Friday, August 31, 2012

NDTV, CNN-IBN - News Channels Or New Threats?

Among 11 people arrested in Bangalore on August 30 for plotting terror attacks, 1 is a journalist. Does that surprise anyone? Among the targets is a columnist for a Kannada daily. Will the news channels talk about him? No! He’s not part of their “elite” circle of mafia wiseguys.

Extortion, blackmail, murder, national-security threat, ISI & Fai-funded, paid-news, the MSM has clearly degenerated to ‘India’s biggest Mafia. On August 29, 2012 two verdicts were on expected lines; one from the Supreme Court confirming Ajmal Kasab’s death sentence and another from a Trial Court in Gujarat convicting 32 persons for the Naroda Patiya killings in the Gujarat 2002 riots. The media dust-storm is gone so we can see a lot more clearly. In the rush to again call Narendra Modi a murderer, of having instigated killings etc. or to applaud the judiciary for upholding the death sentence to Kasab the TV media quietly buried a few important pages from the SC judgement. Those were the ones that slammed the TV media for outrageous coverage of the 26/11 attacks and went as far as implying the media was a national-security threat. NDTVand CNN-IBN must take a large share of the blame for the steep decline in news reporting and quality of debates on TV but other channels cannot escape the share.

Those in defence of our silly media over 26/11 always have the same question. Why didn’t the govt or MHA warn them? Even some journalists asked this stupid question back then. The tweet on the left asks the same innocent question. I have blacked out the ID of the tweeter as this could have come from anyone who doesn’t follow media that closely. My answer has been pretty much the same. Media has codes on ethics, has codes and guidelines on reporting from conflict zones. Nobody has to tell them to behave. These codes have been improved and modified with every major conflict across the world. The unfortunate truth is that our MSM simply doesn’t give a damn about their own codes. In most cases of conflicts and court verdicts these channels have been merely building drama around them and quite often on communal lines. Not only on TV but reporters and anchors from these two channels further aggravate issues by mindless comments on Twitter. Let’s look at how they handled the Naroda Patiya verdict.

Here’s another tweet, this time from the Social Genius quoting Mallika Sarabhai. You will normally find a small disclaimer at the end of articles in print and online media: “The views expressed are the author’s personal”. Umm… you won’t find that on TV so when SG quotes Mallika on what was already said on TV, one can safely assume she is furthering her own argument. Mallika’s statement is as comfortable a LIE as you can get anywhere. As a long-time resident of Gujarat I know that people here usually go about their life peacefully and hardly bother about the govt. I say that in a nice sense. They neither credit nor blame the govt for their success or their problems. Most Gujjus make their own fortune, misfortune or destiny as people rightly should. Mallika, for political pursuits, just insults them because she wants to see Modi in jail. When SG endorses that view she once again demonstrates her phenomenal abundance of ignorance and idiocy. The only hatred and prejudice growing somewhere are in the heads of Mallika and Sagarika Ghose and CNN-IBN as a whole. Spewing of mindless hatred gets passed off as debate. This is not a stray case, many such lies have been peddled over the years.

On September 12, 2011 when the SC sent back the Zakia Jaffri petition against Modi to the lower courts in Gujarat the Cacofonix was unhappy (See tweet). She demanded that the Lordships should have at least passed “moral observation” implying the SC should have put Modi on their lordly laps and spanked him. Well, the SC finally obliged and passed strictures that go far beyond mere “moral”. They commented about our shamelessly inconsiderate media being a security threat during 26/11 and more damningly stated: “The coverage of the Mumbai terror attack by the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must only come from within”. That’s right! They have been largely behaving like an unruly criminal mob. Our corrupt media is simply incapable of self-regulation and does need an independent and autonomous regulator (I would not recommend a govt regulator though).

