Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just apologize Rajdeep. You have misled your viewers

Exactly what I have been saying for so long happened yesterday. It appears now (and I would trust Tehelka more than I would Wikileaks) that there is a possibility (its not proven yet) that the CNN IBN “expose” last year was hardly what it was claimed to be. It was a good example of dangerous politics mixing with unscrupulous media to cheat unsuspecting TV viewers. It was the getting together of desperate people....a TV channel that wanted to grab eyeballs and inch ahead of its competitors at whatever cost and a political party that wanted to ensure at whatever cost that it came to power in the elections that were around the corner at that time.

Let me first dwell on the politics of the matter. It all started with some arbit Wikileaks (I call it Wikilies) story about cash being shown to some American officials before the voting for the Indo-US nuclear deal. The first point I made was that I wouldn’t trust Wikileaks because I wouldn’t trust self-obsessed American officials (and all of them are) with what they write to their bosses. The second point was that I found the entire premise to be flawed. I couldn’t understand the motive behind a Congress worker showing an American official two suitcases full of money. The third point was that the amounts were too small. Rs 50 crores was small change for our MPs.....they are usually sold for far higher sums! If the Congress did indeed pay just Rs 50 crores to secure the deal, I think they were really smart! The country owed them its gratitude!

It appears now that the entire “sting” could possibly (again its not proven yet) have been stage-managed. Some BJP MPs got around and plotted the entire thing with active involvement of their bosses (including Jaitley). They invited CNN IBN to be the media “partner”. Together they hatched an “entrapment” of some Congress MPs. But they failed.....they only managed to get Amar Singh. CNN IBN must have thought that the content was not good enough.....and didn’t air the footage at that time. Honestly, who really cared for Amar Singh even then? Later, the BJP MPs took the money to Parliament and did a fair bit of drama in the house and shamed the country. CNN IBN carried the story 15 days later (part of the “deal”  I guess) but the story had no weight behind it.

This is qualitatively a very different kind of depth that our politics has plunged to. In the past, the uncouth, rustic and media-un-savvy politicians of UP and Bihar have shamed the nation by their violent behavior (in the assembly) and MCP attitude (women’s reservation bill etc). But the BJP......given the fact that its members are largely the better educated urban “intelligent” Brahmins.....has added “cunning” and “media savvy” to its armory of weapons. They have made it a different ball game now. I don’t think anyone of us has understood the dangerous portents of this. I have been writing about this since the beginning. If the opposition gets together with unscrupulous media.....then who knows what they will start to cook.

Let me demonstrate to you the powers that media exerts over us. Just do this little test on yourself: Check out how much of your awareness of the 2G matter or the CWG mess or whatever else is based on information that you got from media. In the case of most people, it’s 100%. No one has read the CAG report, no one has read the SC observations, and no one has read the CBI interrogation transcripts. All that we have read and watched are newspaper and TV reports. We are slaves of media’s machiavellian maneuvering. We are totally dependent on media for any info we have. Imagine now if this media cheats us and doles out selective and motivated bits of information.

I was very curious to know whether the people of India were happily lapping up all that the English TV news channels were coughing up. Whether they were cheering the work done by these guys. Here’s a revealing truth. Over the last two years (Jan 2011 data v/s Jan 2009), the viewership of English news channels has fallen by 43%! The GRPs (Gross Rating Points) for all 4+ audiences......the Hindi channels have fared only slightly better. Their viewership is down 16% or so. I don’t have the data yet.....but I believe that GECs and Sports channels must have gained. This proves that people have actually deserted the news channels. If they want drama, they prefer to go to the GECs! Now the question is: has the drop happened because of negative journalism? Or has the drop prompted English channels to adopt a strategy of negativis? Either way, it tells you that the negativity is not working. In fact, the two most virulent TV channels have fallen the most and NDTV which still maintains certain decency in reporting has emerged as #1 now. Doesn’t this conclusively prove that viewers of English channels are shunning the negativity? Likewise newspaper readership continues to plummet. Who want to read negativity in the mornings?

Let’s look at the views of the larger masses of people across the country. If the people had cared so much for the cash-for-votes scam, then I think they should have given a huge thumbs-up to the expose. But what really happened? The Congress increased its tally by some 60 seats.....the BJP lost quite a lot. I am not saying that an electoral victory proves one party to be innocent.....but what I am saying is that the people don’t care for such histrionics. They voted the Congress back to power because they thought that Manmohan Singh did the right thing by signing the Inod-US nuclear deal (amongst other factors). They did not appreciate the BJP for unnecessarily blocking the deal in Parliament. They did not like the cheating the BJP orchestrated in Parliament (now exposed by another set of Wikilies docs.......again I wouldn’t care for them). And they totally did not appreciate the negative role the Left parties played as coalition partners in the UPA. They got reduced to a useless minority. I think the people of India were smart.....they voted for progress, they voted for a better person and a better party.

There are two real truths that emerge. The first real truth is that the media in India hardly has any accountability. At least the politicians have to seek votes from their people every 5 years. The media doesn’t even have to do that. I don’t think Rajdeep and CNN IBN apologized to their viewers that they may have made a mistake. They pounded on. Surely they will get their loyal viewers to believe their side of the story.....but the number of viewers they lose will far exceed the number of viewers who will stay behind. Rajdeep should just apologize and move on. Or maybe he shouldn’t move on.....maybe he should quit like he keeps demanding that the PM should quit.

The second real truth is that we Indians are used to living in muck. We’ve seen poverty and crime and corruption for many centuries. We have become oblivious to this muck. From our point of view, anyone who shows us a path out of the muck gets our vote. People who keep drawing our attention to this muck don’t get our support. The “unearthing” of the 2G, CWG, Adarsh and so many more “scams” is the muck that people already know of. They discount it out. Earlier they had discounted out the muck of “religious bigotry”. They are giving clear hints.....they will vote for anyone who can take them out of the muck.....not remind them that it is there all around. That’s why the Congress is gaining. They believe Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi can take them out of the muck. And that’s what the BJP keeps missing all the time.

1 comment:

  1. Well dissected Prashant!!! Falling TRP's of Few masala channels, defeat of people like Lalu yadav & BJP are the signs of growing maturity of Indian population. They listen to all the crap from such people/channels but understand and use their own judgement in coming to a conclusion. This is a very positive sign for India as a country as well as an economy. Am sure this awareness is going to grow only. Rajdeep as such was always a guy who wanted to make money thru gimmicks, making noises from roof tops. They tried their best to buy Business Standard and turn it into a commercial newspaper like ET, but due to strong ideological values of the promotors and Mr Ninan could not buy them in.