Apr 042012
 

Not the best of waking up in the morning. the jaw hitting the floor in slow motion. The article read, before drinking the first cup of Kaapi only to realise that the alarm was raised over next to nothing.

Is this good reporting – i don’t know. The only thing i know is that two army units had a practise session on the day when the COAS went to court.Do they normally play ‘soldier soldier’ – I hope so. Are they suppose to ? – well, we have rehearsals before a shoot, so i presume that any large unit attempting something complex would have rehearsals. Are they supposed to inform others, presumably yes -so that people and units don’t trip over each other …. does all this  warrant front page with a headline that scares the sleep out of your eyes – I don’t know.

Maybe the good editor of IE would like to check out the story of the boy who cried wolf … or maybe their calendars have all been hacked and their internal system clock tells them it is April 1st. Maybe it is curiosity that has gone awry ….and maybe they thought that scoop is spelt as s’coup. or maybe the way they thought they will get some visiblity in the social and main stream media is to become the story themselves.

And finally, 

Surprisingly, First Post that is known to play fast and loose with stories – went to the defence of IE. It had an inexplicable space filler called Moral of Army ‘coup’ outrage: Twitter is for twits , little understanding two things

  • a lot of its own popularity is also due to  twitter and tweeple linking to stories published on first post. if firstpost doesn’t want people to do that then they should just say so.
  • it wasn’t tweeple who put out a panicky 3 line head line & full front page story it is the esteemed media that did.

While i appreciate that there is honour amongst all sorts of professional groupings, including thieves, there is no point shooting citizens who are rightfully appalled by the break down of institutions, the corrosion of morals and the subverting of the 4th estate. Put your houses in order, before raising fingers against us – after all we are the people :D

And yes, on an average day I trust a politician more than I trust the media.

Mar 042012
 

Brokering News

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9dKQ4IB2hY&w=420&h=315]

Brokering News is a documentary on the Paid News in India. The phenomenon has spread far and wide and permeates every aspect of news in India.

For most of us working in the media, the story of paid news is not new. When i was with a leading entertainment group, the anger against journalism as a profession and specific journalists or news companies, inside the company was huge. “chor hain woh log’ was a term i heard many times, especially when it came to the time when business results had to be published.  This is despite the fact that the company i worked for owned a news channel. But, in board rooms and office meetings we were told to be nice to journalists, to humour them and give them the ‘bhaav’ and treat them with kid gloves.

When we made our film Jhing Chik Jhing, and then were ready for publicity – we were told very clearly pay or there will be none. It is not called paid news. it is called a marketing tie up :D While you can argue that publicity for a film should be paid for, after all you are making profits out of the film … however, if you go to watch a film based on the reviews (which are part of the marketing package) then are you incurring a loss if it is a bad film ?  the same logic applies  when it comes to covering Politics or Business. The job of journalism is not to encourage or cover up for politicians on the take – it is to expose them. Similarly the function of journalism is not to cover up business wrong doings. For example, do you remember what happened with the ground water pollution in Kerala caused by Coke ? or do you know why the Metro in Mumbai has been delayed for so long – or indeed who is building it ?

Umesh Agarwal’s documentary looks at all these areas – be it film marketing, or sanitizing politicians or covering up business wrong doing. It further looks at the issue of who owns the media. the answer is that the same people own different news channels and papers and are also amongst the largest advertisers. The film looks at the main paid news cases of the last 5 years – be it the reporting on the Ambani brothers or the involvement of leading journalists – Prabhu Chawla, Vir Sanghvi & Barkha Dutt – with Nira Radia. The journalists claimed that they were cultivating an important source, but the fact remains that the incident eroded the credibility of not just the journalists but the profession at large.

A few years ago i stopped watching and reading the bulk of main stream media, and get my news from Government controlled agencies such as PTI, UNI, DD and AIR. For, if I am going to read biased news, i might as well know whose bias it is and compensate for it. I wouldn’t mind paid news, if i knew who was paying for it and how the bias manifests it self.

Do spend an hour to understand how the majority of those in the news business function. it is more business and less news. Don’t believe most things you see or read – it will lead to tremendous disappointment and disillusionment. There is a line that S.Y. Quraishi., the CEC, uses in the documentary “the fourth estate should not become the 5th column.’  Corruption – and the term paid news is a euphemism for corruption – corrodes a system from the inside.

The documentary raises important points. However, like most desi documentaries it tends to bludgeon you with its view rather than allow for any subtlety of any sort. I wish that it had featured views from honest editors and hones member from the journalistic fraternity . Also, the one thing i would like to see Indian docus do, as i would Indian films, is understand and appreciate the value of silence. there is no need to cram every second with sound … Having said all this , the film is a worth while excessive. Its an hour well spent in understanding who shapes your views and why . Umesh Agarwal needs to be congratulated to have the courage to go up against some powerful people .

Feb 042012
 

Someone has either a fantastic sense of humour or oversight :D

am so glad that i have given up watching news TV – what verbal diarrhoea, what speculation, and what fiction…
and, this isn’t an anti -NDTV rant. in fact it was the least screechy of all channels – and even its decibel level was too much to take. I tried watching Times Now – Arnab is trying to present news like Sunny Deol in one of those war films… yaar mike use kartein ho, or does the equipment pick up sound waves by itself… and, Rajdeep Sardesai sounded hysterical.