On August 29 after a Trial Court convicted Maya Kodnani, former minister of Gujarat govt, who does the media rush to? Of course, the AVFG (Automated Verbal Filth Generator)! This was the statement of Digvijay Singh: “We welcome the judgement of the Trial Court… No minister would act without the instruction of the CM… the minister acted at the behest of then CM Narendra Modi who is CM now also”. The media had orgasms over his stupid statement without realising Kodnani was not a minister during the riots. The concept of fact-checking is not a practice in a corrupt media. They are happy to peddle the lies fed to them, like mongrels happy with crumbs. Not one in the media has ever confronted the lies of Digvijay now or in the past. Given that AVFG had blamed RSS and even launched a book “26/11 a RSS conspiracy” the right question after SC’s judgement on Kasab would have been if he will apologise for his conspiracy theories. But that’s how media lies, misrepresents and deceives the public. You see, truth doesn’t pay as much as lies in the corrupt world of news media.

On August 29 again the same gang of usual suspects had a free run on TV. Thapar The Tool, on CNN-IBN, mischievously asked the question: “Dothe BJP & RSS have a hand in the Gujarat riots?” It is now a standard practice with the media to discuss 2002 and 1984 in conjunction. A rank outsider might even believe that 1984 happened because of 2002. Why are they bringing up 1984 now? Fact: For over two decades the entire corrupt media buried the 1984 genocide of Sikhs. It is only when social media started pestering them that 1984 started getting attention. H.S. Jhulka, a lawyer, has been fighting for justice for Sikhs since 1984. He pointed out to TheTool that historically govts have always been a part of riots but that in Gujarat the govt did not interfere with the process of justice while all the cases in the Sikh killings were buried by the Congress govts and offenders protected. Naturally, TheTool quickly jumped to another question to further his agenda. Just as they remember 1984 now, the media might someday remember the issue of Kashmiri Pandits maybe when ethnic cleansing happens in some other state in India. Assam is bordering on that.

Since the SC made its observations against the media on its 26/11 coverage many, like the innocent questioner in the first para of this post, have also asked why the comments are being taken to be directed against NDTV. Sure, SC has not directed their comments against any particular channel. But from what I know and what has been reported elsewhere NDTV was the only Indian channel which was broadcasting in Pakistan at that time. And then it is also not possible to deny the histrionics of Barkha Dutt during the whole tragedy. Chetanya Kunte’s blog which called Barkha’s reporting “Shoddy Journalism” naturally seems vindicated.  His post clearly reflected accurately on the kind of journalism practiced by both Barkha Dutt and NDTV. But has NDTV learned anything? Nothing! And then they sue TAM for loss of ratings and viewership.

Here are two images from the website of NDTV. Reporting the Godhra verdict in March 2011 it reports 63 acquitted in the case. In the August 2012 Naroda Patiya verdict it reports 29 let off. Naturally, people are seeing through these double standards and blatant communalisation of reports. When Muslims were not found guilty they use the term “acquitted” and in the Naroda case it’s “let off”. Now what exactly does “let off” mean, that the judge set them free despite guilt being established? NDTV has been a serial offender of journalistic ethics and in a new media order citizens must be allowed to file petitions for such criminally biased and misleading reports. A channel that still retains a media celeb caught lobbying with PR agents in Radiagate is hardly an epitome of “independent and honest” as NDTV keeps shouting from the rooftops. Manipulated headlines, manipulated debates… the limits of indecent journalism have already been crossed long back.

From August 27, 2012 NDTV has been running a series called ‘Mid-term polls’. This touches upon politics, some forecasts and like the ‘GreatestIndian’ nonsense on CNN-IBN it also lists greatest actors, actresses and if India should be pro America or not etc. I wonder what’s coming in the remaining parts…  Greatest blacksmiths, vampires, soothsayers, pickpockets, jugglers…  On the August 29 episode Prannoy Roy was busy discussing Priyanka Vadra and if she should get into active politics. For effect they will refer to her as Priyanka Gandhi when it is politically convenient. Pathetic propaganda! Unfortunately, the panel also included a respected journalist like Swapan Dasgupta. I guess even he is happy being reduced to a comedian in the NDTV circus. I wonder why the sudden polls, greatest and all that? Coalgate? MotaMaal? Maybe! But the polls also brought out something absolutely stupid: A question on who are the nicest people in India. Please read that as which state has the nicest people in India. You might also expect which state has the most criminal people in due course.

