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.

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***.


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….

here, here, here and here.


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


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


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 …


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!


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,

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


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