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?
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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

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/

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.”

Misogyny in narratives of rape in Indian media

SONAL MAKHIJA

A newspaper report on the recent Gurgaon rape case concludes with the correspondent informing the readers that the victim was hired to “engage with male customers”. How is this piece of information relevant to the public at large? What does it really tell us about the crime? What it does, vaguely though, is describe the victim’s job. Is that relevant to the crime? Not really.

The reporting on the rape cases of the last few weeks has once again highlighted the Indian media’s failure to take into account some critical precautions while covering cases of sexual assault against women. Most crime reporters use the police as sources of information. The police often share a comfortable rapport with journalists who periodically seek them out for news. In private conversations, they possibly divulge more information than necessary. In an interview that I conducted last year with a few senior crime reporters, one senior law correspondent of an English daily admitted, that a good journalist always has more information than a copy needs. It is up to journalists to exercise their discretion, and leave out details that won’t necessarily benefit the story, the reporter added. Sure, the police should not be sharing intimate details of victims. Nevertheless, the media is obligated while reporting cases of sexual assault, to shield the identity of rape victims.

Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 prohibits the disclosure, not only of the victim’s name, but also of facts that could lead to the identification of the victim, such as the place of residence, identifying or naming the victim’s family or friends, university, or work details.

The Press Council of India’s Norms of Journalistic Conduct (“the PCI norms”) warn journalists not to give excessive publicity to victims, witnesses, suspects, and accused. The paramount concern in addition to the protection of victims is that, in publishing intimate details of their lives, the media exposes them to unwarranted public scrutiny. This safeguard protects the accused as well. Much of that information fails to add any value, unless it serves a genuine overriding public interest. Such information often obliquely encourages questions about the victim’s character and panders to unhealthy public curiosity. In the T.I.S.S. rape case for instance, the media published details from the victim’s written statement to the police. That information did not serve any public interest.

So, how do the personal details of a victim’s marital status, like in the Gurgaon or Calcutta rape cases, add value to the story? How is it relevant to the crime? The Supreme Court in State of Karnataka v. Puttaraja, warned against the disclosure of the rape victim’s identity even in the printing or publication of judgments issued by the High Courts or the Supreme Court. The Court observed that, “social victimization or ostracism of the victim of a sexual offence for which Section 228-A has been enacted, it would be appropriate that in the judgments, be it of this Court, High Court or lower Court, the name of the victim should not be indicated.” Further, the PCI norms prohibit the visual representation or photograph of not just the victim, but also her family or relatives to avoid identification.

Beyond the question of naming victims, the recent media rape narratives also follow a familiar trajectory. The key terms, “married woman”, “unaccompanied in a pub”, and “late at night” come together to the conclusion, “raped”. What does the media narrative of married women alone in pubs at night insinuate? It suggests that the woman was reckless or foolish to be out on her own that late. There is a chauvinist undercurrent in that detail. It invites the response — what was a married woman doing in a bar alone at night? Why was she there?

It offers little insight into the reasons for the crime. Such rape coverage in the media promotes curiosity and interest in the victim’s life. It does not add to our understanding of rape or why it takes place. Instead, it feeds the propagation of the dominant misogynist view, that women of a “certain type” deserved to be raped.

***

This article was previously published at mylaw.net.

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)