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Indian Media Discredited

By Binu Mathew

22 November, 2010

Indian media's credibility is at an all time low. The recently released audio tapes involving a major corporate house publicist and reputed journalists and the subsequent black out of the news by almost the entire Indian mainstream media puts a huge question mark over integrity and credibility of the Indian mainstream media.

  The Open Magazine and the Outlook Magazine published a series of telephone conversations between Nira Radia, a publicist for Tata group of concerns and the Mukesh Ambani group of companies, lobbying for cabinet birth and even specific portfolio for a tainted politician A. Raja, with several top Indian journalists and politicians. A. Raja is the tainted politician involved in the  2G spectrum allocation scandal. Raja as the minister of Telecommunications and IT Minister in 2008 allocated 2 G spectrum to a chosen few with vested interests under  a dubious modus operandi of first come first served basis, grossly undervaluing the whole exercise.  The Comptroller and Auditor General of India holds A. Raja personally responsible for the sale of 2G spectrum at 2001 rates in 2008, resulting the loss of up to Rs. 1.70 trillion to the national exchequer. It was  under the first UPA government. The corporate houses were hell bent on getting the same portfolio for Raja again when the UPA once again came to power in 2009 elections. The corporate houses were salivating the prospect of getting the 3G spectrum coming up for auction for a song.

It is in this context that the conversation between Barkha Dutt and Nira Radia assumes significance. Dutt claims that she was talking to Radia as part of her journalistic routine and Radia is only one of her sources. That may be true. But from the conversations it is evident that two of the biggest corporate houses in India were lobbying for a tainted person to be reinstated in the same ministry. Wasn't that news for her? Why didn't she go ahead and break the news? At one point she is heard saying " ‘What Do You Want Me To Tell Them (The Congress)? Tell Me. I'll talk To Them.'  Commentators and twitterers are accusing that Barkha was acting as a go between the corporate houses and the Congress. Barkha Dutt and NDTV, the organization where she is employed need a lot of explaining to do. Incidentally, Barkha Dutt is a Padmashri award winner.

In another conversation another reputed journalist Vir Sanghvi is heard saying “What kind of story do you want? Because this will go as Counterpoint, so it will be like most-most read, but it can't seem too slanted, yet it is an ideal opportunity to get all the points across.” This is in relation to a long standing dispute between Mukesh Ambani and his brother Anil Ambani over the gas pricing issue. The media watch website Countermedia.in has proved that Vir Sanghvi actually wrote a blog favouring Radia's boss Mukesh Ambani with the information hand fed by her. In other conversations Sanghvi is heard discussing ministry formation with Radia.  The tapes also feature several other top journalists being hand fed by Radia on the kind of stories she wants to appear on major news papers.

What these tapes bring to light is the kind of corruption that is plaguing  the Indian media and the most shocking aspect of the whole episode is to the length the entire media fraternity went, barring a few gutsy magazines, papers and tv channels, to censor the whole issue. Don't they think that the public has a right to know how the country being run by corrupt politicians, at the behest of corporate houses with the collusion of the media persons. Do they think that truth can be shoved under the carpet for long?

Indian media has been peddling the myth of 'India shining' for a long time. This is in a country where  77% of population (or 836 million people) live on rupees 20 or less per day.  For them it's only the rich and the increasingly vociferous middle class that matter. Only news that give this credulous audience a false sense of security matter to them. For them, the hundreds of struggles going on in every part of India to protect natural resources and the environment are a threat to their existence. And the people who take part in these struggles are terrorists.  They went gaga over the silly and sensational 'climate gate' controversy but keep a strict silence over the many reports that clearly state the threat of climate change.  Recently the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its World Energy Outlook 2010, for the first time, it acknowledges that conventional oil production peaked in 2006, and we are never going to reach that production level.  Never, Ever. This is the greatest breaking news of at least two generations. This means that industrial civilization as we know it is coming to an end. This means that the "India Shining" myth is coming to an end and we are moving into chaos of unimaginable proportions. Not one news paper or tv channel in India published a single word of this earth shaking news. The Indian media hasn't even heard of Peak Oil!

What these audio tape releases prove to us beyond doubt is that the Indian media is more interested in corporate lobbying and power brokering than the issues that affect the people of the country. Follow them at your own peril. The Indian media may be the pied piper that lead an entire nation into sea and into its death.

Binu Mathew is the editor of www.countercurrents.org. He can be reached at [email protected]


Some Coversations

‘What Do You Want Me To Tell Them (The Congress)? Tell Me. I’ll talk To Them.’
Barkha Dutt, Group editor, English news, NDTV

“What kind of story do you want?”

“What kind of story do you want? Because this will go as Counterpoint, so it will be like most-most read...” —VIR SANGHVI

'Who Do You Want Congress To Talk To? Karunanidhi? I’ll Speak To Ahmed Patel.’
Vir Sanghvi, HT advisory editorial director

‘I Know Who Planted In Congress That Azhagiri Knows No English’
A. Raja, Former telecom minister

‘How Do I Make Dad Understand? He Doesn’t Understand...’
Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha MP

‘I Am Surprised Raja After All You Did For Him Is Playing This Game’
Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons

‘So, How Did You Find Sunil (Mittal)? What Did You Think Of Him?’
Tarun Das, Former CII honcho

‘Mukesh Said, Haan Yaar, Ranjan, Congress To Ab Apni Dukaan Hai’
Ranjan Bhattacharya, Former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law

‘Give Your Story To A Paper Which Will Carry It As A Lead Flyer. Isko CNBC Ko Do.’
M.K. Venu, Senior business journalist

“I met Raja today. He is a happy man”
Power through proximity —NIIRA RADIA

“Tell Sunil Mittal, you have to work with Raja”
“Hmm …tell Sunil Mittal, you have to work along with Raja for another five years” —A RAJA