The result of this stupid poll has Uttar Pradesh as having the nicest people in India. If you shoot yourself in the foot or head after viewing the pic, please don’t send the bill to me, send it to NDTV. Mind you, ordinary people in every state are really nice. But a state which has the tag of ‘Goonda Raj’ is the nicest? My point is Goonda Raj doesn’t mean just govt. The Goonda-giri has to be carried out by a lot of people on the ground or foot-soldiers. As a person who has visited many states, cities and far corners of India I can vouch for the fact this is an absolutely idiotic poll. Kerala is the second nicest? Nobody says one is nice or other is nicer but what does it say of a report in ThePioneer immediately after NDTV’s stupid poll? The report titled “Not a paradise for outsiders” (about Kerala) doesn’t make great reading. So where does NDTV do its mindless surveys?

This frivolous poll is clearly reflective of the divisive agenda of NDTV. Now, apart from the rankings look at the fine print at the right-bottom corner of the image. Readers themselves have given a thumbs-down to the poll (1655 to 694). This is a supposed national news channel indulging in petty gimmickry and is proof that news channels can’t stand their ground without resorting to selling gimmicks and Bollywood trivia. So what exactly is NDTV’s agenda here? Clearly divide the country and its people more and more through spurious and mindless polls. That’s doing the politician’s job, not a news channel. As good as a threat to the nation! And then these channels accuse politicians of polarising the people.

Behind the ‘excuse’ and facade of news our MSM could well be entrenched in activities that would do any mafia proud. Chetanya Kunte merely stopped at calling it “shoddy journalism”. Subsequent events and incidents and finally the SC’s observation clearly indicate the MSM is actually a serious national security threat. That’s worse than just being the mafia. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

NDTV: How To Lose Friends & Alienate People

Along with their sense of fairness in news reporting, folks at NDTV also seem to have lost the civility that they often preach to others. They also seem to care less about the privacy they often scream about. Here’s a small note from Christine Fair, a South-Asia specialist according to her Twitter profile @CChristineFair, responding to Ritu Jain, producer at NDTV. This is a tweet from Ms.Fair. I have reproduced the exact text of Fair’s tweet leaving out only the email ID and mobile number of Ritu Jain

I quote:

My exchange shaming this rude Ms. Jain

Dear Ritu

I have asked you clowns repeatedly to NOT call me before 9 am and not after 10 pm. (By repeatedly I mean "dozens of times." ) Yet today, you called me at 6:48 am on a Saturday after a night of sleeplessness. You are rude, selfish and unprofessional. Save your apologies. NDTV does this all the time obviating any sincerity of its or your apologies. I should point out that even Fox news only calls potential guests at civilized hours. So congrats NDTV. you are even less civilized than Fox News. Shabash! Kya bat hai! I will NEVER do an interview when the producer is so ill-mannered and self-centered as to call me at such an hour. Had you simply sent an email and WAITED for me to wake up, I would have been happy to help out. It is taking every ounce of the professional in me --as well as inadequate caffeine--to not tell you to go straight to hell.


On Sat, Aug 25, 2012 at 6:53 AM, Ritu Jain
Dear Ms. Fair,

May I please request you to join us at 9pm tonight,Saturday,25/08 for our Prime Time News @ 9 with Maya Mirchandani ,our Senior Anchor on “Gun Control in America” as compared to other countries like Norway,India ? “Mr. Praveen Swami from” The Hindu “is also going to be participating. Could join on Skype if you could send me your Skype id and contact number. Will be grateful if this can be worked out.Waiting to hear from you

