Tyranny of ‘national’ media

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14 Aug 2012

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Riot affected women with children eat at a relief camp set up for riot-affected Bodos in Kokrajhar district of Assam

Shockingly, the fact that every human life lost in any riot should be seen as a blot on the country is lost in the cacophony of a studio.

No — the above line is not some random rant by another random blogger. The line is picked up from a profound article written by the Editor-in-Chief of the CNN-IBN network. When read in isolation, the above statement sounds fully logical. Now let’s go back a little bit in time.

On July 24, a tweeter advised the author of the above article to cover all riots equally, be it Gujarat or Assam. The reply?

21 died in Assam, more than a 1000 in Gujarat. Scale and intensity, plus logistics will determine media coverage.

Yes — you are indeed reading it right. The Editor-in-Chief actually said that — it is the “scale and intensity” that determines the media coverage. The person who is sermonising the readers on the value of every human life is the same person who put out the number of dead to justify the low coverage time on TV.

There was outrage over this — many valid questions were posed to him, chief among them by a tweeter was this:How did he know that more than a 1,000 died while the riots were happening in Gujarat? He later apologised for his tweet (followed by the routine “we-get-abused-no-one-apologises to us” argument), but I guess the cat was out of the bag by then. Is this the insensitivity with which the Delhi-based English language TV news channels deal with events?

The supreme fascinating irony in the first statement does not end there. Here’s a quick quiz question: Who moderates the ‘cacophony’ in the studio? Bingo!The author (and his ilk)! The ‘cacophony’ is what defines any primetime TV debate in any of the channels, and the moderator seems happy about it more often than not. And we are now being told that this ‘cacophony’ doesn’t allow the viewer to have the right perspective.

There is one more important thing that gains prominence in the ‘cacophony’ that is moderated by these exalted folks:The comparison of riots. Read any article, listen to any debate on riots, we hear only 1984 and 2002 (and perhaps going forward, Assam 2012 will get added). It’s as if no riot (big or small) has occurred before 1984, between 1984 and 2002, and between 2002 and 2012.

It’s one thing for politicians to fight over ‘whose riot is bigger’, but what about the media? Why are they not educating viewers and readers about the different riots that happened in the country and their context? Every riot has a context — the author himself tries hard to explain the “context” of the Assam riot and says it’s not “black and white” as “bigoted” minds would think. Have you ever seen any article that explains the ‘context’ of any other riot in this country? The‘media’ is doing grave injustice to its viewers and readers by not bothering to even attempt to discuss other riots, but then I guess that’s too much to expect.

However, there is one more profound statement in that profound article that definitely takes the cake.

No national channel has an OB van in Guwahati.

He was at pains to explain why the ‘media’ covered the Gujarat riots of 2002 more than the Assam riot in 2012. And all that he could come up with is this: No OB van and hence little coverage. The first question that came to mind was,why is it a ‘national’ channel if it does not even have an OB (outside broadcasting) van in one of the major State capitals? Fair enough to assume that Delhi-based channels do not have OB vans in any of the seven north-eastern States. But then why carry on this charade of being ‘national’ channels’ and foisting it on unsuspecting viewers.

At least 77 people have till now died in the Assam riot which has not yet ended. A whopping 4,00,000 people have been displaced and are in relief camps — which means they have been thrown out of their homes. If this is not a tragedy that deserves exhaustive coverage, then what does?

PS: The Group Editor of another channel, NDTV, took lots of pain to get into Libya during the ‘Arab Spring’. She went there illegally (or “cladenstinely” as B.Raman said)  only to show the situation to the world. And when Assam was burning (and earlier when there were massive floods), she was nowhere to be seen. Not even close. Tyranny of distance? Really?

Obsessive eater, Compulsive sleeper, Repulsive Writer

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  • Sam

    On the contrary… amidst their eerie silence on Assam violence and Mumbai rioting…. they prefer to educate us about the ongoing Tablet wars in the market. Duh… Real wars can wait… How elae will we see their programs on the swanky tabs if we didnt select the right one.

