Power and Fear: Indian Corporate’s new media mantra

Gopinath Menon, CEO, Melon Media, Crayons Communications Group writes in his guest column ” New custodians of democracy emerge” in exchange4media.com on possible danger of corporate sector taking over the news industry:

Media houses of the past have slowly changed character and the traits now are very different. Earlier the  purpose was skewed towards a social objective, the freedom struggle, the voice of the down trodden, etc. This has given way to purely commercial and practical objectives. The social outlook of media houses has given way to the green dollars for the last two decades or so.

…..It is not the green dollars here as most media companies are bleeding and will take years before they break even. So what is the reason? The answer lies in the simple question “If you cannot be rich, can you be powerful and feared?”

With RIL investments in Network 18 and The Aditya Birla Group in TV Today, we are seeing a start of a new breed of corporate captains emerging in the fourth estate business. The significant fact to note is that all business investments have come in the news space and not in the entertainment space. So it is clear that it is not fondness for the media space but the news space that generates power and fear. This might change the media character of the written, spoken and seen words forever.

Why do we watch or read news? To be informed and enlightened. It helps us posses a viewpoint that builds our stature and standing within our peer group or society at large. The building block for this is ‘Credibility’ and ‘Truth’. I truly believe that there are no in-betweens when it comes to these traits. So you blindly rely on the information to develop a stance. What happens when this basic input is biased and misleading or planted? Everything collapses and it is tough to believe that their values will be embraced with the same intensity as before. If the same intensity prevails, its fine but is it going to be easy for a top business leader by origin to allow a huge chunk of business loss so that he comes across as principled? It is tough and maybe impractical to let it go and hence, the concern for the fourth estate.

Times have changed. We are on the threshold of a new society being weaved by the captains of industry controlling truth and credibility in the fourth estate. 

Read the full column : ” New custodians of democracy emerge” 

Bangla Bloggers’ siege Home Ministry for murdered journalist couple

Dhaka, Bangladesh. 15th May 2012 — Police set up a barricade to stop journalists advancing forward as they declared a ‘Home Ministry siege programme’ demanding justice for the journalist couple Sagar and Runi. — Journalists demonstrate in front of the Secretariat demanding justice for the journalist couple Sagar and Runi who were gunned down in their own bedroom. (C:Demotix)

Crossing various hurdles, the Bangla bloggers conducted their programme of singing protest songs in public. Comments by the police commissioner that “permissions will be required”, not allowing the required temporary electricity connection at the protest venue, and even sudden rains during part of the evening, nothing could stop the bloggers, journalists, students and ordinary citizens from showing solidarity and participating in singing the protest songs

Bloggers have once again taken to the street, demanding justice for the murdered journalist couple Sagar Sarwar and his wife Meherun Runi.. On 11th May, 2012, they organized a protest in front of the public library in Shahbagh, Dhaka. This was their fourth protest gathering. In the early hours of 11th February, 2012, the couple was found brutally murdered in their West Rajabajar apartment in Dhaka.

At the end of the day’s event, the next steps and upcoming protest programmes were announced. Among the future protests being planned by journalists and bloggers are the following:

1. 20th May to 15th June – Public meetings at all the media houses
2. 5th June – March to the Parliament and submit a memorandum to the Speaker of the House, demanding arrest and trial of the killers of Sagar-Runi
3. 26th June – Protest march towards the Prime Minister’s Office.
4. If the administration still fails to deliver justice, all journalists across the country will stop work and undertake a ‘pen down’ programme.

Three months have passed since the murder and till date, the police have been unsuccessful in discovering any clues or leads that would help them to solve the case. The Bangladesh High Court has expressed dissatisfaction with the progress (or lack of it) of the Detective Branch (DB) of police investigating the murder. The case has since then been transferred to the anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit - Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). The bodies have already been exhumed for a repeat postmortem. However, till date, there has been little progress in the investigation.

Intelligentsia has let India down: Doyen of Kannada journalism Puttappa

"Gandhiji was a great person who made humans out of Indian soil; it is regrettable that his name did not find a place in the anthem."

Gandhiji was a great person who made humans out of Indian soil; it is regrettable that his name did not find a place in the anthem.”