Many thanks,
Ritu Jain
Programme Coordinator, NDTV


I am not sure how Maya Mirchandani or anyone at NDTV is really qualified to discuss Gun-control in America but that’s hardly relevant. This exchange once again only proves that those who preach civility in public life and respect for privacy of individuals don’t really give a damn about it themselves. That’s a perfect lesson from NDTV on how to lose friends and alienate people.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kasab Death Sentence: SC Observations on Media

Below is the unedited text from the Supreme Court judgement upholding the death sentence on Ajmal Kasab, one of the terrorists in 26/11. The SC makes some observations about the role of our media which make interesting reading. These are reproduced from the SC order document and run from pages 245 to 249 in the original document. (Emphasis mine)



Role of the media:

402. Before parting with the transcripts, we feel compelled to say a few words about the way the terrorist attacks on Taj Hotel, Hotel Oberoi and Nariman House were covered by the mainstream, electronic media and shown live on the TV screen. From the transcripts, especially those from Taj Hotel and Nariman House, it is evident that the terrorists who were entrenched at those places and more than them, their collaborators across the border were watching the full show on TV. In the transcripts there are many references to the media reports and the visuals being shown on the TV screen. The collaborators sitting in their hideouts across the border came to know about the appellant being caught alive from Indian TV: they came to know about the killing of high ranking police officers also from Indian TV. At one place in the transcript, the collaborators and the terrorists appear to be making fun of the speculative report in the media that the person whose dead body was found in Kuber was the leader of the terrorist group whom his colleagues had killed for some reason before leaving the boat 56. At another place in the transcript the collaborators tell the terrorists in Taj Hotel that the dome at the top (of the building) had caught fire. The terrorists holed up in some room were not aware of this. The collaborators further advise the terrorists that the stronger they make the fire the better it would be for them 57. At yet another place the terrorists at Hotel Taj tell the collaborators that they had thrown a grenade. The Collaborators reply, “the sound of the grenade has come, they have shown the grenade, the explosion has taken place, people are wounded”58. At yet another place the collaborators tell the terrorists at Hotel Oberoi that the troops were making their position very strong on the roof of the building59. At yet another place the collaborators tell the terrorists at Taj Hotel the exact position taken by the policemen (close to a building that belonged to the navy but was given to the civilians) and from where they were taking aim and firing at them (the terrorists) and advised them the best position for them to hit back at those policemen.60 There are countless such instances to show that the collaborators were watching practically every movement of the security forces that were trying to tackle the terrorists under relentless gun fire and throwing of grenades from their end.

403. Apart from the transcripts, we can take judicial notice of the fact that the terrorists attacks at all the places, in the goriest details, were shown live on the Indian TV from beginning to end almost non-stop. All the channels were competing with each other in showing the latest developments on a minute to minute basis, including the positions and the movements of the security forces engaged in flushing out the terrorists. The reckless coverage of the terrorist attack by the channels thus gave rise to a situation where on the one hand the terrorists were completely hidden from the security forces and they had no means to know their exact position or even the kind of firearms and explosives they possessed and on the other hand the positions of the security forces, their weapons and all their operational movements were being watched by the collaborators across the border on TV screens and being communicated to the terrorists.

404. In these appeals, it is not possible to find out whether the security forces actually suffered any casualty or injuries on account of the way their operations were being displayed on the TV screen. But it is beyond doubt that the way their operations were freely shown made the task of the security forces not only exceedingly difficult but also dangerous and risky.

405. Any attempt to justify the conduct of the TV channels by citing the right to freedom of speech and expression would be totally wrong and unacceptable in such a situation. The freedom of expression, like all other freedoms under Article 19, is subject to reasonable restrictions. An action tending to violate another person’s right to life guaranteed under Article 21 or putting the national security in jeopardy can never be justified by taking the plea of freedom of speech and expression.

406. The shots and visuals that were shown live by the TV channels could have also been shown after all the terrorists were neutralized and the security operations were over. But, in that case the TV programmes would not have had the same shrill, scintillating and chilling effect and would not have shot up the TRP ratings of the channels. It must, therefore, be held that by covering live the terrorists attack on Mumbai in the way it was done, the Indian TV channels were not serving any
national interest or social cause. On the contrary they were acting in their own commercial interests putting the national security in jeopardy.

