Dec 012010
 

Over 10 days after the story broke in the Open Magazine & Outlook, the rest of the media seems to have gotten into the act of covering the #Radiatapes – especially the ethics of journalists on the tapes.

NDTV went first yesterday – with a strange, strange show hosted by Sonia Singh (please correct me if the name is wrong, have begun watching 24*7 news for the first time in 2 years). The show featured Barkha Dutt and a panel including – Manu Joseph, Sanjay Baru, Swapan Das Gupta and Dileep Padgaonkar … Sonia didn’t add to the show except to assert her designation – and Barkha lost her cool with Manu Joseph who seems to have all the tenacity of a blood hound that had found a rather juicy steak !

You can watch the unedited episode here.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8mH0uae4DFo&w=480&h=385]

here, here and here

Frankly, the show was disappointing. Ms.Dutt vacillated between being emotional – hardly surprising given the barrage of criticism that has been leveled at her and her professional & personal integrity – and outraged. She admitted she was gullible – not the best quality for a political editor – but said that she didn’t do anything wrong. Her interaction with Manu Joseph was particularly appalling – especially when she got into his ethics of publishing the story. In doing so she forgot that Manu Joseph may have breached professional etiquette, but i am not quite sure that it was a breach of professional ethics.

Part of the problem with the NDTV programme was that it was designed like an inquisition rather than a journalistic endeavor. When someone accuses you, you will – but naturally – defend yourself. While it makes for a great soap opera, it doesn’t make for a particularly credible news show.

The show reminded me of all the reasons that i stopped watching 24*7 news channels in the aftermath of 26*11 – too many shouting heads, too many people screaming in tandem – all in all a clusterf***.

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Headlines Today had a show tonight which had Vir Sanghvi being interviewed by Rahul Kanwal, and then Kanwal went on to discuss the issue of the journalists & Radia with N Ram, Dilip Cherian (of Perfect Relations), Hartosh Bal Political Editor of the Open and two other editors from the Living Media (India Today) Group – MJ Akbar and Prabhu Chawla. (Prabhu Chawla is on the tapes as well – but it seemed more to be conversation about the Ambani dispute, rather than anything else)

The discussion was far more controlled, Vir Sanghvi appearing far more credible than i thought possible under the circumstances….

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnXn8Nw4r18&w=480&h=385]

here, here, here and here.

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Surprisingly, Wall Street Journal , has a fairly detailed and multiple views on this affair – especially vis-a-vis Ms.Dutt. They had 6 opinion pieces today – that seemed to be over kill.

Incidentally, WSJ is owned by News Corp., who also owns Fox News (amongst other media vehicles). So, it was quite amusing to see them behave outraged about journalistic ethics

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And then there was this rambling piece by Tunku Varadarajan – in the daily beast that concludes with:

A final word: India’s media is still an insulated and protected sector. To this day, foreign media companies cannot own more than 26 percent of an Indian imprint. This has made for an insular press, a corrupt press, an Indian media untested not merely against global standards of journalistic craft, but also against Western standards of journalistic ethics. Dutt, surely, has a heckuva lot of explaining to do. But she’s not the only one in that position—by any stretch.

we are of course talking about the same set of ‘western journalistic ethics’ that believed that there were WMD’s in Iraq and convinced its readers/viewers of the same … please !!

By all means let there be more transparency and better monitoring of all professions, but to draw causality where there is none is kind of stupid….

If you want to read a Varadarajan on this issue you might be better off reading Siddarth Varadarajan in the Hindu

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And finally, while the trickle of coverage becomes a deluge – it would be good to remember that the journalists in this entire affair  are basically gullible dupes – and the bigger story is that of who benefits from this entire episode and leaks …