The doyen of Kannada journalism Veteran journalist Patil Puttappa regrets:

The silence maintained by the intelligentsia over vital issues like inequality and atrocities in the society has let the country down. A sense of insecurity prevailed in the society even as 75% of the population was educated, compared to the sense of security that prevailed when only 3% of the population were educated in the pre-independence period. There are no teachers in many (Journalism) colleges and existing teachers do not equip students for practical journalism…more focus should be given on practical journalism than theory in education and that journalism schools have working

 journalists as their faculty in order to improve the skills of students as neither a classroom nor a newsroom makes a journalist and they should be self-made with passion.

News should not hold importance because of the involvement of celebrities, instead importance should be given to people who make good news. Many journalists are lobbying for awards in journalism these days. Awards in journalism sho-uld be given to only deserving journalists who make significant contribution to journalism and should not be based on criteria like caste and religion. A journalist should have a clean character, credibility and uphold the ethics of journalism.

Veteran journalist Patil Puttappa was being felicitated during the diamond jubilee celebrations of the Dept. of Mass Communication & Journalism, Maharaja’s College yesterday. 

The Hoot & News Laundry : Media Reformists

Media is like a weapon, which if used strategically, can prove to be an asset but, if it falls into the wrong hands, can, in no time turn itself into a cause of mass destruction. In India, media has become one of the most powerful sectors of an industry operating in every possible available stream. Be it politics, economy, Bollywood, a small village or a metropolitan city, media is everywhere. When a common man watches a news channel or reads a newspaper, he is more likely to believe what he sees and reads instead of brooding on the very minute possibility that he may not trust the news. With such a power to influence people of a country, in a way which no other office or authority can do, comes the responsibility of handling such power sensibly by being unbiased while reporting and being exact and truthful. But today, with the commercialisation of media, anchors or journalists behave like judges of Supreme Court and adjudicate debates between famous personalities, putting words into their mouth and creating sensational news, running after the TRPs, not to forget the paid news, and the worst, their behaviour like loyal pets to political parties.

Indian democracy stands on the principle of checks and balances, thus no system or branch should be left untouched. When such immense power is given to media, there has to be proper scrutiny on their activities. With these challenges coming up, some of the responsible journalists and media persons have taken the broom in their hands to clean up the mess before it worsens to an extent that is irreparable. They call themselves media reformists. Following is the insight into two of the most prominent media reformist sites in India.

The Hoot

This website was created in March 2001, with an aim of scrutinising the working of all the possible branches of media. Be it print or electronic media, none is spared from the grilling. This website was launched by the Media Foundation, whose origin can be traced back to 1979. The sole objective of this media foundation was to protect, promote, and encourage all kinds of media. The belief, that by encouraging media, they can protect the freedom of speech and improve the quality of life motivated them to work with dedication for the betterment of media. The Hoot believes that the media in the subcontinent criticises everyone except themselves. This website has evolved out of the concerns of few practicing rational journalists about the recent alarming trends of media. Its structure has been formulated in a way to inspect the issues of precision, censorship, fairness, rights and responsibilities of the media. It was set up under the cost of Rs 2, 00,000 with a business plan to employ 200 journalists paying them Rs 100 per month. The Hoot had its share of ups and down, and in its second year, despite a strong readership, it faced problem in raising funds, since most media or business houses would be reluctant in associating themselves with something which criticises the mainstream media. The Hoot even went off air for two weeks. But now it has come a long way and generates its funds mainly from advertisements.

This website has a structure with different sections ranging from “media watch” (which watches all the actions of every existing news channels and newspapers in the country and criticises them for any misdeed), to media and conflict, ethics, etc. It has a separate section for film, tv and radio. Basically it is designed in a way such that no section of media is left untouched.

courtesy: Nupur Dogra & Youth Ki Awaaz

News Laundry

This website is different from “The Hoot” in a way that it is a bit satirical in nature and more fun to read, while the soul reason for its existence remains the same “turning mirror on one self”. The admins of this site are Madhu Trehan, Abhinandan Sekhri, Prashant Sareen, all of whom are experienced journalists and Roopak Kumar acts as the business head. Their tag line “sabki dhulai hogi” is self defining in nature. They work to ensure that none will be spared. They want to make a difference to the media while having fun along the way. This approach has been appreciated by many as it is not at all monotonous. Innovative names for various columns such as the working desk being called the “dhobi ghaat”, makes reading fun. Articles, cartoons etc are very attractive and at the same time does the job accurately. They not only criticise but also appreciate good work by journalists. This website is still fresh and new and has a long way to go.

