Nov 212010

… … the media silence on the Radia Tapes is deafening …

For those of you watching and reading the Main Stream Media this week, life would be pretty much the same. 2 G scam, Karnataka, Some Asian Games Medals, some vague stuff about Bihar… there would have been some level of smugness about Raja’s resignation, and the gloating that everyone was number one in breaking the story, some outrage on Adarsh, but pretty much that is it … as far as big stories are concerned.

The New Media, on the other hand has been bubbling over with another story – the story that has all the ingredients of a Sidney Sheldon novel, meets a Robert Ludlum conspiracy along with a Balaji Soap Opera … garnished in with a bunch of unnamed honest men & women — who work from within the system to break the scam and expose the scamsters …. all the ingrediants of a pucca pot boiler. A story that shows how a Lobbyist managed to carry out corporate agenda by trading information and influence with journalists, industry bodies, politicians to fix political appointments, raise political outrage and fix the market vis-a-vis infrastructure.

But before that a synopis of the story so far:

Nira Radia is a lobbyist / PR person who has some fairly important  clients. She also seems to be skirting the boundaries of legal behavior – vis-a-vis the third oldest crime in the world – Income Tax. The IT Department seeks Home Office permission to tap her phones.  the Tapped Tapes/MP3’s –  got submitted in the Supreme Court on the 15th of November – putting it in the public domain. The voices in the tapes are allegedly hers and an A list of clients, contacts and confidants …..

The tapes are a fascinating hear. It shows how names are dropped, reputations made & ruined, deals fixed, gossip passed on and deals are made. Its’ star cast is the whose who of Indian politics, media and business.

yet there is a more or less media black out on the story – except for a few media companies.

Open Magazine , in its on-line version, carried this story on the 18th of November – an action that promptly crashed the server. The Outlook carried a far more detailed version of the same story, with more audio clips attached. Zee News & DNA had some coverage, as has India Today … but the India Today coverage left out the of one of its head honchos – you can hear it here. . But otherwise, it is pretty much silence …..

Hearing the tapes is an education in itself … everyone seems to be helping sell someone else …

There are six components to the tapes :

  • The Soap Opera component of the DMK story- wives, children, drama, wheels within wheels … “i feel he is watching me” kind of paranoia
  • The promise to fix the ministry of Telecommunications in a manner that was conducive to a certain set of business interests. Conversations here with journalists who seemed to promise to fix the ministry…
  • The fight between the two brothers – and what each side was doing. the off the record views expressed by journalists were amusing …. however, such views are in opposition to a) long tenure b) continued sponsorship
  • The fixing of mining rights
  • fixing of the aviation industry
  • The apparent dictation of a particular story that brings out a certain  agenda to a senior print journalist


The issue is not restricted to 2 journalists or 2 institutions. everyone is on those tapes. Bad mouthing powerful people, or dropping names, swapping information on affairs or asking for a 5 acre hand-out. ….

Despite this there is complete silence in the media – i wonder if it is,

  • as they claim, the tapes are not authentic and the papers are fake, and they don’t want to speculate  …. but that hasn’t stopped the media before. Remember the Arushi Murder on-air Trial, remember the body by body coverage of 26/11 .
  • It could not be that this is not news – recordings submitted in the Supreme Court. You can report it because it is in the public domain. you can play them without fear of being sued – because they are evidence in a court case. you will have to qualify the content as such …
  • each media house is trying to figure how compromised it is and taking corrective action …
  • they are terrified of pissing of advertisers who can leverage their advertising spend if offended by coverage.

There must be panic-  in the media houses. Their doyens seem to be either casting aspersions on the capability of business leaders or  trying to fix the Government.  Not very conducive to wielding power and influence is it … especially when you get caught ….


Worth Reading :

Indian Papers

When Radia killed the media star, G Sampath in the DNA

Merging Estates, in the Hoot

Anchored in mire, 1st Edit,  Deccan Herald

The spectrum of corruption – Editorial, Indian Express

Indian Media Discredited, Binu Thomas,

Oh what a lovely blackout – Sevati Ninnan – the Hoot

The spotlight is on the media now – Priscilla Jebaraj – lead in the Hindu

Anant’s blog: Open dares to be different –  Campaign India

Over the Thin Red Line – Salil Tripathi –  The Mint

2G scam sideshow: Netizens lambast high-profile journalists – ToI

The Thunderous Silence – Amit Varma , Yahoo News India

The silence of the hacks – Santosh Desai, Times of India

Those living in Glass Houses – Rasheeda Bhagat – Hindu Business Line

Beware the single brush – Pratap Bhanu Mehta, in the Indian Express

Just Say Sorry – T N Ninan , Business Standard

The Radia Tapes debate–swallowing the bait – Vidya Subrahmanyam  in the Hoot

Radia Tapes: Media ethics at the crossroads – comment in the Hoot

Welcome to the Matrix of the Indian State – Siddarth Varadarajan, in the Hindu

Foreign Papers

Media run for cover : BRP Bhaskar, in Gulf Today

Phone Taps Draw Media Into 2G Spotlight –  Tripti Lahiri in WSJ

Indian Media Where Art Thou on Media Scandal – Betwa Sharma in the Huffington Post

Indian journalists accused of secretly helping politicians, businesses – Washington Post

Corrupt Corporate Fascism in India – the Dawn

Oh Vir, What Can the Matter Be? – Paul Beckett in the WSJ

Indian media’s mighty stand exposed on wrong side of 2G spectrum scam – International Business & Law

The Media as Middle Man – Farzana Versey – in Counterpunch

Dragging Indian Media out of the Muck – Sadanand Dhume in the WSJ


Zee News

Sagarika Ghosh on CNN-IBN – FTN – November 23rd 2010

Radia tapes: Probing the journalists – The Last Word with Karan Thapar

Shourie on Radia with Karan Thapar – on CNN-IBN

Ratan Tata with Shekhar Gupta on Walk the Talk, NDTV


Responses to the Radia Tapes

Barkha Dutt

Vir Sanghvi

Prabhu Chawla

On the Radia Tapes:

Medianama has a consolidated set of links – both audio, and text – here

Reading Radia – the tapes transcription project