IndiaVision: Between Politics and Professionalism

IN Regional Media | 24/05/2006
Both these parties have declared an unofficial war against the channel which, they accuse, had played a key role in ensuring their defeat.

Dr Muneer also faces immense criticism from his own party. In the party, a group led by former industries minister P K Kunhalikkutty has been gunning for him over the bold ways in which his channel had reported a number of sensitive issues which had put Kunhalikkutty and his party in a poor light. One of the instances was the sex scandal case against P K Kunhalikkutty, who was general secretary of the Muslim League, which the IndiaVision had prominently reported in its prime time bulletins. It also highlighted the attacks on mediapersons by the Muslim League workers at Karippur airport. The League workers pounced upon the mediapersons as they were enraged over the coverage given to the sensational revelations made by a woman, Rejina, who accused Kunhalikutty of sexually exploiting her while he was a minister. In fact when IndiaVision had aired the woman’s revelations live on its channel, the League workers had stormed its offices in Kozhikode and beat up some of its reporters.

These pent up anger and emotions had been causing much friction between the channel and its political detractors. For Muneer, it was also a difficult choice because he had to chose between his channel and his own political party. But he defended himself and the channel asserting that he was never in the habit of advising his editors on how to go about their work. "They have their editorial freedom and I just can’t interfere," he said. In fact, he pointed out that if the channel’s prediction had affected any of the UDF chances, he himself could be a victim. He lost at Mankada to a CPM candidate by wide margin.

What is at the root of the criticism against IndiaVision appears to be the high politicization of the media in Kerala. Most of the political parties run their own newspapers and the tendency in recent years has been for all of them to acquire their own television channels too. The media organizations run by the political parties are reduced to the position of their master’s voices and credibility, editorial independent and objective journalism are no longer possible at any one of them. The classic example is the Kairali Television launched by the CPM in 2000. It was expected to be an independent, left- oriented television channel but eventually it turned out to be a mere propaganda machine for a powerful coterie in the CPM State committee. Instead of helping develop a progressive media culture, it proved to be the worst example of media servility, forcing almost all senior journalists to leave. Now it is run by a group of journalists drafted from Deshabhimani, the official organ of the CPM State committee.

But IndiaVision boldly chose to be different from these media stereotypes. It tried to be independent in its reporting and analysis. Now it is paying a huge price for it. Is shareholders, most of them League supporters based in the Gulf, are now planning to pull out their investments and the State Cooperative Bank, which had advanced a substantial amount for capital investment, has issued legal notice for recovery proceedings. In short, the channel is realizing that political patronage and independent journalism would never get along well. Now the channel’s board of directors and editors are facing a dilemma. Either they will have to fall in line to the climate of servility of a politically supported media organization or face the consequences of being squeezed to death by the powerful political coterie. Right now, the channel and its journalists are putting up a brave fight, but it is bound to fail.

"I had enough bitter experiences in running this channel and I would tell all those stories in a book soon," says Dr Muneer philosophically as he sits at his home, after a huge defeat in the polls which his own friends put to the "credit" of the media frankenstien he himself had nurtured.

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