The crumbling pillar

Updated: Jul 28, 2018

This post was written by me on 25th January, 2014 on the eve of India's Republic day, as a criticism of the falling standards of Indian media. Four years later, things have only gone downhill.

Beginning the day by basking in the dizzying amount of information offered by the newspaper is a ubiquitous habit for millions of Indians - a habit that even I can't resist practicing. But of late I have been noticing something amiss: The media - our voice - seems to be our no more. Glaring instances of unabashedly predisposed articles on a daily basis, seem to point only in one direction - That the so-called 'fourth pillar of democracy' is sadly, crumbling.

As I dived deeper into my examination, I realised who really owns 'our' media. To quote some of the alarming instances of this nexus between media houses and the industrialists/politicians :

( The links for such claims have been given at the end of this article.)

  1. Last month, the Aditya Birla Group picked up a 27.5 per cent stake in the India Today Group for an undisclosed sum.

  2. In January this year, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries funded the merger of Eenadu TV (which it owned) with Network18 in a complicated deal.

  3. In December last year, Abhey Oswal’s Oswal Green Tech picked up a 14.2 per cent stake in NDTV for Rs 24 crore.

  4. Shobhna Bhartia, owner and editor-in-chief of Hindustan Times is a Congress MP from Rajya Sabha.

  5. NDTV’s promoters are Prannoy Roy and Radhika Roy. Radhika’s sister Brinda Karat is a famous CPM leader and Brinda’s husband Prakash Karat is the CPM Politburo General Secretary.

  6. NDTV’s Sonia Singh is the wife of Uttar Pradesh Congress MP, Union minister and ex-princely state ruler, Mr. R. P. N. Singh, who is one of the fastest rising stars in the Congress party. NDTV’s Nidhi Razdan (high-profile anchor of Left Right Centre) is the current girlfriend of J&K CM Omar Abdullah.

  7. Rajdeep Sardesai’s wife and co-promoter of CNN-IBN, Sagarika Ghose, who anchors Face of the Nation and is famous journalist of CNN-IBN (well, her hubby is the owner-editor-in-chief after all) are famous Congress stooges. Sagarika’s father Bhaskar Ghose was a famous Sarkari babu , well-known for personal loyalty to the Nehru dynasty.

  8. The Hindu – N. Ram, owner and editor-in-chief (till February 2012) of The Hindu, was once a vice president of the Students Federation of India. SFI is the students’ wing of the CPM.

  9. What about little known News24 Hindi media channel? Owned by ex-journalist and editor Rajiv Shukla, famous Congress MP in Rajya Sabha, Union minister, industrialist, BCCI vice president and IPL chairman.

  10. Or what about the even lesser little Lokmat (and IBN Lokmat) that is Marathi newspaper (and channel) inMaharashtra? Owner and editors-in-chief are the brothers Vijay Darda (Congress MP) and Rajendra Darda(Congress MLA in Maharashtra, and minister in state govt).

As someone on FB had commented," Businessmen pay politicians for favour. Politicians pay journalists and news channels for favours. Buying news channels is the only way businessmen can get their money back !"

One may argue that industrialists investing in media houses or media personals having blood relations with politicians is no crime nor reason enough to harbour prejudices against them.

True, but it seem to be the only incentive for their biased ,veiled news coverage.

Take for example, the recent media bashing of the nascent AAP. Barely a month into power, they have been subjected to the choicest of allegations. Media lashed out at Kejriwal for accepting a 4BHK flat in place of a 'modest' 3BHK one ( it doesn't matter if the new CM did not choose a lavish bungalow like his predecessors) or the case of his law minister Somnath Bharti being alleged for his 'racist remarks' (it also doesn't matter if he is the only minister to attend a call from the people of his constituency at an unearthly hour).

AAP's manifesto has been time and again ridiculed for being 'unattainable' (even though the party has already implemented many of their promises, including subsidiary on water and electricity). My point here is- Why does the media single out AAP? Have congress and BJP governments been able to implement all their election promises in the past 20 odd years? Why no news coverage of the newly formed governments in MP, Rajasthan etc? Do people there not have expectations and subsequent qualms from their administrators?

