Beginning with Ganesh Chaturthi and ending with Anant Chaturdashi, Mumbai has come out of the festival spirit with elan. However, the matter has not ended there. The politicisation of the Ganesh Utsav has come under strong criticism and, may it be said, rightly.
Thus, The Times of India (September 19, editorially lamented that ?a host of discredited politicians, not to mention mafia dons, had jumped onto the Ganesh bandwagon and sought to appropriate the festivities?. It pointed out that ?some of the most ostentatious pandals in the city, like the Sahyadri Krida Mandal at Chembur, have been bankrolled by the underworld, while politicians of all stripes have used the festival to extort money and flex their political muscle?? But listen to who is saying this. It is The Times of India which, for the first time in its long history, has also got involved in the festivities by organising a Ganesh Utsav Sanman. Was that necessary? What was The Times of India trying to get out of it? A larger circulation?
Hindustan Times and DNA were not far behind in exploiting religious sentiments with an eye on the circulation bottomline. Hindustan Times, for instance, ran a week-long ?See Ganesha in a new light contest? and got Gautam Rajyadaksha to announce the winners.
According to the paper (September 18) ?people from across the city and suburbs participated with great enthusiasm in the context despite incessant rains and traffic hurdles.? How nice. The paper reported that ?the road show was organised to give the participants a chance to draw their version of the elephant God on canvas, thus highlighting Hindustan Times perspective of doing things ?in a new light?.? Ho, ho! Wisdom lies in the media staying away from exploiting religious sentiments to increase circulation. Why blame the underworld if the media is not above suspicion?
The best advice that one can give to the media is: Kindly stay away from exploiting religious sentiments, no matter with what noble intention. Then take the matter of the Salman tapes. Reports in the media purporting to reveal the actor'sconnections with the underworld have turned out to be fake.
According to The Times of India, ?when the Shiv Sena was in power, it was generous in handing out concessions to mandals in a bid to consolidate its local base.? Granting that that is true, what was the Old Lady of Bori Bunder upto, pray? Trying to consolidate its circulation? And what were DNA and Hindustan Times up to? Were they trying to compete with their rival to capture public attention? Is there no end to hypocrisy? The Times of India had put up huge signboards announcing the Ganesh Utsav Sanman. The best advice that one can give to the media is: Kindly stay away from exploiting religious sentiments, no matter with what noble intention. Then take the matter of the Salman tapes. Reports in the media purporting to reveal the actor'sconnections with the underworld have turned out to be fake. But the media went all out to damn Salman Khan and the poor man must have been shivering in his shoes reading the sort of things said about him. This has been, happily, taken note of by The Asian Age (September 19) and what it has said bears repetition. Said the paper: ?Sensationalism is a necessary ingredient in today'sworld of cut-throat competition. But sensationalism must be balanced with facts. Devoid of this judicious mix, sensationalism degenerates into yellow journalism. Filmstars, starlets and celebrities are easy prey and fodder for sensationalism. They are soft targets and the corporate-controlled media thrives on demonising and tearing them to bits in order to divert the attention of the people from real issues like corruption, injustice, cheating, pollution, adulterated food, the unholy nexus among politicians, the underworld and big business, etc? But the corporate-owned media rarely takes on the powerful who carry on with those evil activities in our society. The media like everyone else, is aware of the underworld connection and other scandals in the lives of the big names whether in politics or business. But if it exposed these, it could be the end of its business. Hitting a Salman, Tarannum or Preeti is easier as they cannot hit back. Salman provided an opportunity for a double whammy, because the tapes were a good excuse for communal elements to try and wreck his career with a vengeance?
The conduct of the media in this era of cut-throat competition cries for the need of a code of conduct. The media screams for a code of conduct for others, but has no Laxmanrekha for itself as it plays God and decides for its own selfish ends who will be destroyed and who will be glorified. The Fourth Estate needs to get back to its roots.?
Very well said. And The Asian Age said what needed to be said but has remained unsaid for a long time. There is too much of media moralising over petty issues, but hardly any inward-looking for correcting sins committed by it. Recently a TV channel and a newspaper group attacked the Lucknow Development Authority for an alleged scam in the allotment of residential plots to Uttar Pradesh bureaucrats. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav was understandably furious and told the media at a news conference, reported only by The Hindu (August 22) that in the past he has also helped journalists. ?If mediapersons can benefit, then why not some bureaucrats? Why can'ta member of my Secretariat get a plot from the LDA?? Mulayam Singh wanted to know. The fact is that everywhere in India journalists have benefitted from governmental largesse in many ways and this is common knowledge. If one wants to be critical of any State government, steps must be taken to see that media hands are clean. Unfortunately, in many areas they are not. It is not uncommon for mediamen, at whatever level, to wink at politicians? sins, if it suits their purpose. And while one is on the subject, reference is not irrelevant to the habit of prime ministers taking a plane-load of journalists along with them when they go abroad, presumably at government cost. Granted, a prime minister does not fly to Washington on a Dakota, or a helicopter. He flies in a plane that can carry may be a hundred people. In that sense it is cost-effective to invite senior journalists to fly along with the Prime Minister at no cost to their newspapers.
Importantly, the PMO can invite journalists from newspapers that can hardly afford to send their men on their own. One understands that journalists on board the PM'saircraft are treated lavishly with food and drinks. Can'tone describe this as another form?howsoever sophisticated?of intellectual bribery? The point will, of course, be made, that inviting journalists to accompany him on his plane, the Prime Minister is only being helpful to the media. And, considering that many are invited there is no apparent effort made at discrimination. But the issue needs to be discussed at appropriate levels. What is even more important is for the public to know the names of the invitees accompanying the Prime Minister. Is that too much to ask of the PMO? Why should that be considered as a top secret? What is the logic behind choosing some names and not some others?