DD news of course was the best -it had a story on digital art :D

I go back to my self imposed exile from watching 24 hour news. At, this point let me state i think there is a great business possibility for a high quality, limited time news programme ( 1 hour show) on a daily or weekly basis. i would pay for it. about Rs.10 per day …

Oct 172011
 

My column in today’s DNA:

If a tree falls in a forest, and no one is around to have heard it fall, does it make a sound?’ is an old philosophical question on which there has been much heated argument over the centuries. The debate is a consequence of a school of philosophy that believes that events exist from the point of view of the observer. If there is no observer, then there is no event. Others, especially scientists, maintain that events exist irrespective of the presence of the observer.
In an era of 24-hour news channels, this philosophy can be revisited. If an event occurs, let’s say a protest, and there is no media coverage, then as far as public consciousness is concerned, does the issue even exist? Groups and causes that can articulate their view in media-friendly chunks have their issues become part of the public debate. Groups and causes that cannot, do not exist as far as the public space is concerned. Political and civil society groups of all hues and shades are beginning to realise this. They have realised that media coverage works best in the media centres — Mumbai and Delhi. And, protests work best when conducted in the full glare of the media. They realise that if there is no observer for an event, then the protest is as good as being dead in the water. For example, Irom Sharmilla has been fasting to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act for over 10 years, and it is just now that the protest has been noticed. And, that is because Anna Hazare’s 12-day fast brought Irom Sharmilla’s decade long fast into the limelight. Similarly,38-year-old Swami Nigamanand Saraswati died trying to save the Ganga from pollution caused by illegal mining. After 68 days of fasting in Haridwar he passed away. His death was covered by the ‘national media’ because it coincided with Baba Ramdev’s little drama at the Ramlila grounds. But his cause, that of saving the Ganga, is largely ignored.
Media coverage is not about how ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘important’ or ‘unimportant’ a cause is. It is about being part of the media’s line of sight and being able to keep catching their attention. Once the media starts paying attention, then the idea is to keep engaging the media on a constant basis, so that the cycle of publicity continues.
Today, packaging of news surrounding the protest is as important as the protest itself. Every successful protest is handled like a product. And, in a modern world, the product attributes are not as important as the packaging and promotional hype surrounding it.
That is the reason for the insistence on Jantar Mantar by Team Anna. Anna could have fasted anywhere else in India. After all, Gandhi fasted wherever he was — his ashram, jails, various cities — location didn’t deter him. But, in a modern India which is wired 24/7, it is important to be where the media is. If Anna Hazare had fasted in Ralegaon Siddhi would the event have been part of pan national consciousness or would it have been like Nigamanand Saraswati’s fast, mentioned in passing by regional news while being largely ignored by the ‘national’ media?
The recent attack by members of the ‘Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena’ on Prashant Bhushan — a core member of Team Anna — in full view of a television news crew is taking this philosophy one step further. The issue raised by the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena becomes part of national consciousness, overnight, because it was sensational, violent, jingoistic and on tape. We would not even have heard of this fringe organisation if they had hit someone without the TV crew being present. They were mimicking the acts of Sri Ram Sene a few years ago. The Ram Sene protesting against declining ‘moral’ values — decided to go to the nearest pub and beat up a few girls who were drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. But, before they went to teach the girls a lesson, they called the camera crews.

As a result, an intolerant, violent, extreme fringe organisation became part of pan-Indian consciousness.

News focus on strife, violence, drama and sensationalism to increase ratings, has led to it becoming the launching pad for many a fringe organisation. These groups thrive on media coverage. Their philosophy is immaterial — their rage is what sells. In its blinkered focus on only ratings, news channels have unleashed a genie that needs to be put back in the bottle.

Oct 032011
 

My column in Today’s DNA

Odisha. Sikkim. Andhra Pradesh. Manipur. Natural disasters struck the first two states. Floods in Odisha impacted 2.2 million Indian citizens. People lost lives.

Property was destroyed. Development washed away. Sikkim suffered an earthquake measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale. At least 100 people died. The loss in monetary terms is still being calculated, and expected to be in the range of tens of thousands of crores. You would think that there would be media outrage — why is it that after 60 years and crores of rupees we can’t build houses that aren’t washed away? That can’t withstand an earthquake. But, there was silence. In Andhra Pradesh and Manipur, citizens, political movements, and civil society have blockaded the lives and liberty of other citizens. Inhabitants of Manipur have been blockaded for two months.

Essential goods cost a bomb. An LPG cylinder costs Rs2,000, and vegetables like the humble potato cost Rs45 a kilo. In Andhra Pradesh a ‘strike’ by a few people agitating for Telangana has left the majority in darkness. Electricity cuts are to the tune of 16 to 22 hours. Crores of Indian citizens are in deep distress. Yet, there seems to be a relative silence in the ‘national’ broadcast news media about these events. Imagine if events similar to these, even a fraction in impact and magnitude, had occurred in Mumbai or Delhi and ask yourselves — how would the media have covered it?

In India, it is very clear that there is a news media centre — cities, citizens, causes & civil societies that get noticed, and a media periphery — issues, areas, people and events that are ignored. The national media tends to do very well when issues are based in its playing fields — Mumbai and Delhi. Regional media do well covering their individual areas or states. The issues arise when it comes to the coverage of India. India is more than just Mumbai or Delhi. It is greater than individual regions or states. It is a diverse, plural, complex, thriving, vibrant nation that deserves better than to be ignored like a beggar at the feast.

the rest of the article is here