  • Som

    Good article!Few days before when Sonia Gandhi went there (during Ramdev movement) OB vans were there!

  • R.Viswam

    The question is not of individuals like Sardesai or Roy or Goswami or ….! Tt is a matter of class – the ‘babalog’ class or wannabe babalogs.They were/are being sired by ‘Nehruism’. Congress Party is the political front of Nehruism. Congress Party,party of, by and for clever crooks . The process has already made quite some headway.has coopted the news and information dissemination media, using time-honoured techniques like loyalty rewards, coercion etc etc. Dethrone Congress, cleansing of the media can commence. Else, poisoning of the minds of impressionable Indian will go on apace till India and Indians, as an independent, self-respecting entity is erased, paving the way for foreign conquest of Indian numbers, be it market for goods, or pool of cheap labour, pool of recruits for …… Somehow, get Congress off power for ten years… much would improve in this country. Give the Indians an Indian option, not a pseudo,shop-soiled Anglo-American politico-economic paradigm.

  • Prashanth K.P.

    Media, ooppps, paid media rather, remains loyal to its paymasters, the Congress entity entirely. Nothing will dilute their sense of loyalty towards them and their head patron. Under such circumstance, to expect any ethical coverage of a tragedy in a Congress governed State is preposterous. When moral policing incident, a genuine one at that, in Mangalore was aired with vigor by almost all channels for a week, not one of them thought it appropriate to so much so glance at Assam and its bulging refugee camps, devoid of food and sanitation. A colossal human tragedy remains neglected for want of comfort while, as you rightly pointed out, Group Editors, Human Rights Groups so on and so forth chose to rake up the tragedies engulfing the countries besieged under *Arab Spring* uprising! Isn’t it deliberate? Of course it is. Why? Since all altercations were occurring in Congress ruled states, be it Kerala, Assam, Maharashtra, Andhra et al. Karnataka, incidentally had a moral policing incident in Mangalore and the entire PaidMedia landed up there like flies. Therefore, to debate or argue on a Media role is insignificant, rather, a waste of valuable time. Unless Congress regime at the Center changes for the better, we will have to live with the manufactured News all PaidMedia so chooses to entrust the general Public.

    A few people like make an impact to the contrary. But how far would be its reach? I suppose an effort however small is worth is merit.

  • Suvie

    I am a Kashmiri HIndu displaced from Srinagar 22 years ago, I was 12 yrs old then. I remember 4 mosques blaring out even during the mid-nights continuously for months…Allah ho akbar…Pakistan Zindabad and calls for Hindus to get out of Kashmir but leave their women behind!!
    Over 22 yrs have passed…99.99% of our folks are living all around the world(thanks to the focus on education we always had)…some of us are still in the refugee camps in Jammu. We lost our land, our heritage, a gr8 culture…Kashmiri Hindus will be a mere foot note in kashmir history.

    If post Godhra there was a permanent displacement of this scale, I shudder to think what would have been the fate of NaMo, may be he would have been lynched.

    I hope the displaced Bodos go back home!

    • panduranghari

      I hope you will get to see your home and live there too. Hopefully we will have a nationalist government who will be incorruptible and hopefully they will implement the Uniform Civil Code too. Hopefully the religious conversions by hook or crook are outlawed. All money coming to religious organisations from where ever should be taken control of by government and disbursed as they see fit like they do in Germany. We as Hindus need to learn about our Dharma. I would encourage you to read Being Different by Rajiv Malhotra.

      Let us move towards a renaissance.

  • Gujju By Heart

    Yet again Very well article by @ssudhirkumar.

    Is there any law or political GENIUS out there, who can drag these media houses in to the law of court for provoking one community, creating Discord between different religious groups, spreading lies, Misuse of freedom of speech, etc, etc, etc ?

    We need you please come forward.

