Hindustan stands by Katju’s opinion in The Hindu: Media (read, channels) are irresponsible, reckless and callous!

Media cannot reject regulation

Chairman of the Press Council of India Justice Markandey Katju wrote in The Hindu

If red lines can be drawn for the legal and medical professions, why should it be any different for profit-making newspapers and TV channels?

….The way much of the media has been behaving is often irresponsible, reckless and callous. Yellow journalism, cheap sensationalism, highlighting frivolous issues (like lives of film stars and cricketers) and superstitions and damaging people and reputations, while neglecting or underplaying serious socio-economic issues like massive poverty, unemployment, malnourishment, farmers’ suicides, health care, education, dowry deaths, female foeticide, etc., are hallmarks of much of the media today. Astrology, cricket (the opium of the Indian masses), babas befooling the public, etc., are a common sight on Television channels. 

Paid ‘news’ is the order of the day in some newspapers and channels where you have to pay to be in the news. One senior political leader told me things are so bad that politicians in some places pay money to journalists who attend their press conferences, and sometimes even to those who do not, to ensure favourable coverage. One TV channel owner told me that the latest Baba (who is dominating the scene nowadays) pays a huge amount for showing his meetings on TV. Madhu Kishwar, a very senior journalist herself, said on Rajya Sabha TV that many journalists are bribable and manipulable.

 ….Why then are the electronic media people so furiously and fiercely opposing my proposal? Obviously because they want a free ride in India without any kind of regulation and freedom to do what they will. 

Read the full column in The Hindu: Media cannot reject regulation

India – Charming state of affairs

Hot-headed democracy?

So across the country, and across the different estates—government, legislature, judiciary, media—we have a charming state of affairs in which action derives only from reaction.

Talking Media | Sevanti Ninan

If you ask whether social media is a boon or bane you should also ask whether the judiciary is a boon or otherwise, and ditto for the democratic governments we elect. For increasingly they all have their zany moments. And that is a kind word.

We’ve become such a reactive polity that our daily conduct will soon be hemmed in by injunctions issued by one or the other of these estates. All of them are on a short fuse.

If a Dalit poet and activist writes on social media about a beef-eating festival in Hyderabad, she encounters a chilling barrage of hate mail on the same trendy Twitter that the chattering classes are addicted to. Including a tweet which suggests she be raped on live television. A blogger called Kevin Gil Martin has described Twitter as lazy mob justice—an apt description of something which is more and more in evidence.

Then a video allegedly featuring Congress politician Abhishek Manu Singhvi goes viral and while Twitter reacts with glee, the always-dying-to-react Press Council chairman suggests restrictions on social media.

A newspaper goes overboard and fantasizes on its entire page 1 about troop movements, and the intent behind them. Six days later the Allahabad high court responds to a public interest litigation by directing the centre and the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that there is no reporting on the movement of troops by the print or electronic media. A blanket ban, just like that?

Mamata Banerjee is determined to immortalize herself in social media’s rogues gallery by acting like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. Metaphorically, it is off with their heads for anyone who makes fun of the chief minister, and a neat blow to their circulation for newspapers that do not play ball. Cyberspace responds as it’s wont to, and in vigorously waving the free speech flag prefers to ignore the more conventional skulduggery behind the cartoon-forwarding-professor coming to grief.

courtesy: livemint.com

Surely what also needs to be exposed along with Mamata’s reactive behaviour is Trinamool’s politicking-for-spoils culture that may be spreading in the state.

The ministry of information and broadcasting is amazing. Unable to get broadcasting regulation passed for a decade and a half, it resorts to malleable guidelines. Either you have a firm policy on what can be telecast in terms of adult fare, and when, or you don’t. Is this now going to be decided on a movie-by-movie basis, as happened last weekend with the Sony telecast of The Dirty Picture?

So across the country, and across the different estates—government, legislature, judiciary, media—we have a charming state of affairs in which action derives only from reaction. What happened to due process?

