Thursday, April 21, 2011

Indian media is highly politicized and politicized....a dangerous thing in a democracy.....

No one knows today which side of the Bhushan CD story is true. Depending on which newspaper you read or which TV channel you watch, you get different versions. Some will dwell more on the Truth Labs report; others on the CFSL one. Even on other issues, media in India appears to be totally polarized and politicized. Media is taking sides.....and is becoming a willing accomplice in the agenda of one political party or another. In the’s failing to do its duty to its readers and viewers.

Let’s look at the facts on hand. On the TV channels side, Times Now and CNN-IBN are virulently anti-Congress. NDTV 24x7 is clearly pro-Congress. In newspapers, TOI has become increasingly anti-Congress, while HT has stayed consistent in supporting the Congress. In magazines, India Today is highly critical of the Congress; Outlook is out-and-out pro-Congress. Depending on which these media brands you consume, you get totally different interpretations of the same story. At one time, “let truth prevail” used to the rule in media; today it’s merely a slogan.

The way this works is as follows. If you are a pro-Congress media, you will frontpage stories that show the Congress in a favorable light. And put negative stories in the inside pages. If you are anti-Congress, you will do the exact opposite. It’s not as if media probably doesn’ only chooses front page stories with a political bias. So the fact that Sonia Gandhi’s NAC had actually drafted quite a bit of the anti-corruption law itself without any political interest in it was chosen to be put in the inside pages in some papers.....while it was highlighted on the front pages in some others. Similarly, on this entire Anna Hazare hunger strike and subsequent developments, newspapers and TV channels have chosen partisan positions.

TOI has been at pains to show its pro-Anna credentials. They have made it look as if being pro-Anna is the same as being anti-Congress. They have gone as far as to make Anna Hazare the guest editor for a day. Quite obviously, the choice of stories that Anna chose that day was skewed, but TOI was quite ok with that. Earlier, in the Karnataka scams connected with Yeddyurappa....TOI down-played the accusations. But when it came to Kalmadi.....responsible for an much smaller irregularity, they gave it front page prominence on several days. Or the CD row was HT, a Congress friendly paper, that first brought out the story that the CD was authentic. They did not mention the name of the lab where they got it tested; but it was a foregone conclusion which side HT would take.

How does this affect us, the readers of papers and viewers of TV news channels? In many more ways that we can imagine. To understand this, it is first necessary to understand how dependent we are on media for our information. Do this test on yourself. Take any subject: Ask yourself what the source of your information on that subject is. It will always be a newspaper or a TV channel. We hardly ever do original research to get the facts. None of us has read the original CAG report on 2G, or the CBI’s chargesheet in the same case. Or the ED’s investigation of Hasan Ali; or the Supreme Court’s orders on Narendra Modi’s carnage. We have no time and we expect media to do the analysis for us and be fair in reporting their results. But if media is selective in choosing its stories, then it means that they are treating us like puppets. Doling out what suits their interests and positions rather than what is really right or wrong.

For eg., does anyone know whether HT gave the CD to only one lab or to many more? If they gave the CD to more than one lab, what did the other lab reports suggest? What about the Bhushans? Did they give the CD only to the 2 labs they have announced results of? Or to more? What about the plots of land that the Bhushan’s have acquired. One paper today said that the NOIDA authorities have already said that there was no hanky panky; which is obvious because if they admitted otherwise, they would themselves be in the dock. On TV on the other hand, a leading journalist argued that if a lottery system of allotting land was followed as in all public schemes, then there was virtually zero probability for both the Bhushans getting the plots when there were thousands of applicants to choose from. In reality, he claimed, participants were “interviewed” by the NOIDA authorities and then allotted the land. That would explain how the Bhushans used their power to get favorable allotments. Now which story should we, ordinary citizens of this country, believe? Shouldn’t media be asking more questions and doing more research? Probing better? Taking the responsibility of analyzing and putting out the analysis to the people? If not, then they are abusing the powers they have. Would a channel like Star Plus be excused if a show it aired contained explicit sexual content or verbal abuse? The show may not have been produced by them; but it’s their job to make sure it adheres to all standards of decency that exist in the country. Likewise, is it not the job of newspapers and news TV channels to verify the stories they put out before they put them out? This was the point that Harish Salve was making when he said that we have allowed a culture of first accusing; then investigating. Can media be allowed to become mere platforms for all and sundry to exploit?

When media brands become mere platforms, they hurt their audiences. They mislead them. They of course enjoy the heady feeling of power that such conduct gives them. After all, it’s proven in this country that media can get CMs removed; or ministers sacked and projects stalled. What role should media play in the Jaitapur nuclear power plant issue? Should they highlight the fact that Maharashtra is not a high seismic zone state? And that nuclear plant accidents are extremely infrequent? That Japan was a freak case? That the French offer of brand new technology reactors is not a grand design to experiment in a developing country, but a genuine offer to a friend? Or should it take the opposite position? That all things nuclear should be stopped? That India was being exploited by France?

The real truth is that media in India is partisan, politicized and sometimes irresponsible. There must be a law to check this. A strong media is a fundamental requirement of any democracy. But neutrality in media is an even more fundamental requirement. Taking biased positions should be treated as abuse of power and punished in an exemplary manner. Else, we the people will continue getting treated like puppets.....a totally unacceptable practice in a fast-growing democracy.