  • https://adityaathalye.wordpress.com/ Aditya Athalye

    Sadly their media is still a one-way box (and of course all the underlying infrastructure). And more sadly for them, they’ve bought into the idea that they can/must fit only so much of SO much stuff into it’s screen. I submit that this view is the chief cause of their universally rubbish coverage – because it limits thinking. And to consistently produce good stuff, one needs to consistently think the stuff through very well.

    Readers of this comment will say; Oh this dolt doesn’t understand the business of “National” TV media. Well I don’t, but I wager neither do they. My reading is that their business survives it’s lack of focus (often just barely) by paying poor salaries and cutting corners (like missing OB vans). Since editorial integrity (also implying clear focus) and exemplary ethics are a distant dream, rubbish pay alone can by and large account for why their people on the ground refuse to *really think* for their employers.

    Of course, the poor sods on the street are not guilty of causing these systemic issues, but they *are* guilty of feeding it by *agreeing* to play along and agreeing to spout thoughtless words that drown out real signals. The rubbish content the channel must now somehow “package” for consumption, draws the rubbish advertising deals they have to agree to (because advertisers know deep inside they’ll most probably get rubbish audience responses in return).

    Of course there will be demand for the sort of titillation and soap opera drama that tabloids have become notorious for. But that’s a business for the tabloids, not (self-professed) “leading” “respected” “opinion-making” national media channels.

    Even if leading media outlets fail to undertake the Promethean enterprise of precise, thorough and truly intelligent work, they should (especially notable newspapers) at the very least make the effort to not shout and to spell things right.

  • Siva

    Waiting for the day, these so called National Media will be kicked out of this country and replaced by totally Nationalistic media…

  • MSH

    Great article. Very good analysis. Unfortunately I stopped watching these channels long back and stopped reading them – so could not connect completely, but having seen them before can not agree more.

  • The Truth

    The article is good but why do we constantly blame others for not doing what we think they should do? Most of us cannot even get our teenagers to listen to us! India is a democracy. All of us have a choice. We have a choice to NOT switch-on the t.v. and watch reporting on things which are not important. We have a choice of not buying skewed newspapers. We have a choice of not listening or watching anything to do with ANTONIA MAINO (she uses the pseudo name of Sonia Gandhi to fool us) and her puppets. But the majority of the Indian public and especially the middle class choose to do so. How do you explain the fact that one year after the Mumbai attack, Shiela Dixit of the Congress Party was actually reelected by the so-called middle income people? This is Delhi not some village in a remote part of India. When I ask this question to my friends their pet response is, “there is no choice”. What a cowardly response? When a leader is corrupt and unable to protect the life of your children and yours then you absolutely have to unseat him from power. At the worst you will get someone who is equally incompetent. But at least you will send a mesage to people like ANTONIA MAINO that enough is enough. The message the average Indian has sent to the Congress Party is that it is okay to continue to treating us worse then animals and we will still keep bringing you back to power over and over and over again. So let us not blame others for our fate but look inwards and either change to stop complaining.

  • yuvarajsinh gohil

    fantastic article. but one thing that really baffles me is that how long are the people who are true believers of secularism get caught in this fight of which people did what at which riots. for gods sake they are all humans & are related to people like us. we need people who would join hands & create a scenerio where in national integrity becomes the core of the people. logo ko bus baatein karna aata hain, kisi chot par ghee dalna aata hain lekin afsos marhum lagane ke liye yahan koi tayar lagta nahin.

  • Anjan

    excellent article..

  • Pingback: India at crossroad:secularism vs Polarisation

  • S. Sudhir Kumar (@ssudhirkumar)

    Thank you all for your detailed comments. I am travelling right now and hence could not reply back to you all. Will reply once I am back in town next week :)


  • Vinayak Bhat

    We need more articles like this, and must be circulated to all possible people in India and abroad. In my openion, every INDIAN must stop watching biased TV channels like CNN-iBN and NDTV, bringing the TRP down. Burkha Dutta takes bribe, but nothing is being talked about. Several media men were listed in Karnataka Lokayukta report on mining mafia, but no action taken. In my openion, media is more corrupt than politicians. People like Rajdeep, Burkha etc must be getting a good cut from %age income [sorry for copyright infringement. %age word is owned by Kamal nath] ruling government MPs / ministers get from ongoing projects [Coal gate, Sprectrum, Commonwealth, roads etc]. If not one can’t expect such statements from CNN-iBN top honcho. They try showing Gujrath time and again, thus trying to damage FDI inflows to country. It is not Muslim, but these mediamen who will bring an end to our country INDIA.

