indian history has been so held guilty by suspicion, accusation and propaganda as he has been. Even known and convicted terrorists in our prisons have got better deals. Narendra Modi was and remains an innocent man in the eyes of the law as of now. From CMs to PMs there have been instances of negligence during agitations and communal riots. That may be true for Modi as well but the myth of him being an instigator, conspirator or supporter of the 2002 riot ends here. This particular myth, like the ‘Hē Ram’ of Gandhi, will not go on to become gospel truth.

And yes, what about the liars in the media and NGOs? There has to be a law by which such campaigners should be prosecuted and brought to justice. What about the supposed statement of SC comparing Nero fiddling while Rome burned to Gujarat or Narendra Modi? Although I doubt SC actually made that statement even learned judges can sometimes use myths as an expression. There were many fires in Rome during the period of Nero’s rule. The famous fire in which he fiddled was during the year 64 in the first century. Awful truth is: Violins weren’t invented till over 1000 years after Nero’s death. Oh well! Since that was a myth the historians suggested he must have played a stringed instrument called the ‘Lyre’ but even that turned out a hoax. Rome didn’t have an SIT then. If there had been one, the SIT would have established the Truth: Nero Never Fiddled!