The Real Hero of Antilla

BY Padmaja Shaw| IN Media Practice | 09/09/2011
On prime time news on Sept. 8 NDTV, CNN IBN and Times Now all chose in their synchronised wisdom to go after Mr Praful Patel. But lost steam when it came to the second CAG report on the Petroleum ministry and Reliance.
The empty talk of where �the buck stops� must really be addressed to the news editors of these channels, says PADMAJA SHAW
The knights in shining armour from the electronic media are combating the CORRUPT politicians on the English news channels as I type these words.
Two CAG reports have been tabled in Parliament, one on the aviation industry, the other on the petroleum industry.
On prime time news at 9 on 8th of September 2011, NDTV, CNN IBN and Times Now have all chosen in their synchronised wisdom to go after Mr Praful Patel. Whatever may be the wheels within wheels at work by way of business nexuses between the three channels and the former civil aviation minister, the latter was on full flow on all the three channels, bravely and articulately defending the government’s position on the decisions that led to massive losses to the exchequer. Air India was gently led to the ICU under his care and he was defending every decision of his with a broad smile. He patronisingly explained that all decisions are made by committees in government. Probably Kalmadi and Raja and others will agree with him.
Mr Patel was gamely playing along with the ‘righteous indignation’ of the likes of Mr Arnab Goswami, Sonia Singh and Karma Paljor. On CNN IBN, after Karma Paljor’s token intervention, the editor-in-chief himself stepped in to take charge of the talking point, segueing into, ‘Is it time for Air India to pack up?’ With deft sleight of thought, selling the airline somehow became the central point of discussion for the channel. Rajdeep Sardesai, of course, had made up his mind that it should be privatised ASAP. The private airlines in India that profited from the deliberate mismanagement were not mentioned by the anchors or the discussants.
Rajdeep kept asking ‘Should Air India be sold?’ and pushing for a ‘Yes’ from all the speakers. After haranguing the participants Rajdeep went on to exercise his privilege to tell us his editor’s take: `‘Tragically, it is time to bid goodbye to the Maharaja.’’ On this channel the opinionated anchor talks more than anyone else on the show, and gives the editor’s take at the end! He starts off with a predetermined position and states it clearly again at the end, for any dumb viewers who could not get what he was driving at.
And immediately thereafter, the same Rajdeep Sardesai gives the briefest possible summary of the ‘other’ CAG report on the Reliance Industries and quickly moves on to other important stories of the day. No experts. No lengthy discussion. Having devoted hours of transmission time to the Real Heroes awards in collaboration with the house of Reliance, the channel did not want to discuss the ‘other’ CAG report. Let sleeping dogs lie. They have many other things to bark about such as the utter inefficiency of an undermined airline that is essentially a victim of the nexus between politicians and their corporate friends. If the inefficient public sector should be privatised, then can it not be argued, corrupt private sector should be nationalised?
On Times Now, Arnab Goswami was seen claiming to ‘break’ the CAG news first (by a few micro seconds). He too brought in Mr Praful Patel and grilled him. After a long session of ‘tough questioning’, the inimitable Mr Goswami breezily went on to the cash-for-votes story and Mr LK Advani’s surprise dare to the parliament. Even so, I was waiting for an equally combative, incisive and detailed grilling of Mr Murli Deora, the honourable former Petroleum Minister, under whose watch the violations (mentioned in the CAG report) benefiting Reliance occurred. No such thing happened as Mr Goswami flew into his favourite topic, terror/HuJi/Harkat/KARACHI PROJECT. Of course the usual willing experts came in to discuss the issue once again.
NDTV sidelined the CAG report on the petroleum industry while Sonia Singh, the anchor of the 9 pm news concentrated on the inefficiency of the hospitals and the Delhi Chief Minister, Sheela Dixit, about the security situation. In the news that followed, ‘angry relatives’ was the flavour of the day. ‘Sarkar’ bashing was highlighted while giving free play to random vox populi stuff about government medical services. The doctors and the hospital, already under severe stress doing the best they can under the circumstances, had to cope with the completely insensitive, intrusive and immature coverage of the channels.
I would like to have seen the cub reporters asking Dr Naresh Trehan and other star medicos in Delhi as to why they were not showing up to provide free medical help to the blast victims.  We would have loved to see him giving regular health updates for the blast victims as he did with Anna Hazare from Ramlila maidan. If government hospitals are discredited and closed, and corporate doctors don’t show up, where shall all of us go for help in a crisis? Or is it that in a privatised utopia no blasts or accidents will ever take place?
After the 9 pm news, where the Reliance story got buried, NDTV carried a discussion programme: ‘Is CAG setting the political agenda?’ The anchor was fully in tune with the CAG’s role till it was about the aviation report, while suddenly questioning it when it came to the petroleum issue. Taxpayers’ money is wasted if Air India is revived, but well-spent if it is siphoned off by corporate friends.
In contrast most newspapers gave the two CAG reports equal display and space. In Hyderabad, the Deccan Chronicle and the The Times of India gave the Reliance/AI stories first lead position. The Hindu carried the stories inside with a small mention on page 1 about inside stories.
The empty talk of where ‘the buck stops’ must really be addressed to the news editors of these channels, which insult the intelligence of the viewers by assuming that they do not understand the corporate nexus they have with Reliance and the ability of the corporation to gag them completely (The Radia tapes and the Real Heroes awards tell their own story about at least two leading channels).
The single point agenda of the corporate media in India today is to push for privatization, discredit all state enterprises and state institutions, cover-up corporate misdemeanours, while screaming anti-corruption rhetoric. We are experiencing the excesses of electronic media sector, which have resulted from privatization. The news channels have now taken it upon themselves to drive the policy framework of the country to benefit their corporate cronies with political connections. The privatization agenda is pushed relentlessly and yet the electronic media is always there to provide breathless coverage of the negative consequences of privatisation, whether it is Bhopal, healthcare, education or agriculture. They want less state and more private wealth seekers.. They hunt with the hounds and run with the hares.
In this saga, it is ironic that Prof Manmohan Singh (a la Frankenstein) helped create this monster, and today the monster is chillingly demanding: “You are my creator, but I am your master. Obey!”
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