Dec 012008

The glee and irresponsibility with which the media handled [tag]26/11[/tag] was watched by all. but, at what cost?

On the first night – there was [tag]CNN IBN[/tag] giving a blow by blow account of the movement of the Rapid Action Force commando’s. I shouted, impotently at the TV screen, they get TV reception at the Taj. but the details increased. it is the point where i more or less muted the volume and moved to [tag]twitter[/tag].

And, then it progressively got worse. every idiot with an OB van parked themselves outside the Taj and the Trident and began not only broadcasting live from the scene – compromising the lives of the security forces & the hostages – but also began speculating and putting out rumours in the name of news.

The channels put out the identity of those inside – risking their lives. “The Global CEO of Unilever is having a meeting with his top brass at the Taj” — they blared. Luckily those people got out.

[tag]Rajdeep Saredesai[/tag] screeched, on Friday, that the CST was under attack again. Half an hour later he bleated out an apology.

[tag]Barkha Dutt[/tag], the other doyen of journalism, asked a relative waiting outside the Taj if they considered the possiblity of their dear one being dead. soon she began getting emotional sounding like a frog on LSD.

As the seige progressed [tag]Arnab Gowsami[/tag] resembled a screeching banshee. he mangled the news, quivered with rage and kept attacking all and sundry like a rabid dog on heat.

and, these are considered the best of among journalists.

When the [tag]Nariman house[/tag] battle was on, a Hindi channel journalist – you couldn’t see his face only hear his voice – asked the commander of the NSG ” dead bodies ki condition kya hai”. The look that the commander gave him was priceless.

There was [tag]Rajat Sharma’s[/tag] India TV that spent half an hour or more on the fact that the terrorists were consuming alcohol. Maybe he knew the name of the whores supplied as well… maybe he was the supplier !

And there was Kishore Ajwani or Star News. Shirish and Rajni – who belong to the same alma mater (MICA) describe it better than i can, so i will quote their open letter in its entirety here :

We remember the congratulatory mails when Kishore Ajwani became a prominent news anchor. But yesterday when we were trying to get updates about the terror attack we were aghast to hear him…

Was this a serious news guy or a pimp, peddling his wares all dressed up in garish tones? The screaming voice sounded like gleeful auctioneer raising the bids higher and higher “aur yeh 1945 ka behterin…….” though in his case the script would have probably read “Aaj ki taaza khabar, pachaas TRPs ke liye pesh hai Star News exclusive, yeh aatank ka khaufnak khel.”

Yes all news anchors were hyper, but then there is a difference between a sense of urgency and the style of delivery that Mr Ajwani used. We all know the cut-throat race for TRPs, but did you, Mr. Ajwani even stop to think that this was also a human story, a tragedy involving real people. While Rajni & I were worried about which one of our friends could be at the hotels or the airport, there you were, milking the story for all its worth, even if it meant adopting a style more suited to women of negotiable affections.

Today the scenario continued with Mr. Ajwani plugging Star News in his reportage… We know we are watching Star News, we don’t need you tell us what a great job Star News is doing reporting the carnage. As a respected anchor, do you think that during this time of crisis such a blatant plug for your channel was called for?

You, Mr. Ajwani, as a MICAN ought to have known better. Because in some way, as a fellow MICAN, it puts you and me on the same level, and frankly that’s not a level I wanna fall to.

shirish raut (PGP 1999)

rajni menon (PGP 2000)

these are the same journalists who called for the heads of politicians. but, the politicians, however bad they are, will still bow to public pressure and resign. Whom are these peddlers of death responsible to ?

To all those of you who want to be involved – write to the channel owners, write to sponsors … threaten to stop buying sponsor products if they continue advertising on these channels if these people remain. Civic action does not end with politics and politicians. it applies to all sections of society.

There is a move to take out a PIL against news broadcasters. I am going to be a part of it. At some point of time in life i was told don’t take cudgels against the media on your blog, you won’t get work. So be it. i will survive. But, as a citizen i have to do something constructive, beyond lighting candles and putting up FB status messages.

And, finally – how many people died at CST station. Do they not matter because they are the ‘masses’ – are only the elite classes who sit at the Taj and the Oberoi worthy of coverage? Or is their [tag]media bias[/tag] against people whom, the media don’t hang out with?

We talk about the western response to terrorism. I followed the 9/11 coverage. the journalists behaved with dignity as did politicians of all hues and shades. There was no finger pointing Our politicians and our journalists are just venal.

Broadcast Regulations anyone ? If news broadcasters are going to act as pimps then maybe we need to look at new laws that govern these pimps …..

  29 Responses to “Week 1 Post 26/11 – The Media as Pimp – Maut ke Bhadwe”

  1. You are right, Harini.
    The media tends to go overboard. It is pimping the untouchable portions of human life now… something needs to be done before destructive forces start damaging media.

  2. As far as cameras shooting the Taj, I blame that on whoever was responsible for maintaining a perimeter. The perimeter shuld have been set at Stevens St or better yet Shaheed Bhagat Singh Rd. Media had no business getting pictures of where the snipers are. I could live without knowing that. If the media was compromising intelligence, it is the responsibility of the security agencies to draw the line. if the security agencies are surprised the terrorists have blackberry’s with 3g internet, then I’d suggest adding to their bookmarks. grow up.