In the times when journalism has turned into a business, such organisations are an asset to our country. Such sites are perfect personification of the thought “charity begins at home”; like others in the field, these people also could have given in to the demons of the industry, but they didn’t. They knew and owned the responsibility they had towards the society as journalists.

Peepli live reporter left scooped out by wily editors?

NDTV‘s anchor and one of the outspoken &  dare devil journalists Sunetra Choudhary had been chasing a UPA minister for some time. He’s never been part of a TV discussion, he rarely gives interviews and yet, he’s often the newsmaker himself. His lack of media savvy perhaps worked in Sunetra’s favour as after the millionth call to his people and haranguing them with her questionnaires, she  finally got them to convey her message. When they called her to confirm a half-hour interview slot, Sunetra couldn’t believe her luck.

At the appointed hour, she arrived with her tiny battalion of producer, camera people and assistants to claim her date with breaking news. The Minister had just arrived, and they were setting up, when she was called in for ‘a word.’

“Let me give you the interview like this only, why the camera?” said the minister.

Surprised Sunetra told him, “Excuse me, sir, you know I’m from a TV channel?”
Finally, the minister decided to level with her. “Actually some other journalists got to know about this and they cornered me in the Central Hall,” he said, referring to the area in Parliament where senior journalists can mingle with MPs and ministers over tea. “They said you can’t talk to her. They made me promise that I won’t be seen talking to you on TV or I would have to speak to everyone which I don’t want to do.”

Astonished Sunetra again pleaded, “But, Sir, you promised me?”

“I know but what can I do? They weren’t just any old reporters, they are well-known editors,” he said apologetically, naming the heads of two other channels. He looked helpless, and the NDTV anchor heartbroken.

Now with her headline-hunting dream shattered,  She returned to office telling her colleagues this unbelievable tale of

“how big-time editors were going around ruining opportunities for small fry like me.”

“But why are you surprised?” they said. Apparently, this happens every day in pursuit of the ‘exclusive story.’

Read her full column in DNA: http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/column_sunetra-choudhury-scribe-vs-scribe_1681672

Media bodies are inefficient and unsuccessful journalists

Media bodies: Toothless tigers

Media regulatory organisations, unions and associations have failed to intervene positively to resolve challenges faced by the fourth estate from time to time. Can these ever become effective? Writes  Sanjay Kumar Srivastava in The Sunday Indian:

…..Media in fact is behaving like an unleashed watchdog. Press Council of India, Editor’s Guild of India, News Broadcasters Association, Editor’s Conference, Electronic Media Monitoring Centre – the list of media regulatory bodies is endless. These bodies preach good conduct and unbiased journalism and are responsible to ensure the implementation of such code of conduct. Still there is no control on the content and sanctity of media reports. Journalist unions such as National Union of Journalists, Indian Federation of Working Journalists, Delhi Union of Journalists et al claim to work for the protection of journalists’ rights. However most journalists are no better than unorganised skilled labourers.

…..Pradeep Mathur, a former Editor of The Pioneer and former head of IIMC, says, “Most office bearers and members of such regulatory bodies are inefficient and unsuccessful journalists. PCI is headed by a former judge, who has no experience of the media.” Mathur recalls an incident when he had to appear before a jury of PCI. He was surprised to see that the jury included a gentleman who was initially a teleprinter operator and was eventually promoted to be a reporter. Two other members of the jury had met Mathur for their job interviews years ago. Mathur says, “Even the Editor’s Guild of India is full of journalists who are good only for issuing statements. There is a bunch of pro-promoter editors in the guild and they do everything to make life easier for their bosses. Credibility and transparency of the media is their last priority.”

………….A book titled “Media Monitoring in Asia” published by the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre says that media monitoring in India is not up to the mark. Probably, that’s why Noam Chomsky said in an interview, “Media subdues the public. It’s so in India, certainly.” All these issues can be solved only when sincere efforts are made. The solution will have to come from within the media. Else, media will be reduced from being the Fourth Estate to a mere vendor of content. Hope, someone realises that soon. Read the full article : http://www.thesundayindian.com/en/story/Toothless-tigers/285/33975/

Open “Bars” – Dozen more reason why Journalism is ‘The Best’ !!!

Old-fashioned journalist newsman.

Old-fashioned journalist newsman.

