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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” 

Half of India lives without toilet, but no one is denied a TV!!

Mr. K. B. Ganapathy, Editor of Star Of Mysore (SOM) a widely read English Daily in Mysuru (Karanataka) &  also the editor of ‘Mysooru Mitra’, a Kannada Morning Daily writes his (SOM) editorial POSITIVES OF IDIOT BOX :

Idiot Box: Promises the moon to the gullible millions

During the years spanning almost seven decades since television scored a commercial success after a wait of nearly two decades following its invention by Logie Baird, the ubiquitious showpiece having earned a none-too-flattering label as the ‘idiot box’ is currently enjoying an honorable identity as the small screen. Its penetration in India with an officially declared literacy of less than two-thirds of the land’s population is within sniffing distance of 100 per cent.

It is an irony of sorts that while more than half of the country’s population lives without the toilet facility and open defecation is more the rule than exception in the more than six lakh villages across the nation, virtually no Indian is denied a chance to view the small screen. Given this predominance of the small screen across the land, both the State-owned ‘Doordarshan‘ and the multitude of private channels beaming programmes in all languages of the country have an immense responsibility and social role to telecast programmes that are high both in knowledge content and promoting people’s welfare.

While the press is functioning under the legal provisions, obliged to comply with a set of written as well as unwritten diktats of the Press Council, the small screen thus far has been enjoying unbridled freedom. It is only recently that the Centre was mulling a system in which the small screen too is subject to some order and discipline. The task is bound to be far tougher than dealing with the press for logistic reasons. For one thing, the small screen is virtually a 24×7 moving image and would need critical inputs of technology for successful monitoring, not to mention censoring.

The jazzy advertisements which (a) occupy major time space during prime time, (b) interrupt telecasts of even news features and of course, (c) bring in the only revenue in the enterprise, many of which promise the moon to the gullible millions are presently enjoying boom time. This side to the small screen is a huge negative and needs to be brought under the scanner.

Programmes that nurture the land’s culture in all its forms such as music and those which enrich knowledge even among the unlettered are great positives of the idiot box. They stand out amidst the cacophony called entertainment.

Media: India’s most relevant & excellent bilingual national journal from Kerala scribes

Media, a bilingual monthly journal of Kerala Press Academy, in it’s May issue has published some impressive, enlightening, interesting, most relevant,  and outstanding & excellent articles on Media, a media person’s flashback, film journalism in India, a feature on ‘Hum Log’ the first family soap on Indian Television, Book Reviews and lot more.

It is probably one of the most ‘content rich’ publication in present times, and affordable price wise too with an annual subscription of only Rs. 1000.. sorry :(  , Rs. 100 only. Can you imagine a “priceless” magazine @Rs. 10/- per month !!!

A bilingual monthly journal of the Kerala Press Academy Media, was released recently by CPI(M) ideologue P. Govinda Pillai. Pillai released the journal by handing over a copy to Kerala Sahitya Akademi president Perumbadavam Sreedharan. Kerala Press Academy chairman N.P. Rajendran is the Editor of the magazine..

Some of the highlights of the features published in the May 2012 issue of MEDIA are as follows:

Media and credibility - T J S George: 
I personally have no doubt that in the end, India will come out of its present phase of corruption and emerge as a healthy and prosperous nation. Journalism will re-discover its destiny as a noble public service. The present may be bad, but the future will be good. We have to know the weaknesses of today, in order to build up the strengths of tomorrow. It is in that spirit that I examine the loss of credibility of today’s media…. Because the Times of India began making more profits than any other media group in the country, the ideas of Times of India found acceptance among other media owners. That explains why we no longer have Chintamanis and Pothan Josephs and Chalapathi Raus. What we have today is news as entertainment – journalistic variations of Vidya Balan playing Dirty Picture…… Corporate lobbyist Nira Radia’s telephone conversations revealed some frightening facts – how cabinet appointments and policy decisions could be manipulated by fixers in Delhi. Among these fixers, to our surprise, were stars of journalism. How can journalism have credibility if even its famous practitioners are doing underhand business in private?

This is the transcript of a speech by TJS. TJS is a veteran senior journalist and one of the best known columnists in India. He is currently the Editorial Advisor of The New Indian Express. TJS’ E-Mail: tjsoffice@newindianexpress.com

From Grub Street to grab street: A veteran journalist looks back at his life - P. P. Balachandran
“I am perhaps the only one or among the very few journalists who worked across the whole media rainbow –newspaper, magazine, wire service, radio and television, and the Web, both as a dependable staffer and as an undependable freelancer. Add to this the two magazines I started up, edited, and folded up.”…
Today, thirty-year olds are plying their spurious stuff as ‘Senior Editors’ from the same offices where C.P. Ramachandran, an assistant editor, and his peers sat and wrote all those profound
editorials and think pieces. It is only appropriate here to recall one of C.P’s favourite quotations, this one credited to Roman emperor Titus Flavious, which he remembered whenever faced with a situation where mediocrity thrived at the cost of excellence. “Large souls languish in small places while mean souls lurk in large places.” His voice would carry a genuine pathos as he said it. 
If that was my first ever published piece – even before I became a fullblooded journalist – and in Mainstream, that also taught me my second lesson in journalism. Never be biased; and never write to please others. I can say with all honesty at my command that to this day I have tried
my best to uphold what I learnt from these two titans. Be right with your story and never be a court writer.