    The media is getting pretty crass. When people are dying, I don’t think many care about a friggin horse in the Taj. Goes to prove that the TRP is an insufficient barometer to viewer preference. Please let me know how you plan to communicate with sponsors and media houses about this, I’d like to join in in some way. BTW, you ain’t seen plugging till you’ve seen Wolf Blitzer ask leading questions to guests so they appreciate CNN.

  3. frigging horse statue, a real horse would still be of my concern at least.

  4. yes yes, stop them someone – gag the pimps – Barkha Dutt was the absolute worst

    also pissed me off that suddenly it was a war on capitalism – that was on NDTV Profit – and not on humanity! what?

  5. Bravo! Bravo! No one could have said it better!

  6. The deal is our Information & Broadcasting ministry is busy running after Fashion TV and likes. Where is the time to pull up news channels?

  7. Seriously, what do you teach in journalism/visual media classes? Aren’t these TV anchors supposed to show some equanimity and poise under stress? Why do they all transform into screaming banshees when reporting a crisis?

    TRP-s alone could not be the answer.

    The only person who showed some professionalism, I thought was Vikram Chandra.

    Did not watch the Hindi channels. Thank God for small mercies…

  8. @max – thankyou . a lot of the coverage was pukeworthy
    @sriram – what would you have the security forces do – monitor the media or get into battle. there is something called common sense. Barkha kept cribbing that the security didn’t allow her to cross the perimeter. it is not about her….
    @charu – true. the media is already hit by the downturn and the strike. they talked about what matters to them. atleast it was on profit and not on the main channel
    @michelle – thank you
    @sakshi – the I& B ministry and TRAI have tried to bring in reforms and regualtions. the owners have opposed it saying self regulation. now it may be too late..
    @rada – i teach them not to do this. and i hope that even if one student in a class of 60 understands and appreciates this, i have done my job. the pressures from the channels are too great — there is something fundamentally wrong about a 24*7 news cycle where everything has to be hyped to keep audiences in.

  9. Harini

    Maut ke bhadwe is spot on. Intruding into grieving people’s lives should be made a crime.

    I just saw “we the people” with Barkha Dutt and was appalled at the panel. What the f*(k have Ness Wadia and Simi Garewal done to get more airtime than someone like MN Singh? Simi is the dumbest of them all not knowing the difference between an Islamic flag and the Pakistani flag. Her irresponsible comments were pathetic.

  10. Fiery post. It’s the same here in the States – the news is not news, but commodity for numbers and profits. Tasteless and inhuman. Mainstream news reporting has been rendered almost useless by the CNN-style.

    The people who died in the Pentagon or in western Pennsylvania during 9/11 are forgotten. The Twin Towers offer themselves for a much sexier story. Again, the media did the same thing in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – only that material which offered primetime viewership made the cut.

    Still thinking of you guys in Mumbai. You will make it through to the other side, hopefully without war or poor decisions made on the part of the central and state governments. Getting rid of the religious fundamentalist threat without alienating more secular Muslims is going to be very difficult and I hope profiling doesn’t take root there as it has here.

  11. I think one point you missed – media keeps intruding into the crime scene to get “exclusive shots”. This happened in Arushi murder case when they stormed the garage. This happed at the Taj, CST, Nariman house and Oberoi. NDTVs Sreenivasan – was little more sober and they were pointing to where media were supposed to be standing and how they had gone right up front.
    I am reminded of Yudhistir’s justice – media persons – our fourth estate – should know better and their crime is worst nature – their baddges should be withdrawn – there is no sense giving media special priviledges if they are going to misuse them.

  12. Just wanted to add one more thing – any place where we all can take united stand – and I dont mean wearing bands / dressing white – I mean exerting pressure on politicians and strengthening law and order and going constructive way.

    its time to take matters into our hands now.

  13. Ah, the wonderful, wonderful capitalist system – which makes TRPs much more important than restraint, or common sense, or human decency. We’re told that competition is good as it brings out the best. Seems to me that the opposite happens more often – we display our worst without shame – for that aphorism to be true.

  14. This is Kishore Ajwani. I apologise to all of you who think that I demeaned the profession I belong to. This was not about me, or MICA, or Mumbai, or my news channel. It was about India and I take full responsibility for all the things that I am being blamed for. I can only submit that I would try to ensure that such conduct is not repeated if I happen to be in any such situation ever again. I know nothing that I do or say can assuage the feelings that I would have hurt. I am sorry.

  15. You’ve got it absolutely right. I didnt watch more than 30 mins of it in the entire duration of the incident and I still felt sick. Almost zero facts, almost all subjective opinion, complete disregard for risk to lives of those involved. I actually now rate them as one grade lower than politicians as far as humanity is concerned

  16. Extremely passionate post. Very well written. I whole heartedly agree with your views.

    The media was very shoddy.

  17. Yea its true Indian media is a true shame, They make everything a BREAKING NEWS!!! Shame on the Indian Media… and after all this they freakin ask for SMS polls… thats utter nonsense…

  18. The only language that can ignite passion! Well done.

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