CareerCast survey about Journalism being one of the worst job has been contested “rigorously” by past & present journalist and non-journalists all over the world, making it a survey of least relevance. (at least in case of Journalism.)

In 1968, the late Dr. Russell J. Jandoli, founder of the Journalism Department (now the School of Journalism and Mass Communications) at St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, NY said:

“Journalism is about everything and everybody, and it’s got to be the most exciting pursuit of them all.”

Jeff Bercovici, Staff Writer, Forbes

Jeff Bercovici who,  in his original story published in Forbes listed eight reasons, has added a couple of more reasons ( marked as bold character below)  and made it a list of ten reasons why that’s not true, despite the low salaries,the long and irregular working hours, etc.

# You’re always learning

# You get paid to read a ton

# You get paid to meet interesting people

# You get to meet celebrities

# Maybe you even get to enjoy a little celebrity

# “Stress” is excitement

# Journalists get around

# And then there’s the small matter of self-expression

# working with other curious, open-minded creative people;

# open bars

Others who read this news-story have also added very genuine reasons and have recognised a career in journalism, The Best out of the lot..

# Once in a while you get to be a part of history. You even get to contribute to the historical story line. Some of those events are hard to cover.

# You learn every day. You can work very fast. You get paid to be creative. You are never bored. You can discern a situation quickly, put together information from many sources and make it accessible. You get a byline. 

# Journalism leads to books, speeches, panels, multimedia, collaboration across platforms and all other forms of nonfiction storytelling where others value your ideas and insights. No two days are ever the same.

# And when you are having dinner or drinks with non-journo friends, you’ll always have great stories to tell.

# Being a journalist is rewarding and fun.

# A hardcore journalist minus journalism is like a fish minus water. This is called obsession with profession.

# Every day is an education.

# broaden our minds: engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.

# journalism corrects social injustices, rights wrongs, and makes the world a better place. Clark Kent actually may do more good than Superman. It just isn’t as showy.

# It is the ultimate expression of a society’s culture. A record of the times.Journalism today plays the role of what literary prose played in the 19th Century and street theater played during Shakespeare’s time – engaging people by telling good stories.  Surely, money-lending should have been the most coveted position during the Bard’s age and government employ the most precious pursuit during Charles Dickens’ days? But who is remembered the most today?

In other words, the ultimate joy of journalism is the experience of shaping up the identity of our times. And if it means working 13-hour days at half the pay, so be it.

Pak media constantly under threats & mental stress !

Expressing concerns over the killing of journalists in the country, media practitioners in Pakistan recently called for better security measures for their colleagues.

“(Pakistani) Journalists were working in an environment of rising intolerance and growing ethnic and sectarian extremism. Staff and leaders of the city`s newsrooms receive all kinds of threats by SMS, email and telephone calls, putting them under serious mental stress.”,

says a Media Commission Pakistan`s report entitled “Attacks on Journalists and Media Freedom” released recently at the Karachi Press Club. The 96-page report has been prepared in collaboration with the South Asia Free Media Association (Safma), Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), ATJ and the KPC.

The report noted that journalists were not provided adequate security by their corporate managers, especially when operating in the conflict zone. It said that journalists should be provided risk and life insurance coverage by the government and the media employers besides ensuring training in conflict reporting.

Urging the state actors to follow a code of conduct that ensures respect for freedom of expression and the right to know in their relations with the media, it also stressed upon the media to observe a code of ethics in reporting conflict.

While calling for a “balance between secrecy and accountability” in the conduct of intelligence gathering, the commission emphasises that “important agencies (ISI and IB) be made more law-abiding, through a statutory framework carefully outlining their respective mandates and roles.” It also recommends that “all agencies be made more accountable through effective and suitably tailored mechanism of internal administrative review, parliamentary oversight, and judicial redressal of citizen`s grievances against them”.

The speakers supported the commission in its call to parliament and the armed forces for implementing remedial measures by intelligence agencies and parliament to help improve relations between the media persons, citizens and security agencies.

About reports of multiple threats to journalists` security in Sindh, particularly in Karachi, the report chronicled the murder of Wali Babar, Altaf Chandio and several other incidents.

It has noted that a TV anchor hosting a programme on extortion was axed by his employer, and sadly enough, the journalist is not prepared to disclose the political party which robbed him of his job and access to information to the general public, because of fear. It has noted that gunmen open fire on media vehicles while reporters and cameramen are attacked and beaten up in the city.