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Worth Reading

Fixing Barkha Dutt – B Raman

Hello, this is Niira, by Archana Shukla  in the Indian Express

NDTV Exposes NDTV, by Farzana Versey in Counter Media

The rotting of New India – Pankaj Mishra in the Guardian

The Storm in the Studio – Shailja Bajpai in the Indian Express

Vir Sanghvi Gets Points for Being Apologetic – WSJ

Dangerous liaisons – Samar Halarnkar, HT

Wait a Minute, What Exactly Is Barkha Dutt Accused of?, Amol Sharma, WSJ

Lessons from the Radia Tapes Row -Bupendra Chaubey, CNN IBN

The Republic on a Banana Peel - P Sainath, in the Hindu

India Journal: What Difference Will the Radia Tapes Make? – Rupa Subramanya Dehejia – in the WSJ

Was it okay to leak the Radia tapes? – Financial Express -

Nov 292010
 

Last week i had posted on the media black out of the  RadiaTapes  - filed in the SC as evidence – and that has the who’s who of media, industry and politics – an incestuous  oligarchy – in conversation,   in an environment more reminiscent of the Borgias , than a modern Democratic Republic (atleast i hope India is).

Atul Chitnis – suggested that i put a response to a conversation with Sohini about the silence as a separate entry – so here goes …

Sohini says:
November 21, 2010 at 8:53 pm

What amazes me is that top news channels keep running prime-time stories on the telecom scam so unabashedly, without a blink even, when their own ‘stars’ are involved in the scam. It is so rightly called the ‘spectrum’ scam. People from all across the spectrum are aboard here!

[Reply]

gargi Reply:
November 22nd, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Yes & No.
There are three parts to these recordings :
a) business interest
b) business interest fixing ministerial berth with the help of powerbrokers, advocated by journalists
c) minor or major indiscretions

you cannot do the journalist story without doing the business story. the business story will end up pissing off people whose annual advertising spend is possibly greater than the turnover of most media companies …. what do you do then ?

minor or major indiscretions while speaking -for example a is having an affair with b; or person x is f***ed no matter what he does; or person y has no imagination – those are things that are going to end up mattering more – because you are talking about fragile egos and lots of money – a dangerous combination …..

in the outrage over Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi – and their alleged roles – the bigger picture is being forgotten, and that bigger picture is that these two are incidental to the bigger picture ….hear the tapes

Worth Reading MSM Sources

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, Countercurrents.org

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

Of Twitter outrage & media silence – Santosh Desai in the Times of India

Journalism in a Radiaactive media -  G Sampath

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

The Fall of India’s Katie Couric? by Tunku Varadarajan in the Daily Beast

On TV

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

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Responses to the Radia Tapes

Barkha Dutt

Vir Sanghvi

Prabhu Chawla

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On the Radia Tapes:

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

Reading Radia – the tapes transcription project

Nov 272010
 

Quoted for Truth

Mr.Ratan Tata on the dangers of crony capitalism & Banana Republic on Walk the Talk with Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24×7

Banana republics are run on cronyism. People of great power wield great power, but people of lesser power or people who have fallen out of power go to jail without adequate evidence or their bodies are found in the trunks of cars. The danger is that you could degenerate into that kind of atmosphere unless the necessary parts of government play their role in upholding the law and fine, let no one be above the law. I would happily have that happen, various other people would not like to see that happen but I would feel very happy to see that, I would feel very proud. So I think it can happen, I mean a Banana Republic kind of an environment could emerge, if we don’t put an end to this kind of thing and under the guise of freedom of speech or the guise of many other numbers of so-called rights of democracy abused, the luxury of a democracy.

On Dr.Manmohan Singh

I think what has happened in the last few weeks is an indication of what can happen anytime… then we are really going down the route into a banana republic. I would have no hesitation of telling the PM this because I don’t believe the PM is contributing to this. I think he should be concerned about the nation going in that direction. And he’s a tremendously good man. We are lucky to have him as a PM. I want to say that it has hurt me to see what he has gone through in the past weeks… in Parliament… the pressure… the innuendoes and the pressures he’s been going through to resign and so on. He is one person who is truly above any of the allegations thrown at him… the person whom we are lucky to have to because it’s his face that has been the face of transforming India. And it is this person who has commanded the respect of the leaders in major countries. He doesn’t deserve to face this kind of humiliation.