407. It is in such extreme cases that the credibility of an institution is tested. The coverage of the Mumbai terror attack by the mainstream electronic media has done much harm to the argument that any regulatory mechanism for the media must only come from within.


Monday, August 27, 2012

NDTV - Independent & Honest

On the GOI’s silly crackdown on Internet and Social Media thus writes Tavleen Singh in the Indian Express (Aug 26): “As for those journalists who have gone out of their way to support Internet censorship, for reasons I cannot fathom, my advice to them is that they give up journalism for more profitable careers in government. At least that way they will not be betraying their dharma and even if the I&B Ministry bites the dust, there will always be propaganda work available”. Tavleen, with all her experience, just makes one small mistake; they ARE already working for the govt. Maybe she was just being kind and polite. One channel, from ‘Experience Truth first’  now frequently claims to be ‘Independent and Honest’ (They're IH too?). In this post I will mostly share quotes from others and from reports and you too can arrive at your own conclusion.

Retired psychotherapist Mike Spindell summed up the media charlatans and the so-called expert panellists pretty neatly in a blog (On the American scene. Emphasis mine): “..For many years I was misled into believing that these “Serious People” were really my intellectual betters when it came to public affairs and that political discussion must only exist within the ground rules of debate established by our “Pundit Class”... I’ve come to see that not only is this “Pundit Class” inherently corrupt, but only a rare few can barely be called intellectually informative. This group is in reality the paid propagandists of the elite 1% that rule this country and their main task is to limit the scope of our national debate”. You see, this phenomenon is universal, even truer for India, where the GOI is slowly turning the nation into a banana republic with the help of their media cronies.

In particular, those pretending to be journalists from NDTV and CNN-IBN are propagandists and nothing more. This has been established over a long period and written about by this and many other social media sites on the net. And then NDTV wonders why their ratings, viewership and stock value have been consistently going down. And for losses they usually end up blaming someone else. NDTV has ended up filing a huge lawsuit against TRP measuring company Nielsen. In their lawsuit NDTV has claimed that TAM ratings have badly bruised an “independent and honest” news channel like theirs. Okay, I forgive if you fell off your chair laughing. For a quick summary of the case read ‘The Rating Game. NDTV has sought an extraordinary $1 Billion plus in damages from Nielsen and its Indian partner TAM which is a group company of media giant WPP owned by Sir Martin Sorrell.

For the first time Sir Martin Sorrell spoke about the case and called it a “hypothetical” lawsuit. Here’s a summary of what Sorrell told Livemint (Aug24) in an interview:

The two-lawyer firm (engaged by NDTV) is based in Florida and it specializes in restaurant law. This is an Indian issue, not American. It is a bit of mischief on their part. Their lawyers called us and asked if we would discuss a settlement. I said there is no question of settlement… This whole thing is mischievous, designed to elicit some financial response from us…. You look at NDTV’s performance in the last five years. I am not talking about their editorial, but the business. Its market cap has fallen from $800 million to $60 million. It is an attempt by NDTV to blame the ratings for their performance… Their financial performance has been poor… They are issuing illegitimate proceedings in the US with lawyers working on a contingency basis, where they do not get a fee, but a percentage of the settlement. That is why they rang up”.
A day later NDTV responded with a statement on their website: (Excerpts): “Sir Martin has alleged that NDTV's lawyers reached out to his lawyers to ask for a settlement. This is completely untrue…. In fact, it was his own CEO.. of Kantar, a WPP company, who sent a confidential mail to NDTV… this is not a "hypothetical" lawsuit. It is available on the website of the Supreme Court of New York… Strangely, Sir Martin contradicts himself by now applying to the NY court for dismissal of the real lawsuit, using a plea based on technicalities of jurisdiction. Sir Martin and his lawyers (presumably) are not refuting any facts… We would like to point out that it is indeed near impossible for an honest Indian media company to function in the dishonest environment his company has helped create in India”.