 

‘print media journalists are in many ways able to come out with a better fact’

Unlike the manufactured truth or half-truth or something else (of electronic media), the print media journalists are in many ways able to come out with a better fact.

Who can come out with a better truth, a television journalist or print media one. Apparently the former, equipped with camera and microphone, is in a better position to break more ground than the unarmed pen-pusher.

While speaking in a function organized to release his book, “Anna: 13 Days That Awakened India,” in Patna on March 18, the author Ashutosh, who is incidentally the Managing Editor of IBN-7, explained the role the media, especially the private electronic channels, played in exposing corruption at the top level and the advantage the TV channels have in doing that. (In Delhi the book was released by Anna Hazare himself on March 21).

Ashutosh narrated how in August last he literally abandoned his studio to spend days covering Anna Hazare’s fast as he actually wanted to know the truth, that is, how the common mass think about the issue.

Since Ashutosh writes for the print media too he was, in no way, running down its importance though he was critical of English-speaking class as well as some fellow journalists who, according to him, opposed Anna’s movement. But a big question arises from what he said. Is a high-profile television journalist really in a better position to know the real truth? Or it is still the faceless low-profile reporter of any newspaper who can do this job in more appropriate way?

True, the private television channels have decisive edge in showing all sorts of happenings related to any development, movement, scams, mishaps etc. The print media may never match them. But so far gauging the real mood of the people or gleaning the truth is concerned the print media is still ahead and will remain so in future too.

The likes of Ashutosh––or even the lesser mortals in the channels––are not better-positioned to know the real truth because they are not unidentified. It is very difficult for them to maintain ear-to-the-ground approach. As most of the people, to whom a TV journalist approaches for any view, know him or her, they would speak more guardedly. They would give byte, according to the demand of the situation. After all the charm of appearing in camera prompts a person to give the view to the liking of the journalist, who is asking the question. Since an overwhelming number of those present at Ram Lila Maidan were aware of Ashutosh’s stand on the fast those interviewed would not say anything against it.

A girl student of a college learnt this lesson a wrong way a few months back when she told a top lady electronic media journalist something about a particular chief minister, which was not of her liking. That journalist half-smilingly told the girl that she is not interested in negative comment about that particular leader. The hapless girl did not get space while the bytes of her friends were prominently highlighted.

A print media journalist does not behave like a celebrity and can mix in the common mass. He could gauge the mood of the people by just eavesdropping in the crowd, in the suburban train, bus etc. S/he can stand up in long queue for getting cooking gas cylinder anywhere in the country. S/he does not even need to disclose his/her identity. So unlike the manufactured truth or half-truth or something else, the print media journalists are in many ways able to come out with a better fact.

Even for sting operation the TV media has to rely on anonymous face.

Though the TV camera may highlight the apparent hardship of the people the inner feelings and pain could be known only by the journalist who stand with the toiling mass without giving his or her own introduction.

It is always man, or nowadays woman, behind the machine who matter. But in case of TV journalism it is machine––that is camera––which do most of the work. The role of person behind it gets minimized. Yet many senior TV journalists often end up boasting that what they are showing to the world is the ultimate truth. In this brave new world of media the truth itself has become a relative concept.

Now, Nehru Dynasty’s Television Awards for Journos !!!

Barkha Dutt, Group Editor, English News, New D...

The government is thinking of setting up annual National Awards for media, similar to the National Film Awards, to reward excellence in media and journalism, the ministry of information and broadcasting said in reply to a question in the Parliament.

“A National Media Awards scheme is being examined in the Ministry. Details will be provided as and when the same are finalized,” CM Jatua, junior minister for information and broadcasting told the Lok Sabha.

He was responding to a question about whether the government planned to “reward” journalists and other media persons showing “excellent performance” in their field.

The government already runs the National Film Awards — an annual event in which it awards films, film-makers, artists, technicians etc. based on the evaluations conducted by a panel appointed by the ministry.

The issue of awards and rewards to journalists, however, may be more controversial as the journalists also perform the duty of acting as checks and balances on the government.

The government already has a mechanism of conferring awards on journalists through a system of civilian awards. Among the journalists felicitated by the Padma awards are Rajdeep Sardesai, Vinod Dua and Barkha Dutt.

India currently has several awards for journalists, nearly all of which are handed out by associations or organizations within the industry.