P. P. Balachandran is a Delhi-based senior journalist. This is an extract from his forthcoming book: A View From The Raisina Hill. His E-Mail: balacnambiar@gmail.com

Film Journalism in India - Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee
Cinema has become an important part of Indian culture, besides being a huge industry worth about Rs 100 billion with increasing transnational operation. It warrants more responsible, serious, educative and productive journalism. Attempts are being made by the government, civil society groups like film societies and several trade bodies to promote better film journalism…. Barring few notable exceptions, Film Journalism in India has largely been non-serious and gross entertainment-focused. Information regarding films and gossip relating to the heroes and heroines has been the staple of film journalism…..Interesting advancements have been made with the progress of technology. Consider what Galatta Cinema, the print media initiative of South India’s movie portal Galatta.com has done. It was also the first to launch a mobile version on the iPhone, Android and Nokia app stores.

Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee, an author & a journalist turned media academician presently heads Eastern India campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) located in Dhenkanal, Odisha. His E-Mal: mrinaliimc@yahoo.in

HUM LOG celebrates its 30th birthday this year - Shoma A. Chatterji
Hum Log is the first commercially sponsored program in the history of Indian television. Hum Log’s popularity, and the increased sales of Maggi 2-Minute Noodles, the advertised product convinced many other advertisers to sponsor television programs. This led to an increase in locally produced television serials and encouraged
the Indian film industry to become more involved in television production….. But whose ‘development’ was the serial aiming it? If it was the development of women, then it was a self-defeating exercise because the women portrayals were heavily tinged with the politics of patriarchy. Research on the effects of Hum Log on Indian television viewers indicated that ethnicity, geographical residence, gender, and Hindi language fluency were significant determinants of beliefs about gender equality.

Shoma A. Chatterji is a freelance journalist, author and film scholar based in Kolkata. She has authored 17 books and contributed to many edited compilations on cinema, family and gender.

Silence kills democracy, but a free press talks - Umar Cheema
In its 64-year history, Pakistan has remained under non-consecutive army rule for 34-years. Even the quasidemocratic regimes were unhappy with the media. But the situation changed after the advent of electronic media as several print media veterans who faced earlier ordeals joined TV channels spreading their critical voices far and wide. In this setting, where 24/7 channels complement critical print media, mal-governance is certainly not an easy job for the government. Media is a harbinger of change in Pakistan, a development that has gone unnoticed in the external world. President Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf felt threatened by it for the first time when he sacked the Chief Justice of Pakistan in 2007, after the latter handed out verdicts against the former’s government. The media mobilized the people on this illegal sacking, turning it into a mass movement that culminated in the restoration of the top judges and liberating the judiciary from the clutches of the executive. The government’s attempt to close TV channels backfired. This struggle resulted in the formation of an independent judiciary.

Opinions about ‘MEDIA’

Congratulations on the launch of your magazine MEDIA and thank you for sharing the same with me. I found it extremely relevant and found the articles very interesting. I have also asked my library to subscribe the same for larger reading by my colleagues. My colleagues and I will be glad to contribute in this magazine and in your endeavours at Kerala Press Academy.Best wishes and regards

P. N. Vasanti; Director; Centre for Media Studies

“Media” seems interesting, Warmly,

B.G. Verghese; former editor, HT and IE; heads the Centre for Policy Research

Read the Media magazine. Excellent content. Wishing you all the best.

Shajan C. Kumar

This looks impressive.

Bindu Bhaskar; Asian College of Journalism Dean

Had a quick look – excellent effort. I especially liked the pictures you have used, not just on the cover but on almost every page. I will forward the copy to people I know. warm regards,

Sashi Nair; Editor, Vidura

Hats off to you! This is great. Let me take this chance also to assure you my full support to your endeavors at The Press Academy. I’m sharing this PDF magazine with my colleagues at WAN-IFRA.

V. Antony; WAN-IFRA

To subsribe MEDIA, please write to The Secretary, Kerala Press Academy, Kakkanad, Cochin – 682030, India, Tel: 91-484-2422275, Tele fax: 91-484-2422068, Email: media.kpa@gmail.com; mail@pressacademy.org website: http://pressacademy.org/

Whistle blower homemaker Vidyut Kale at receiving end of IT Rules

Vidyut, a housewife having little income is at serious risk of being attacked by a team of seasoned lawyers with money to burn for daring expose corrupt practices.

Remember Vidyut Kale, daredevil homemaker-cum-blogger that blogged to draw attention to the Keenan and Reuben murders when mainstream media had reported the story and let it go & due to her efforts led to large-scale media attention that helped the poor families get attention to their case and prevent the killers from going scot-free…??