The Supreme Court is also attempting to curb runaway legal reporting. The difference is that it has initiated deliberations, which is as it should be. The purview of its deliberations to frame guidelines for how the media should report sub judice matters has arisen from an issue of allegedly leaked privileged communication between the counsel of Sahara Real Estate Corp. and the Securities and Exchange Board of India.

The court initiated a debate on the framing of guidelines for reporting of criminal trials to guard against any violation of Article 21 that guarantees the right of an accused to reputation and dignity and to ensure that his trial does not get prejudiced.

Then on 4 April, the court also ordered the inclusion of four more media guideline-related petitions. The issues raised in these petitions include norms for news coverage in electronic media, norms and guidelines to minimize presentation of sexual abuse and violence on TV channels, and contempt proceedings against journalists for publishing confessional statements of the accused before police.

The 2011 petition by Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (Anhad), which is one of the four the Supreme Court will take up, is also a response to the ad hoc manner in which police releases to the media material that can tarnish reputations.

Several journalists and media associations will be able to intervene in this judicial process of determining norms. That is how it should be. And where social media is concerned, too, that is how it should have been, before Markandey Katju (Press Council chairman) and Kapil Sibal (human resource development minister) chose to make pre-emptive statements.

But because nobody waits to give a measured response before they go their reactive way, all we will end up with is arbitrary curbs decreed by the government and implemented by service providers. Accompanied doubtless by an extended flurry of cyber abuse. As the current campaign seeking annulment of restrictive IT rules shows, undoing arbitrariness is going to take a lot of doing.

The poet Frances Trollope coined an evocative phrase with reference to Thomas Jefferson, referring to his “hot-headed democracy” which he said had done “a fearful injury” to his country. Who embodies it most here, I wonder: abusive free speech champions, the West Bengal chief minister, parliamentarians and the judiciary railing against the messenger rather than the bad news, or our hyperventilating TV anchors?

Sevanti Ninan is a media critic, author and editor of the media watch website thehoot.org. She examines the larger issues related to the media in a fortnightly column.

Tamilians are most superstitious people in India

Press Council of India Chairman Justice Markandey Katju  has done it again. Comes this gem after many controversial quotes,

Tamilians are some of the finest and most intelligent among Indians…Yet Tamilians are some of the most superstitious people in India.”

Just a few days back Mr. Katju tried to explain comments he made in an editorial in the Indian Express saying  that 90 percent of Indians are fools. Then he explained how he arrived at that figure by saying,

“…what I meant was that an overwhelming number of Indians were fools. Therefore the figure might be 85 per cent, on the other hand it could be 95 per cent.

India’s media judge Katju speaks the ‘unpleasant truth’: 90% of Indians are fools

From his lofty ivory tower, Press Council of India chairman Markandey Katju has a 360-degree view of India – and it’s plain from his every pronouncement that he doesn’t like what he sees. Long after he retired as Supreme Court judge, the man continues to sit in judgement on virtually every aspect of humanity and its many failings. And he has been unabashed about pronouncing his verdict on every subject under the sun, typically with a sneer.

Today, Katju has fleshed out one of his earlier comments in which he said that 90 percent of Indians are fools. In an editorial page contribution in The Indian Express, Katju reiterates the point, and offers it as

“the unpleasant truth” he insists on telling us. And to validate his point, he is even rewriting the scriptures.

The shastras, he says, tells us not to speak the “unpleasant truth”. But “I wish to rectify this. The country’s situation today require that we…. ‘speak the unpleasant truth’’.”

And what is that truth? That 90 percent of Indians are fools.

To establish his case, Katju points out that

“the minds of 90 percent of Indians are full of casteism, communalism, superstition.” In elections, 90 percent of people vote on the basis of caste or community, not the merits of the candidate – which accounts for why dacoits like Phoolan Devi were elected to Parliament.

Second, Katju claims, 90 percent of Indians believe in astrology, “which is pure superstition and humbug”. Which is why television channels that beam programmes on astrology have high viewership ratings.

Katju then picks on another of his pet peeves: the Indian media’s obsession with cricket and Bollywood. The game, he says,

“has been turned into a religion by our corporatised media, and most people lap it up like opium.” Rahul Dravid’s retirement is treated like a national calamity, and Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th century as if it were a great achievement for India.