On Parliamentary attendance;

And here again I think this is the responsibility of the Parliamentarians to transact, to govern the country and not to adjourn the Parliament everyday to meet some.

On the 2 G scam – Raja & Radia

I really don’t know. When it started, I thought it was Mr Raja’s alleged deeds, then it seemed the scam related to Niira Radia’s conversations with various people, which were more innuendos than anything else, and Mr Raja’s scam was the loss to the exchequer. I don’t want to comment on the rights or wrongs, but loss to the exchequer was computed on the basis of 3G auction. 2G spectrum was allocated before the auctions, so it looks somewhat like a hindsight issue but the media has said that he robbed the nation of X… (Shekhar Gupta: $40 billion) OK, so if that is so, somebody will need to show that there has been a sort of visionary view before the event took place that cost him to cause that much loss to the exchequer. These are things I think the media has blown up. What is unclear to me is what really is the scam? Was it the manner in which he implemented the policy?

And finally,

…the point is I think there be an inquiry to go into what has really happened and it should go back to 1999 or 2003 when policy were embedded in certain areas, and whoever the minister or the Government was at that time. It should be a holistic view because the industry deserves a consistent policy, not a chop-chop policy – not a kind of review of what Raja did and what Maran did.

Finally someone with the courage of conviction, to call it as it is … see and hear the rest of the interview.

Nov 262010
 

A week has gone by, but MSM is yet to cover the story in a major concerted manner, though opinion pieces have begun emerging both in India and outside. I have begun compiling a list of all pieces in the MSM, here. Do add to the list.

On the Radia Tapes,  I have been listening to a tape MP3  a day. They are the most entertaining listening in the media right now. No reality television can come close. This is pure unscripted reality – hear your jaw drop as a senior journo calls a business magnate a harami, or hear the take on ‘teaching a lesson’ to a leading society columnist, or hear about a sort of ‘mutual fund’ for spouses of journalists, or appreciate water cooler conversations on the wheeling and dealing in Delhi , or have the alleged sex life of MP’s being tossed around as garnishing. There is this complete feeling of voyeurism. The tapes are an interesting study on how Delhi works. It may, at the end of the day be just name dropping, but it is that entire heady feeling of power intoxication – albeit through  osmosis – that comes through in the tapes ….

The magazine that broke the story last week,  The Open Magazine, has followed up this week with a set of finely written opinion pieces, one by their editor Manu Joseph and the other by their political editor Hartosh Singh Bal, on the Radia Tapes, the role of journalists, why they chose to expose the story and what is their stand on the issue. Both are worth reading.  Open has also published an excerpt of Arnab Goswami’s (alleged)  letter to his staff that reassures me that there are people with a sense of integrity that is binary and not fuzzy …

‘Colleagues,There has been news about two senior journalists from other media groups being involved in collaborating with corporate lobbyists and corporate groups on the 2G scam issue. This is a low point in the news business. It’s downright shameful. I am writing to reiterate some of the core values of the group and the channel. We believe in fierce editorial independence and complete personal honesty. Our standards have to remain impeccably high. In your interactions at any level, remember that you are ambassadors of India’s number one news channel. In an earlier edit meeting, I have said that even a pass into a stadium that’s accepted free amounts to being compromised, and today I am writing to reassert that. No gifts, no favours, no lobbying, no free dining and wining, no cash, no kind, no pass, no trip, no holiday, no promise, no passes, no special treatment, no tall or short claims, no disrespect to the organization that you represent and the group that we are all a part of, no loose talk, no flexibility on values, will be accepted. If I hear of any, we will come down hard, and no exceptions will be made…—Arnab’

If the writer is Arnab, then the  channel in question is Times Now, and the larger organisation is Bennet and Coleman which also runs Times of India, ET, Zoom

To, those at Open Magazine (if you, by chance, stumble upon this blog, my mother has decreed a subscription to you magazine. I thought the action was quaint and old world — but she is 70 :)

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

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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 ….

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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, Countercurrents.org

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

On TV

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

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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