AAP has come up with novel ideas like converting dilapidated buses into night shelters for the homeless. Why not give them their due coverage? Don't you cover farce Congress programmes (which invariably are named as Shri Rajiv Gandhi blah blah Yojna) all day long?

There are a number of MP's in a number of political parties with cases of heinous crimes such as rape, extortion, murders and the list is long. Why doesn't the media take up the cases of the leaders who have been proved guilty and are still being given tickets? Not that the media does not highlight them, but why not create a hype about them?

Politicians who play on the communal card (especially those in U.P. and Maharashtra!) are never implicated for their divisive politics. A maniac ex-CM who went around building her own statues is never reprimanded.

How many of us came to know about a recent happening: Mr. Ambani's Aston Martin(allegedly driven by his son) injured several people before crashing? We were perhaps kept away from such a high profile case because, well, the media had to focus on more important news like Krrish 3's box office collections.

Why unnecessarily talk about Narendra Modi's role in the godhra riots, when he has been given a clean chit by the court itself?

That brings to a related story: Why is it that no news channel speaks vehemently against the 2000 crore Sardar Patel statue proposed by the Gujarat government. I do remember the Media criticising ISRO for its (relatively cheaper) 450 crore Mangalyaan mission. Heck, we Indians spend hundreds of crores each Diwali on rockets and crackers.

Why is it that Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi along with 'Desh ka Daamad' Robert Vadra escape the media scrutiny and grilling? (To speak of the greater crimes the above said people commit would take up an even longer article.)

Another thing, who gave the news anchors the right to judge an issue. Just give us a clear, honest raw view of the topic in question. Leave it upto the common man to draw his/her own conclusions and take sides.

A typical episode on the popular 'News Hour : Times Now', moderated(?) by Arnab Goswami unfolds as: Arnab : Mr. XYZ the Nation demands an answer! XYZ :Yes, in my opinion... Arnab(butting in) : XYZ seems to be at his wits ends! Moving on to my next panelist tonight.

Justice Goswami , I am really not interested in hearing your judgement. Let the poor panelists speak. Stop bossing around. Just do your job.

I believe the CBI should start outsourcing its cases to the media. After all the media is super competent to crack the who-dunnit cases (take for example the Arushi murder case) by conceiving myriad angles to the crimes.

But why didn't the all-knowledgeable and skilful media houses not showcase their other talent in the 'Radia tape' controversy? Oh of course how could they, weren't their very own Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi caught up in this muddle. Don't worry, the government has very cruelly punished these crooked media men by conferring the Padma Shri upon them !

Opinion polls conducted by newspapers and news channels are laughable to say the least. They predicted a maximum of 3-4 seats for the AAP. Now look who's running the government in the capital? Opinions polls do nothing more than confusing the already confused voter. It would be no surprise if your opinion polls too are rigged.

As a last resort for true information I turned to social media only to find political parties slowly digging its claws into it too. Parties are willing to spend thousands of rupees to hire HR for a 'makeover' just before the general elections. Comment threads on Facebook are now filled with blind(and paid?) supporters of NaMo taking on RaGa.

Indisputably, the Indian media is dishonest and fraudulent. It oftentimes veils and hushes up critical information, while other times blowing smaller news out of proportion. Not to forget turning their news studios into courtrooms and becoming law interpreters themselves. Slowly and stealthily they have been able to mislead the common man, who foolishly takes their word as law.

What we want is a greater transparency and accountability by the media. We wish they would learn some ethics from their western counterparts and not brazenly sell their integrity.

Its high time we had a bit of role reversal here. Why not place the media in the line of fire and ask them some uncomfortable questions.They need to be given a taste of their own medicine.' The Nation really demands an answer', you know.

Note: I am an AAP supporter, but not a blind follower. I merely wanted to convey the double standards adopted by our vile media industry.


#nonfiction #politics

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