Newsbytheway's Blog

January 2, 2010

Sex, lies, videotapes and media

A head of state, 86-year-old politician, served as chief minister of two states, at one time he was a serious contender for being the Prime Minister. And he is caught on camera having a foursome.

Times of India Frontpage

The perfect reason for media in any country to go berserk.And why not? The story has all the right ingredients. He is so old that he can barely walk but was in bed with three women, one of them who is 7 months pregnant! He can’t even deny it since it’s all on tape.

Expect sensation. Expect controversy. Expect dirt from the past. Expect some more skeletons tumbling out of the closets. Expect confessions.

Wait a minute, I almost forgot, it happened in India. He is N D Tiwari, an Indian politician. Zip. All Indian public figures are saints.  Even if they get naughty at times, the media act as a tolerant parent, hit a stick or two on the knuckles and moves on.  Hence the top-selling Indian english dailies came out with the blandest headlines possible-

Times of India: N D Tiwari denies role in sex tape. (Obviously he is going to deny it)

Hindustan Times: Andhra guv battles sex taint (Makes him  sounds like a hero almost)

Only Indian Express showed some courage by having a sarcastic headline “His sexellency?”

But imagine if something like this would have had happened in UK or US.  Actually you don’t need to imagine. Think Bill Clinton or Tiger Woods more recently.

I bet Tiger wished he was an Indian.  If he were, the entire incident would have only appeared as an accident in the papers.  Bribe the policemen and they will say what you want them to say to the media.  And the media will accept it wholeheartedly. Say ‘no comments’, and they won’t bother you.  No interview from past girlfriends. No smses or voice mails to worry about. Public apology on the website? Are you crazy ?? God doesn’t apologies.

Media-celebrity nexus in India

Celebrities are untouchable in India.  They are literally stars. Be it actors, cricketers, politician or industrialist.  You can admire them from a distance never knowing what happens when they not acting, playing or doing they respective jobs. There is no concept of paparazzi. I am sure many came to know the term ‘paparazzi’ in India only when Lady Diana’s death hit the headlines worldwide.

But then we don’t want paparazzi in India.  What we want is a courageous journalism where spade is called a spade without any fear. Not in the name of sensationalism but truth.


November 11, 2009

Radio journalism in India

Filed under: Media — Rabea Khan @ 10:54 pm
Tags: , ,

India is the biggest democracy in the world, with a population of over one billion. And yet it has deprived the majority of its people the basic right to information.

Private radio channels in India are banned from broadcasting news. The ban stems out from the archaic broadcasting law, The Telegraph Act of 1885, which gives full control to the government to grant or revoke license to private broadcasters.

The rationale lies in evolvement of broadcast in India. Till 1990s, the government had a monopoly over television and radio broadcasts. With the advent of cable television, private news channels came into the picture and eventually grew into a big industry overtaking Doordarshan, the public service broadcaster.

Radio had to wait till 2001, to get private ownership after a landmark ruling by Supreme Court in the Union of India Vs Cricket Association of Bengal case in1995. The Supreme Court was of the view that airwaves are public property and hence citizens are the owners by virtue of right conferred upon them by Article 19 of the constitution (right to freedom) with the exceptions noted in Article 19(2) relating to public safety.

The first radio channel, Radio City, was launched in Bangalore but with a license to broadcast entertainment shows only. Since then, 100 more radio channels have entered the Indian airwaves but as mere instruments of amusement.

The law has drastic implications that ripple down to the very core of democracy in India. If one goes by National Family Health Survey figures, only 44.2% of the households in India own a television. The condition is worse in the poor states of Bihar and Jharkhand where the percentage goes below 28%. So for the majority, the only option and source for getting news is by listening to radio. And what they get to hear is the mouthpiece of the ruling government, All India Radio (AIR).

All India Radio

If you want to know where the PM is headed for his next foreign visit or which head of state is visiting India, AIR is the channel for you.  But do not expect to hear anything remotely critical of the government in power. There is no written guideline to that effect, but an unspoken law does exist. Never in the history of broadcasting in independent India, AIR has said anything damning about the government.

For people who have access to cable television, it’s a different story. Private television news channels have in a way satiated the demand for news in towns and big cities. They can always get the other side of the story by watching a private news channel. But someone who has just got a radio is still only seeing one side of the coin.

The situation becomes more serious during election campaigns as radio plays a vital role in formulating opinions that can translate into votes. The possibility of AIR broadcasting anything that criticises the government is ridiculous.

Hence to protect the democratic rights of the citizens, it becomes highly essential that they are well aware of the choices to make an informed decision. This is only possible if there are private radio news channels in the market.

Government argues that the Indian audience is yet to mature to be able to handle unobstructed news. In reality, it is wary of the fact that radio waves will be bombarded with the news channels, making it hard for them to censor anything.

No Doubt, India been a sensitive society needs certain laws and rules as to what can be broadcast. Radio commanding a far greater reach, if allowed to run amok like TV, will become Goliath. Hence change is imperative but with certain degree of restrain.

October 20, 2009

Broadcast media in India-Bad & the Ugly

Filed under: Media,Terrorism — Rabea Khan @ 11:11 pm
Tags: ,

From the days of an-hour news bulletin broadcast on Doordarshan (government) to the ever-increasing 24-hr news channels, Indian broadcast media has certainly come a long way.

Till 1990s, Indian news scenario was monopolised by Doordarshan, a public broadcaster that presented news in a neutralize manner. More than a news channel it was a mouthpiece of the reigning government.

Its monopoly was broken when private channels penetrated the Indian boundaries and gave viewers the option of choice. They grew and thrived in the liberalised environment and have reached a point now where they seem to have altered the definition of `News’.

Today news channels in India are solely guided by Television Rating Points or TRPs. For them the equation read:

More TRPs=More Advertisers=More Money

So to gather more eyeballs, channels don’t shy away from sensationalising every piece of news. Flick through the news channels and you are guaranteed to see a BREAKING NEWS on the ticker of more than one channel.

A boy trapped in a well was made into a celebrity overnight; love affairs of film stars are given more air time; astrology shows are an integral part their FPCs, so on and so forth.

On 26th Nov 2008 when Mumbai was attacked, it was a litmus test for the news channels. A war was been fought right in middle of a city. It was called India’s 9/11. News channel televised every moment of the ordeal. The coverage earned more flak than appreciation. The news channels were accused of not applying any discretion. National security was put at stake as LIVE pictures of the strategic positions of the commandos at the Taj, Oberoi and the Nariman House were been telecasted. Security officials and the broadcasters association eventually asked the channels to exercise restrain.

At present, broadcast media in India is in its early stages of evolution. Like a child, it needs direction and nurture to break out from the clutter of sensation and hyperbole.  The only way is forward.

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