Likewise, the media’s breathless reportage of Dev Anand’s recent death gets Katju’s goat.

In the process, India’s real problems that affect 80 percent of the people – mass deprivation, unemployment, and a whole lot more – are ignored, he points out.

And then, there’s the Anna Hazare movement for a Jan Lokpal to combat corruption. Katju likens the movement’s followers to a lynch mob – and blames the media for playing it up.

Katju writes:

“It is time for Indians to wake up to all this. When I called 90 per cent of them fools my intention was not to harm them, rather it was just the contrary. I want to see Indians prosper, I want poverty and unemployment abolished…”

But for that to happen, he reasons, Indians should cultivate a “scientific outlook”; until that happens, “the vast majority of our people will continue to be taken for a ride.”

Genuine News Coverage Media: Print (60%), Electronic (33%) !!!

News TV, it’s time to watch your back ..

There’s a lot that editors of news channels in India need to chew on.

“Who does more genuine news coverage: newspapers or television?”, was the question The Hoot asked readers in a poll. Sixty percent of the respondents to the poll believed that it was the newspapers and 33 percent chose television (the rest were undecided).

From a poll to some scathing remarks by chief justice Vikramajit Sen, heading a high court division bench hearing petitions relating to the violence at the Bengaluru City Civil Court on 2 March. “The bench took the government to task for not initiating any action against TV channels which had spread wrong news about some policemen being killed in the 2 March violence.

“In three weeks, nothing has been done. It only shows lack of administration,” the bench observed. As regards the media, especially electronic media, thebench was of the view that they were only interested in pulling down the rival channel and about viewership.

Sevanti Ninan, editor of The Hoot, confirmed to Firstpostthat 526 readers had participated in the poll – and that’s a significant number, considering the profile of readers of the website. The Hoot is not a ‘consumer’ destination; it’s more a platform for serious and informed discussion and debate on news media in all forms. “The subcontinent has plenty of media, it does not have enough scrutiny of the media. This portal is the outcome of the concern felt by a group of practicing journalists at some recent trends in journalism in this part of the world,” The Hoot says about itself – and that’s why news TV editors should be concerned about the poll.

Justice Vikramjit Sen should not have needed to make the comments he did. News channels created a body to look into issues such as the one that Justice Sen is concerned about – theBroadcast Editors Association. The BEA, which has fiercely protested against Press Council of India chairman Justice Katju’s move to bring TV under the ambit of the council, has done little to look into issues that Justice Sen is worried about. The last announcement by the BEAwas when they issued guidelines for the coverage of the Aishwarya-Abhishek baby.

The Hoot poll and Justice Sen’s remarks should be seen by the BEA as a wake-up call. Ignore the signs at your peril; more incidents similar to the Bengaluru one will see courts demanding action. Not on a case by case basis, but from a long-term perspective.

And Justice Katju might win – only because the BEA doesn’t do what it was created to do

(courtesy: Anant Rangaswami  & Firstpost)

It’s an unbearable burden being Markandey Katju

..pirouettes (‘Sunny Leone is blameless’) and pirouettes (‘Salman Rushdie is worthless’) and pirouettes (‘Media people are useless’)…

Retirement is a dreadful thing. The final voyage to this no man’s land does make cowards of us all.

And sometimes claims a few victims, who – unable to adapt to obscurity – spend their withdrawal bawling like toddlers for public attention.

Ex-Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju having tasted the heights of power throws his tantrums proportionately.

Bouts of anxiety and insecurity grip him often, to be released from which he must scream as hard as his aging constitution permits.

Then he must let emotions take over, making him say stuff capable of inducing embarrassment were it ever attempted in front of a mirror.

But of course the last thing Katju needs to see are theatricals of an incoherent old fogey trying to preach, ironically, the virtues of self-regulation.

He is a busy man who, barely a day after his retirement, embarked on a new mission to reform media in the role of the chairman of the Press Council of India. Since then there has barely been a day when he hasn’t prodded us, lest we forget his existence.

