Shame on you, NDTV

BY Shoba T| IN Media Practice | 20/05/2006
If it wanted to do a real story on porn, not a C grade, sleazy wannabe, it should have focused on those who control these rackets and distribute the films.

Shoba T
Re: ¿Sex, Lies & Videotape¿ on NDTV Witness
Shown May 15, 2006, 9.30 pm, anchored by Srinivasan Jain
Investigative journalism touched a new low on NDTV on Monday. In an expose of C grade movies that slip in hard core porn, an NDTV team went undercover and shot with a hidden camera. Some of the people involved in this-- the coordinators/agents (read pimps) who have albums full of colour photos of women willing to ¿push the line¿, and the very women themselves. The NDTV team posed as producers who wanted to make a sleazy Bhojpuri movie. They hired agents to bring them women whom they then went on to do casting interviews for and filmed secretly.  
I do not question NDTV?s right to do this expose. What I question is their judgement about what constitutes an expose their near condemnation of what the women do and how they justify clearly revealing the identities of these women on TV. They just stopped short of giving viewers their telephone numbers! Let me address these issues in reverse order.
Yes, NDTV may argue that these women, by acting in the most public of media, films, do not have any right to privacy, or the courtesy of at least having their faces masked. But then obviously nobody at NDTV has understood the discourse on porn. The channel¿s attitude harks back to the days when prostitutes were considered moral evils. There was a time when it was the done thing to condemn a prostitute, expose her publicly and stone her to death. When people believed a prostitute could never be raped. Not any more. Do we again have to educate people on women in porn like it had to be done for women in prostitution? 
On hidden camera, these women were unequivocal about having no hang-ups about doing what they do as they make their living off it. They were also equally clear about choosing where they wanted their work to be aired and about not wanting to have their identities exposed in Mumbai, where they live. When interviewing for work you actually hear them stipulating that their porn shots shouldn¿t be screened in Mumbai. But what does NDTV do? Put them on prime time national television blasting into every TV household in Mumbai and the world. 
I am not engaging in a debate on porn (this is not the space for that), but on the rights of the women who are featured in porn. They have as much right to privacy as any ordinary citizen, rape victim, women with HIV or junkies, unless they waive that right. Nowhere on that program did they waive that right. They didn¿t even know they were being filmed. What gave NDTV the right to treat them like criminals or social offenders? Since when did NDTV turn into India¿s moral police?
NDTV clearly equated porn with prostitution as their dramatic subtitle on the show asked, ?Performance or Prostitution?? But when I last checked, prostitution was not a crime in India. Solicitation is though and pimping is, i.e., making money off these women?s bodies.
By these calculations, the women¿s agents are criminals, the makers of the movies are criminals too. And to carry the argument further, since NDTV makes money by pumping up ratings by exploiting these women on TV, that puts NDTV on par with the agents and the film makers.
Or not quite on par. At least the C grade film directors pay the women to strip on screen and the agents get them paying jobs. But all NDTV did was shoot them without consent on hidden cameras. Strip them publicly for their own ends, in this case to edge ahead in the viewership race!
And now we come to the main question: how did the show qualify as an expose.The basic principle for any serious journalist on an expose is ¿follow the money¿ or ¿follow the real story¿. The real story is always the money or the huge subversion of law. Tell me, why did we not see a single moneybags, the director/producer of these movies? Who makes the big bucks? Who controls these rackets? Who distributes these films? Who gets the films into theatres? Who watches them? Who pays off the police to turn a blind eye? Who?
So what insights did the show provide? It said and showed how easy it was to make porn. The reporters and anchors were suitably ¿shocked¿ that there were literally thousands and thousands of photos of women willing to act in porn. They were even more ¿shocked¿ that some of the women came to the casting interview accompanied by  family, sometimes a parent. If you ever wanted to hire a woman to act in porn they gave you the price list ranging from about Rs 25,000 to a lakh depending on how hard-core you wanted to get. Then they also told you that the women could be persuaded to ¿compromise¿ at a price. For Rs 5000 one woman said she could ¿compromise¿or sleep with the producer or director. Wonderfully sleazy details, but to what point?
What journalistic merit is there in exclaiming, ¿Oh look at all those women who are willing to act in hard core porn for a few thousand rupees. And look at their families who piggyback on their sleazy trade.¿ Why ruthlessly expose the most powerless of those involved ? the women. Because they are soft targets and can¿t hit back unlike the moneybags who would either have the journalists shot or seriously injured in delicate places? And because it would take a serious journalist with some guts and intelligence to expose these moneybags and the powers behind them.
NDTV used money to get those agents to provide the women. It used the promise of money to lure unsuspecting women into wasting their time in a casting interview that got them nowhere, except into trouble on TV. It sat around in a hotel room with a hidden camera asking titillating questions like ¿How much will you do for how much¿? ¿How far have you gone in earlier films?¿ In the line of duty they bravely watched and later aired on TV, porn films that the women brought along as part of their professional portfolio. The steamier parts were of course censored. It all made for great prime time titillation.
If they had any decency or faint claim to being fair, NDTV would apologise repeatedly and publicly for this farce of an expose. For the gross violation of personal rights. And do a real story on porn, not a C grade, sleazy wannabe.
And go back and check on those women they exploited and see that they don¿t end up paying excessively for their 30 minutes of unasked fame. Unless of course their TV exposure gains them notoriety and more film offers! That would be bizarre justice in a skewed world.
If you want to lodge a protest with NDTV you could mail them by logging on to:
or SMS 6388
You can also write or call:

Archana Complex
Greater Kailash Part 1
New Delhi 110 048
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