For many reasons I cannot disclose many intricate details in this post but I will offer enough for readers to ponder. Surviving online with some kind of news outlet or media-watch site is a tough job. Some like Firstpost may be well-funded and have the access of Network18 to rely upon for content and distribution. Don’t know how Rediff does but it has online shopping business too. Sites like NitiCentral have to rely on limited access to news networks. Last year a satire site had to bite the dust and merge with an MSM branch to survive. Many have to make compromises that are forced entirely by their grim financial situation. You know, like the old boxing mafia in the US used to do. They fixed matches, up and comers were forced to take a dive and promising careers were killed. Here’s half a true story:
“My night. I could've taken Wilson apart that night. So what happens? He gets a title shot outdoors in the ballpark, and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville. I was never no good after that night, Charley. It was like a peak you reach, and then it's downhill. It was you, Charley. You was my brother. You should've looked out for me a little bit… You should've taken care of me just a little bit instead of making me take them dives for the short-end money. You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let's face it”.
"The medium is the message" said Marshall McLuhan meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. If you tune into TimesNow or CNN-IBN or NDTV or an online site like Newslaundry you know pretty much what you’ll get. You know NDTV is alleged to have indulged in financial frauds and indirectly “facilitated” their IT assessment officer for “speedy disposal” (as the DLF chairman calls it). We have also seen the propaganda, plagiarism with fake videos and fake reports, fake tweets to support lobbying on some issue and even outright lies by some of them. Take a look at this:
So the crooks at NDTV believe “guilty by association” is legitimate news reporting. Of course, this is couched in clever trickery of not being inaccurate but the tweet by India TV exposes what the scumbags and scumbaginis at NDTV really are. They don’t miss even a remote chance to tar and malign Narendra Modi. So that’s what brings us to the question: why would Narendra Modi appear on a show in which this corrupt channel is a media partner? The answer isn’t simple. The other two associates of this event are Facebook (FB) and Newslaundry (NL). Who initiated this event is not clear to the public but based on evidence we have to assume since this is a social media event it is a Facebook event. But chances also are that the event was “concocted” in association by one or more of the partners or their PR brokers. The event is called “Candidates 2014” and is supposedly …. Well take a look at what NL said:
NL first put up a page that said (as in the first para of text) “Madhu Trehan interviews prime-ministerial front-runners”. Ha! What a scam! It included the convict Lalu Prasad who can’t even contest elections and others were Modi, Mamata Banerjee, Arvind Kejriwal and Akhilesh Yadav. So people pointed out this blooper and a few hours later this was changed to “… top contenders”. Top contenders for what? The speaker’s position in the next LS? The silliness of the new title seems lost on NL. Notice that under the text it says “You can be the first to comment” and that is in the revised page. For some reason NL deleted around 90 comments that I had seen when the page was first up on February 20. They even put up a notice saying comments for the thread are closed as the pic on the left shows. If everything is clean and transparent why all this skulduggery?
Kanchan Gupta, who heads NitiCentral, put out this a tweet and stated it’s an open event and anybody can broadcast and Niti too will broadcast. That was enough to start a scramble between the advertised partners of the event and that’s where the fun part starts. Here is an exchange between KanchanG and Barkha Dutt (who else could it have been?):
So the group editor of NDTV says “from what I understand” they are exclusive broadcast partners. The last tweet above from KanchanG says he heard differently (in another tweet he mentioned from Modi’s office) that it was a FB event and that he will be broadcasting it anyway. Elsewhere, Vikram Chandra, the usually amiable guy from NDTV, had a clear indication of what anyone else broadcasting the event would tantamount to:
Okay, so VikramC says it would be piracy. FB’s also said NDTV and NL are partners in this grand event. However, press releases weren't all that clear. So let’s now get a bit more into this puzzle.
On being asked about this deal and why others can’t broadcast, Abhinandan Sekhri, a founder and investor in NL, has this answer as shown in the tweet. Oh yeah! “Not sponsored by anyone… tu nahi samjhega”. So according to AS it’s an NL-FB event and NDTV is the “partner”. Err… “Tu nahi samjhega”! I agree with that part. Nobody understands. AS is an AAP member and the same arrogance that runs through AAP statements runs through this guy’s dialogue too. AS is the one who actually runs NL. Everything in NL is managed by him. Madhu Trehan just does her ‘Clothesline’ once a week or so. AS is also a vendor for NDTV. He runs a firm called ‘SmallScreen’ which produces videos, animations and scripts for many clients. So, without a doubt, AS is a talented guy and the animations and sketches you see on NL mostly come from him and, evidently, his team from SmallScreen.