Katju sends shivers down people’s spines whenever taking to the stage. Setting his oratory to ‘full auto’ he pulls the trigger and pirouettes (‘Sunny Leone is blameless’) and pirouettes (‘Salman Rushdie is worthless’) and pirouettes (‘Media people are useless’).

‘Show me the scientific,’ asked Katju of Hazare last Saturday, and while his unsuspecting audience was still laughing at the activists’ fate, he pulled the rug from under them by calling 90 per cent of them fools.

An authority that claims expertise over everything induces boredom.

Katju has, through his persistence in speaking, inspired in his listeners an irrevocable dissension.

Whose patience finally gives way isn’t easy to predict. What is certainly unforeseeable, is a future without Katju.

(courtesy: SUHAS MUNSHI & mailonline India)

 

Palangtod Dhulai: ‘(media) arrogance is all very well, but stupidity is just that’!

Palangtod Dhulai <> Ranjona Banerji

Justice Katju tells it like it is. Again

Press Council of Indian chairman Markandey Katju has been one of the most vocal holders of this post, losing no opportunity to stand up for the media when required and to castigate it at other times. The trivialization of news remains a key issue with him and he has questioned once again whether our obsession with Sachin Tendulkar’s 100th century was justified. Interestingly, Tendulkar himself questioned it, pointing out that in the four matches when he got his 99th 100, no one mentioned it at all!

Katju, speaking at the convocation ceremony of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in New Delhi (“over the weekend” says The Hindu in Monday’s paper) however saved his best for last, taking on Anna Hazare and his methods. While making it clear that corruption is a mega issue and that is why Hazare’s movement gained so much support, he questioned Hazare’s methods. “What is the rationale of the thinking of Anna Hazare? With due respect, I could not find any scientific ideas. These shoutings will not do anything.”

Katju is a man who calls a spade a spade. Much as he rubbed most of the media the wrong way, there is perhaps some merit in taking some of his criticisms seriously. Is Aishwarya Rai’s pregnancy really front page news? Did the world end with Rahul Dravid’s retirement from cricket? There’s no point getting defensive here and saying, “The media has every right to choose its own stories”. Quite right it does. But does that mean that the media never makes mistakes? Or indeed, can one deny the dumbing down of the media in terms of choice of stories and understanding of news?

**

Talking about getting defensive, the editor in chief of MXM India. Com Pradyuman Maheshwari faced some defensive posturing on the media’s role in the Norway-Bhattacharya child custody case on NDTV “over the weekend”. The anchor Sunetra Chaudhury, journalist Rashmi Saxena and former diplomat MK Bhadhrakumar staunchly held that the media had done no wrong. It was only when Maheshwari pointed out that no fact-checking had been done by the media and that the other side of the story was not presented – “a basic trait in journalism” – that the bluster of the others died down a bit and it was accepted that the media could have done more.

Arrogance is all very well, but stupidity is just that.

**

This lack of perspective in the television media, especially when it comes to the armed forces, is equally appalling. It has the narrow-focused ability to only see every problem from the side of the armed forces. Yet surely we have seen, more so in recent times, highly ranked officers involved in the most reprehensible acts of corruption. In the current allegations made by chief of army staff VK Singh that he was offered a bribe by a former Lt-general, surely it would be better to get a few more facts on the case before having hissy fits in favour of every soldier ever accused of anything at prime time? At the very least it would be interesting to see if TV can seriously question what seems to be an obsession with attention as far as VK Singh is concerned. Also, at the risk of facing a firing squad at dawn, I would suggest that the media would be better served if it stopped treating the armed forces like a collection of overly-principled martyrs eschewing payment for their cause and just treat them with customary scepticism.

**

In an aside, how about TV channels hire some people with better spelling skills for their written portions? All morning on Monday I read about a “defemation vase” filed by Arun Jaitley against somebody. Of course, there are no bigger teasers than those little ticker tape thingies that run across the screen which promise so much and deliver so little.

Twitter: @ranjona

(courtesy: ranjona banerji & mxmindia.com)