  1. Agree with everything you say but disagree right at the end. Another LAW isn't going to solve the problem; we seem to have a misplaced faith in law-making whereas our national undoing has been enforcement and not legislation. We legislate in haste and then enforce at leisure. Or not at all. Aren't there enough laws to punish a bribe seeker, an insider trader, a money launderer, a drug dealer, a pornographer already? What difference do they make?

  2. You would have written over a 100 post by now.. and you too seem to have taken side quite evidently.. even tough your blog is called "the real truth"not a single post criticize congress as scathingly as they way you shred BJP, it's policies and its leadership to pieces..

    While most of you opinion is true about BJP.. and it's so damn impossible for any political party to stand up to public scrutiny these days.. your lack of objectivism on congress makes ur blog one have taken sides which is fair.. each one is entitled to your opinion..but then the blog should be "Prashant's truth" "not the real truth" ;-)

    the latest one is india export growth story is because of congress ( govt.) and Gujrat's growth story is also because of congress's good deeds some 20 Yrs back !! wow !!

  3. @Anonymous - I keep asking myself if I am pro-Congress. At one level yes.....I cannot stand the BJP's religious bigotry. I cannot imagine being ruled by a bunch of sadhus. I worry about the RSS's similarities with Hitler's third reich. I hate their extreme Brahminical approach to everything.

    I surely cannot stand the Left. I think they should be voted out everywhere. They are just ass lickers of their bosses in China and Russia and now after they have abandoned their own socialist policies, our guys are just stuck in an egoistic position.

    But its not like I am pro-Congress for everything. I like the inclusivist agenda of the Congress. Of course, they pander to the muslims and other minorities....but its my belief that a small community needs protection. Just like Indians in Australia need protection. But there is a huge amount of problem with Congress as well. And I do comment on that. For eg., I have said that Maharashtra has not had a government worth its name for the last 10 years. I've also blamed Sheila Dixit when she riled against her people when that poor student got murdered.

    Basically, its a choice to be made. Its because I feel that Sonia and Manmohan, Jairam and Kapil, Pranab and Chidambaram are strong effective leaders that I support Congress for now. I cannot imagine supporting Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari or even the glib Arun Jaitley

  4. @ Anonymous - and one more thing. I am extremely pro-establishment.....whichever party it is. I have praised Nitish in Bihar and Modi in Gujarat for his economic focus (Read my post: Why the Gujjus love Modi....). I hate cribbers.....they never do any work of their own but criticize the work of others.

    But can you deny the facts? That Gujarat grew 14% in the years BEFORE Modi? And has never grown at that pace after him?

  5. Prashant as citizens of a galloping (economic) democratic country.. one should evolve to a strong two 2-3 party strong democratic setup..

    Problem with congress - its just not democratic.. if the basic tennet of our existence is democracy then congress fares worse than even regional party in promoting democracy.. it's a well run professional set up which knows how to manage "things".. what happens is this "management" appears to be the right thing for the great indian middle class and urban intelligentsia who loves to vote for status quo.. as his next month pay check is more important than nation building..or supporting democracy

    BJP or the left are not the best options that we have.. but for core principal of democracy they are the options that one needs to "nurture...."

    if we give a free hand to congress corruption will be rampant as it has been in the last 5-6 yrs.. also Congress knowing well that we dont have an option (BJP, Commis) will feel that they can do what want to do.. ( you would have seen how Kapil Sibal has often defended the indefensible and the manner in which Pranab Mukherjee responds to questions " how can you guys questions us ??"

    so as a positive check one has to be more critical of the establishment.. and that canot be counted as "cribbing" else congress will have a free run..

    unfortunately the agenda for nation now is being driven by Supreme Court...a little by the media.. so less by the people ( Indian Middle Class) because they are busy minting money in this 9% growth era

    wish the above was driven by the govt (he ruling party) the opposition. and US..;-)

    what I often fear is so many likes on ur FB page for pro establishment posts.. with rarely somebody disagreeing.... sometimes.. your posts and the likes are reflective of our current state of mind.. current state of the nation. ;-((

    let's be more critical of the congress and the govt. until we get a viable opposition.. let our democracy not be "managed" ;-))

  6. @Anonymous: Well said.

  7. @Prashant, nothing againest in your views for Congress as such, but what's your stand as of today Sept 30,2011 after seeing the Scams after scams from UPA? Yes, BJP should become inclusive, and in fact in Gujraat/Bihaar (JDU/BJP) it is. I'm not suggesting you to change yourself from Congress to BJP, but at least I would suggest dont just follow something blindly...just coz you hate something. I know I had been voting for BJP but that was when I was in India and I didnt think much and just followed what all friends decided. But once grown up, we have to keep Party/religion aside and should focus of SECURITY(blast after blast...result???), CORRUPTION (LIST is just growing like hell, just google it up), AND DEVELOPMENT (it's been 65 years, isnt that TOO MUCH since Congress has been in POWER 95% of the TIME).



  9. CNN-IBN anti congress ????? BIGGEST JOKE you made in your article .. They are the most pro-congress channel on Indian Media. The whole of interactive media is controlled by Govt. We are rules by combination of Berlusconi and Rupert Murdoch here.