Like I said in the beginning, it is hard to sustain an online news or satire site in India. Madhu Trehan has often asked the question on whether they should seek sponsors or subscriptions from viewers. I don’t think the subscriptions route worked all that well. So it is likely that NL didn’t have a sustainable revenue model. Remember, this was supposed to be a media-critic and analyst. NL did that job pretty well; bringing out the hypocrisies, ironies and idiosyncrasies frequently. It also did a fine job on putting some of the media celebs on the mat in its interviews. All this was under the heady tagline “Sab ki Dhulai” (Washing everyone or thrashing everyone – depending on how you read it). But looks like they finally ran out of detergent. NL has now gone the MSM way partnering a channel with allegations of corruption and financial fraud.
The change at NL was visible about 10-15 days ago I think. Their site was down for maintenance they said and then it came up in a new avatar and design. What struck me most was a stingingly spiteful article against Tarun Tejpal’s “rape victim” on Valentine’s Day. The writer poured scorn on the victim and made out Tejpal to be the victim of her malicious campaign sort of. Cleverly, as with other MSM morons, the writer of this spiteful and hate-filled article calls Tejpal’s prey “MsTehelka-Assault-Victim”. Astonishing! Why is she Tehelka’s victim and not Tejpal’s victim? Is this the honest discourse Madhu Trehan had promised NL readers? But then Madhu was always an MSM member. Some things don’t change. The name of the author of that article? Nirupama Sekhri! Nice! So that should tell you how NL is now following the “Tejpalisation” of media. Tejpalisation essentially involves reckless writing, writing propaganda for one particular party and their friends and slowly turning a rape victim, in the case of a media celebrity, into the offender. NL as you knew it is over. As a reader points out “Get used to it”! How did this turnaround or compromise happen? It’s not very hard to guess or should I say “Tu nahi samjhega”? I estimate the ownership pattern of NL itself might have changed.
Let’s look at the line up for the event. There’s Modi, Lalu, Akhilesh, Kejriwal and MamataB. Would Modi have agreed to an event initiated by NL? I don’t think so. Would Modi have agreed to an event initiated by NDTV? Fly a kite! Therefore, the only possibility is Facebook would have initiated it and roped in Modi. Besides, who would really want to listen to Lalu or Akhilesh? I don’t know, maybe an “organised” mob. What about Kejriwal? What exactly would be special about AK in another event? He is on TV almost 24X7 there is nothing that anyone can learn anew from his tape-recorded “Ambani is corrupt, Modi is corrupt and you are corrupt” dialogues. MamataB? Maybe a few but she is no way a major attraction beyond Bengal. In short, without Modi this event would have been still-born. And the only entity that could have roped in Modi is FB. KanchanG suggests Modi’s office wasn’t aware of the other partners of the event.
Leave aside FB. One of the other two partners probably created the event and one of them got FB to sell it to Modi (and the others) because it’s clearly unlikely Modi would have agreed to. And is it all for free? No sponsors? I sincerely doubt it. In fact Modi supporters aren’t very happy that he would be appearing on NDTV, a channel that abused him for a decade and still continues to abuse him in very “clever” ways as the first tweet in this post shows. So what happened? NDTV got a surrogate interview to telecast that they otherwise wouldn’t have got. Modi has appeared in interviews with Timesnow and CNN-IBN over the years but not in a major exclusive with NDTV. This is their kill in response to exclusive interviews on another channel. In the following lines that I quoted in the beginning lie an answer:
“You should've taken care of me just a little bit instead of making me take them dives for the short-end money…” Who took the dives for the short-end money? That’s for you to figure out. All I can say for sure is that NL as a media-critic brand is over. In its new avatar you will find it more directly aligned with one of the MSM outlets. As for NDTV, its pathetic slide down the drain will continue and with the prospect of a political change at the centre their future doesn’t look too bright. NL may temporarily glow under the lights of this event but I would have to once again quote but rephrase the lines in the 2nd para:
“You don't understand. You coulda had class. You coulda been a contender. You coulda been somebody instead of a…”