US courts have a history of awarding severe damages if proven that injury has been caused to a business unit by a supplier or reports that are damaging. That’s not so common in India. TAM India operates in India. Their TRP measurements are done in India. TAM’s rating products are purchased by TV channels and advertisers in India. Indian laws are applicable to TAM India. So, regardless of the merits of the case, why would NDTV go all the way to New York and file a case seeking over $1 Billion in damages? Sorrell’s comment that NY courts have no jurisdiction and it’s an Indian issue seems very valid. Even with their consistent losses, poor financial performance and eroding market cap NDTV has hardly had any problem finding investors. Interesting isn’t it? Here’s what Sucheta Dalal’s Moneylife had to say in May 2011 (excerpts):

Even Their Mirror Lies?
Its viewership claims are impossible to believe; its credibility at a nadir; and its finances in a mess. Yet, every few months, the financially beleaguered NDTV India pulls off a coup by getting deep-pocketed ‘strategic’ investors and top-flight private equity investors to abandon their stiff standards and pick up big chunks of its equity. Last week, DE Shaw group.. picked up a 14.2% stake in NDTV providing an exit to Goldman Sachs.. the stock rose to Rs511 in January 2008… It is now at Rs76—down 25% even from the issue price, after seven years of existence—and down a whopping 85% from its peak. This is hardly surprising. NDTV has been making losses ever since it got listed… This is not the first perplexing investment NDTV has swung. Last month, it sold a 49% stake in NDTV Lifestyle Holding Pvt Ltd, to Malaysia’s Astro All Asia Networks for $40 million… Interestingly, the DE Shaw investment in NDTV has happened in less than two weeks since it joined hands with Reliance.. to enter the Indian financial services sector. Now we know that Mukesh Ambani has a soft spot for NDTV’s promoters and anchors and that they had previously approached him for an investment. We will have to wait and see if DE Shaw demands performance or remains a mysteriously passive, undemanding investor, like all others who invested in this company”.

It seems NDTV wanted other media houses to join them and gang up on Nielsen but they seemed to have refused. Once the news about Sorrell’s retaliation broke, Moneylife again presented a report: “NDTV is the David to WPP’s Goliath. It is a glamorous-looking company, whose clout has waned steadily over the years due to editorial controversies, tough competition, increasing media fragmentation, poor finances and miserable share price performance. Yet, its clout is completely disproportionate to its financial muscle (or lack of it) due to powerful political connections, mainly with the ruling Congress-led government and some leaders of the opposition (mainly the Left). This clout was on display soon after NDTV filed the lawsuit. Media houses, which had refused to join the suit (NDTV sources say they had approached most of them to join hands), unleashed a spate of media reports supporting NDTV’s viewpoint. They were worried that the information & broadcasting ministry would support a move to threaten the market dominance (a monopoly) of TAM ratings”.

It has always been evident to even a casual observer that NDTV is a Congress mouthpiece and sometimes a propagandist for the party. Having soaked itself in a financial mire and then keep chanting we are an “Independent and Honest” company is not different from Barkha Dutt’s “error of judgement” in the Radiagate episode. Of the many posts about NDTV just one is enough to prove they are cronies of the Congress. The moment they had flashed the program: “The evolution of Rahul Gandhi” prior to UP elections earlier this year I was suspicious it’s another propaganda effort. I undertook the boring task of calculating the time spent by Barkha and the panellists. Barkha Dutt played moderator in a debate lasting 51 minutes. Of the 51 minutes 16 were used by Barkha’s introduction in eulogising Rahul Gandhi. And of the total 51, Barkha and the Congress spokesman used 37 minutes. The other 3 panellists and the audience put together got all of 14 minutes. Independent and honest? Harsh truth is, there is no totally independent and honest news media anywhere in the world anymore. Some are either more or less independent and some are more or less honest.