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.