For almost a week now Arnab Goswami & TimesNow have been reporting and screaming about a foreign junket by Karnataka MLAs. These MLAs seem to have gone on a trip to Argentina and other places on a ‘study tour’ on drought when Karnataka itself is reeling under drought conditions. The irony is stark and at a cost of 6-7 Crores is atrocious. Arnab is right in hauling them over the coals. (Oops.. did I just mention coal?). But why in the face of massive scams like Coalgate and Thoriumscam does this issue deserve reporting for five consecutive days on TimesNow? You report once, twice and then wait to report the follow up action. Justice Arnab seems to be in a hurry to hang them. I wonder if he would care to report similarly demanded junkets by his own team. To his credit and that of TimesNow they have not condoned such demands but there shouldn’t be any doubt such demands pervade the entire media. Well, we will get to that in a minute. Before that I recommend you read the paragraph below. And I mean read it very carefully:
The ‘backpresent’ concept at the end of a press conference that certain business houses seem to have perfected – whether in the form of an expensive pen or even better, a holiday for the family in a resort, or best of all, company shares – is only a reflection of how corporate journalism can be compromised… It’s no different with corporate houses who have select journalists on their payroll. Again, there are state govts which will ensure that certain journalists are given properties from the state quota even if the journalist has already acquired a property from the same quota. There are journalists too who will flaunt their farmhouses with great relish, though just where a journalist saves enough cash to acquire prime farm land remains a mystery….A journalist can get close to a political party, business house or an individual in a manner that compromises his independence. Having acquired that proximity, the journalist can then use his clout on a larger scale, playing kingmaker in cementing political alliances at the centre, or in providing the link between a minister in the Union cabinet and a business house in need of a favour…. Perhaps, it suits the newspaper owners and channel bosses to keep the status quo since they have been prime beneficiaries of a corrupted system. Certainly, none of the so-called media watchdog bodies, be it the Press Council or the Editors Guild, have chosen to focus on media corruption – political, ideological or financial….There are no rules or regulations that govern media ethics…
That little blast you just read was written a million years ago. 2001 to be precise! Does it all seem familiar? Does it make sense of Radiagate? Does it also explain why the Supreme Court, in the Kasab verdict, slammed the TV media in particular and suggested a regulatory watchdog can’t be from “within”? This was written by a prominent media celeb who hates the term ‘Paidmedia’. But I will leave it to you to guess which one. So whatever Justice Arnab finds abominable in those Karnataka MLAs is equally in abundance in our news media. An incident in Kerala should have shocked the entire media mafia but the report is buried in some corner in a Malayalam website.
I was sent this report through mail by an observant reader of this blog with an English translation. To be absolutely certain I had it translated by two more people from Twitter to verify if the website’s report was what I was mailed. Thanks to all three who did the translation (@Nidheeshn @ArunGanesh1203 and the one who sent the mail, for their contribution). Here’s the report from the website ScoopIndia:
Channel head looking for freebies: Controversy beamed live
The Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) rejected the request from a top officer of a leading news channel to provide free accommodation at their hotel. An officer from the personal staff of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy who intervened on behalf of the person and this officer were reprimanded by the CM for his intervention. This incident has created an explosion in Offices of both the CM and the channel.
The controversy started when a Production Controller from the Times Now news channel owned by the Times of India group decided to visit Kerala during the Onam season. He planned to use the services of KTDC for his stay at Thekkady and Trivandrum. For this he called up the MD of KTDC Mr Prashanth IAS over phone. Happily, Prashanth invited him to Kerala. Only later on, Prashanth realised that the luxury resorts and services were requested to be provided free of cost basis recommendation by the channel. The MD replied that this was not possible and offered a maximum of 30% discount on the services. But the Production Controller from the channel was not satisfied and repeatedly contacted the MD for providing the services free of cost. The MD did not bow down to his demand.
Subsequently, one Malayalee who was the reporter of Times of India in Kerala contacted a personal staff of the CM of Kerala. The reporter raised the same requirement with this person that was raised by the Production Controller to the MD of KTDC. Based on his personal rapport with the reporter, the staff of the CM’s office intervened and took up the matter with the MD of KTDC, but the MD refused to compromise on the stand that he had taken earlier. The MD of KTDC escalated this matter to the Special Private Secretary of the CM, Mr R.K Balakrishnan, when he was no longer able to withstand the repeated pressure from the staff member. Mr R.K. Balakrishnan informed the matter to the CM after studying the issue in detail.
It is reported that CM Oommen Chandy reacted angrily. He took the stand that nobody should be allowed to misuse his office. Immediately, the CM called the MD of KTDC directly to enquire full details of the issue. Later, the CM sent a mail to Arnab Goswami, Editor in Chief of Times Now channel with all details of this incident. Arnab replied that the incident has happened without his knowledge and expressed regret for the same. The matter did not end at this. The Times management has asked the Production Controller and the reporter to clarify their actions when there was a ban on reporters from the Times Group accepting gifts even when they are on a business meetings, and why they tried to misuse and involve the CM’s office to get benefits. The CM did not seek an explanation from his personal staff, but has sent out a stern warning that such requests and recommendations should not be made in future.
Now what if the TimesNow guy had been from some political party or someone media wishes to tar? The headlines on our channels would have probably been: “Member seeks special favours from KTDC”, “Errant son of top politician demands freebies from KTDC”, “Modi aide threatens Kerala Tourism”, “Chief spokesman bullies KTDC and CM’s office”. Yes indeed they would carry those headlines. Naturally, I’m tempted to ask where’s the headline that says: “Did TimesNow Production Head Arm-twist Kerala Tourism”?
Okay, that little blast from the past that you read in the second paragraph was written by none other than Rajdeep Sardesai. Must have been written in a “fit”of conscience.