Now, Vidyut is chased by a batteries of lawyers to delete the contents on her blog aamjanta.com about her expose on history of alleged financial misdoings by Belvedere yacht party fame Lt Col (retd) Gautam Dutta and Anju Datta of Marine Solutions..  She has received a take down notice for her article being defamatory. The IT Rules are so arbitrary that she has no chance to defend herself against the takedown, because no explanation or even verification of the premise of the take down notice being correct is required.

Legal voices on Twitter have pointed out that the legal notice that Vidyut received is stupid, as Vidyut is the author, not an intermediary, and the IT bill applies only to intermediaries. This means, that she does not have to take down her content, but the lawyers can make her ISP block her website if she does not, yes, without a court hearing. In short, the IT bill is evil, but has not legally been used against her yet.

In reporting stories from the RTI documents related to sailing scams she was again covering an area that is not big enough for mainstream media, but an important leak of money as well as integrity for the country. Not to mention the illegal practices around sailing making it a security risk through norms of “looking the other way”.

Anand Philip (Cerebral Salad/Anand Philip Blog) a friend of Vidyut appeals on his blog:

Vidyut, who is a housewife and has little income is at serious risk of being attacked by a team of seasoned lawyers with money to burnfor daring expose corrupt practices. This is a very concerning sign for freedom of speech and whistle blowing in our country. Any media attention highlighting her situation and precarious situation of smaller content producers in India like bloggers, independent artists, cartoonists, etc and the role played by the IT Rules will go a long way in protecting their rights and drawing attention to their victimization. 

Indian TV channels going beyond all acceptable limits- T.J.S.George

Inaugurating a State-level workshop on Media—changing times’ organised by the Kerala Press Academy in association with the Calicut Press Club at the Centre for Information and Guidance India (CIGI) in the city on Friday,veteran journalist T.J.S. George said:

It is sad that even the critics of corrupt and unscrupulous tendencies in the media soon became its imitators. The growing greed for revenue is fast institutionalising degeneration in media… The fact that certain media organisations easily succeeded in minimising the importance of an editor in a newspaper and gradually eliminated that very post replacing it with a marketing officer is a clear indicator of were the industry was heading to in the recent times. It is a move that clearly established their zero social responsibility as a media organisation.

The famous editor and columnist also maintained that he was of the view that a regulatory authority for media was essential in the current scenario. He said:

“Self-regulation is not happening and media, especially television channels, are going beyond all acceptable limits.” 

In his column ” Freedom Must Be Earned”  in Outlook magazine George says:

In India’s current situation, the difference between print and visual media cannot be over-emphasised. It’s not just oranges and apples. It’s more like Greek and Mongol civilisations. Print, when it was alone in the field, acquitted itself reasonably well, the black sheep remained identifiable as black sheep. In TV journalism, there is so much muck flying about that black sometimes looks grey while white sometimes looks blue and sometimes like Cheshire cats. 

Read the full column in Outlook: Freedom Must Be Earned

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. 

Paid News Business In India: Murdoch & Co.may be praying to be born in India in “agle janam”!

In the “paid news” affair some of Indian media’s market leaders have been named as the major violators, but remain largely unscathed. Should this episode in British media history say something to us in India, asks PADMAJA SHAW. She writes in her column Issue In Media in a pioneer media watch-dog website The Hoot :

……The pattern is pretty much the same with other major issues concerning the conduct of other media houses. No one is willing to cast any “stones” apparently because all perceive themselves to be living in glasshouses. When a media baron is on the verge of being arrested, a lightening phone call would go to all the media houses and the story is killed and the arrest managed. When a CBI charge sheet is filed on a media house, it is buried deep under the spike, even as CBI charge sheets against all and sundry are dissected and individuals are tried and convicted in ten-minute studio discussions.

Well then, are we unhappy that our media houses are grubbing money and not primarily chasing power instead? Is spending better than earning? Since there is no real answer to this ethical dilemma in India, one would like to exit with a fond possibility: Murdoch and his offspring may be praying that they be born in India in their “agle janam”!
……In India, in the “paid news” affair, again it was the market leaders who have been named as the major violators. The news organisations also could put pressure on the Press Council of India (PCI) to prevent publication of the Thakurtha-Reddy report and to keep their names out of public knowledge.

What was the crime? Some major newspapers and journalists were either offering package deals for coverage or taking individual payments to ensure favourable coverage during elections. The PCI-sponsored report on paid news estimates that the unrecorded money earned this way could run into several hundred crores. The newspaper giants involved were earning big illegal bucks for providing favourable coverage. Neither the tax departments nor any other investigative body in India has been asked to look into this affair where there was a secular openness and willingness to accept payments from anyone who is willing and to promote the payers’ cause for the money taken. It is the same newspapers that lose no opportunity to hold forth editorially on democracy and criminalisation of politics.
Read the full column in The Hoot : But who will bell our big guys?

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

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.