My news, your news, his news

BY T S Sudhir| IN Media Practice | 11/05/2011
With every media house clearly selective about whose corruption they will expose, the fourth estate's credibility in Andhra Pradesh is now touching rock bottom.
Political ownership and bias means journalists work with pre-decided scripts and an agenda, says T S SUDHIR
This was a front page cartoon in the Eenadu Telugu newspaper on Tuesday: IAS and IPS officers, and a goon, are shown kowtowing before Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, implying both the state machinery and the `goon' network were in league with YSR's son during the Kadapa byelection.
The battle for Kadapa has seen the vernacular media in Andhra Pradesh chiselling its already sharp claws. Here is an election that saw a bitter Jagan openly accuse three media heads - Ramoji Rao of Eenadu, Radhakrishna of Andhra Jyothi and Ravi Prakash of TV9 - of running a campaign against him. Jagan has repeatedly said `Sakshi' was born ``to rebut the `false' news items, that appear in the `anti-Jagan' dailies, Eenadu and Andhrajyoti''.
Jagan's Sakshi paper and TV channel were understandably engaged in the business of canvassing for their boss. Their totally one-sided coverage enraged the opposition Telugu Desam so much that it complained to the Election Commission against them peddling paid news. 
Call it tit for tat or pot calling the kettle black. Jagan's party also complained to the EC about the `paid news' in  Eenadu, TV9, ABN (Andhra Jyothi's TV channel), Studio N (owned by Chandrababu Naidu's family). It alleged that these media houses only highlighted the election campaign of the TDP candidates and therefore, the expenditure incurred in publishing such news items should be included in the TDP candidates' account of expenditure !
Call it irony, good luck or sheer coincidence. Jagan's new party poll symbol, the ceiling fan, gained currency because summer is obviously when fan companies like Orient, Khaitan go into an advertising overdrive. Media marketing managers confirm they received the inventory for the ads much before the poll notification. So newspapers and TV channels splashed with ads of fans only helped Jagan fan his message pan-Kadapa. 
Eenadu, in its reports, has consistently accused Jagan of electoral malpractises in Kadapa. In its report on the day of the election (May 8), it claimed that the YSR Congress party had spent close to 200 crores. It also claimed that 40 DSPs were deputed to monitor the situation in Kadapa but at the last minute, all of them were called back. 
On Sunday, the Telugu Desam was vociferous in raising this issue in press conferences and in its complaints to the EC.
Andhrajyothi on the other hand has been running down the chief minister, dubbing him an ``inefficient CM'' and ``a CM without any work''. 
And now the cartoon suggests that the entire poll machinery in Kadapa, including the EC in Hyderabad, the returning officer and the police was working for Jagan. Officials say this is an inaccurate assessment: over 10000 rowdy sheeters were were asked to report to the police station everyday during the election period. YSR Congress leaders admitted most of them were its men and the party was rather loud in its demands to set them free. Whatever the claims and counter-claims on the truth of the matter, such heckling and demeaning the prestige of institutions compromises their credibility in the public perception.
It is no secret that Eenadu and Andhra Jyothi generally bat for the TDP. The Jagan group and the Congress believe that their agenda now is to target Jagan aggressively and discredit him so much that he is not a political force to reckon with by 2014. TDP leaders are more dismissive of the prospects of a `leaderless' Congress.
With every media house clearly selective about whose corruption they will expose, the fourth estate's credibility in Andhra Pradesh is now touching rock bottom.  Political ownership and bias means journalists work with pre-decided scripts and an agenda.
Do you still want to buy the morning newspaper tomorrow? Or tune in to news channels?
Subscribe To The Newsletter
The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

View More