    • Jitendra Desai

      You got it right Vinayak.We only watch these channels only to lament.Why watch? What do we get watching these Burqa Dutt or Tarajdeep Khardesai or Ghorswami? Nothing.Corruption may not be limited to babus and their bosses.These people hanging around in Delhi also may be getting their fair share.Nothing else can explain their biases,rants and screams.Puppets all.

  • ritesh

    Excellent article. This is what you get if an article is written without keeping biases in the mind.

  • Raj

    Well, this is certainly bigger than Kandhmahal. How come the Kandhmahal story ran for months together? What more, hypocrisy at its best. Dynasty poodles clamouring for a cookie. Whoever jumps highest and barks the shrillest gets the sweetest cookie! Jai Ho!

  • http://www.iconwebsolutions.info Dinesh

    Super-duper punch right at Turdesai’s hairy where-it-hurts-most!

  • http://twitter.com/zincoshine Zincoshine

    Gr8 one Sudhir. That was a no-brainer from Rajdeep! And on the BDUTT, well less said the better!

  • Veeru

    For arguments sake, let us assume that due to “magnitude of riots” media coverage of riots can differ. Based on that, Kandhamal and Assam riots are comparable. Electronic and Print media covered the Kandhamal riots for hours and hours, days and days and for weeks and weeks. They were behind every Hindu organization to somehow implicate them in the riots. They were beaming stories of a nun here and there to show christians as victims and Hindus as marauders! Now what is being done with Assam riots? No mainstream media wants to blame the Bangladeshi Muslims for the riots. Certainly the net world is not idiotic enough to go by the words of these editors in chief.

  • Jitendra Desai

    This is good beginning Mr Sudhir.Pl make this a weekly feature to “expose” all those “implants” that get fobbed off as breaking news or investigative pieces or phoney debates to start “Tehelkas” in the tea cups.
    It will be good national service if Tarajdeep,Gagarika,Burqa,Chorswami etc are exposed regularly.Readers here should then be encouraged to go back to those guys with genuine responses through net to tell them and teach thme that all people can’t be fooled all the time.NEt has made so many things possible.Hence this scramble to ban social media.Can we imagine “resistance” like this in 1975 emergency? They got away then.They should not be allowed to get away again.

  • nitmohan

    After 65 years of independence
    what we get in half an hour is a pizza

    but we have to wait for the AMBULANCE for two hours….

    This is our Democracy… and Indian Independence… which the media never HIGHLIGHT.

  • Raghu

    I cam only say one thing, National Media is paltu kutta of Cong..

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1274807423 Vivek Achar

    very well articulated…

    As per Raajdeep Saardesai, if scale and intensity determines the media coverage then why not the same heated debate on 1984 Sikh roits? More than 3000 thousands people are murdered by congress supporters. And Sikhs are also a minority community.

    Answer: no no Congress is paying us only to focus on Gujarat riots and go blind (Pseudo Secular) other roits.

  • anil

    A newspaper manufactures its editorial for paid site, a TV channel asks crores for a suitable coverage, A music channell elrotocutes around ten people and no action taken against them, one of the biggest hindi conglomorates kidnaps a person, yet no action taken, go India go.

  • Umed Mehta

    It is a shame that instead of acting responsibly and reporting the matters factually they either avoid or twist the matters to their convenience. Unashamedly they boast of being the leading channels and flaunt their viewership as if they are for sale and want people to bid high and possess them.

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