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.