I normally avoid news channels in English and try to stick to Hindi as much as possible. English channels are generally supercilious and affect a tone that many must find insulting. Their accents, picked up in so-called, ‘convent’ schools, jar on the ear. Hindi channels are more straight forward, the anchors and the announcers more homely and they give the impression that they know what they are talking about. The anchors on English channels try to imitate BBC and VOA (Voice of America) accents and also their manners, but they cannot do it properly and fall between two stools. Their credibility is very low, except perhaps in the so-called “corporate” circles, who finance them.
Another reason why I avoid English channels is that they are anti-Hindu and therefore anti-BJP. The announcers cannot even pronounce Hindu names correctly, either because they do it deliberately or because they are “secular”. Invariably Hindus are characterised as “communal” and almost all the other, including, of course, Muslims, “secular”. For them, the BJP is not a Hindu Nationalist Party, which is a fair description of the BJP, but a Hindu party, and therefore beneath contempt. Anything Hindu is infra-dig, the rest is ok. They are condescending and patronising towards BJP politicians, particularly those who speak or try to speak in English. Anybody without a proper “convent” accent is looked down upon as “Desi” as if being a Desi which means “national”, is a crime.
Some of them are so “non-Indian” they cannot even pronounce Hindu or Hindi names correctly-names not only of individuals but also cities and towns, and often old Hindu classics like Ramayana. I have yet to find an anchor or announcer who can pronounce Mumbayi correctly. They pronounce it as Mumbye, not Mumbayi, which is how it is pronounced in Marathi, Even girls brought up in Mumbayi, sorry, Mumbai, have difficulty in saying Mumbayi. When I asked them why they always pronounce it wrongly, I was told that that is how foreigners pronounce it. So we have anchors and announcers who have gone foreign in their own country.
But the real reason is entirely different. The reason is both cultural and economic, but more the second than the first. These convent-wallas have no culture of their own, unless using knife and fork correctly is “culture”.
They are neither Indian nor foreign and belong neither here nor there. They are cultural eunuchs and try to pose as westerners among Indians, and as Indians among Westerners. They are, in fact, like Jawaharlal Nehru, who boasted in his autobiography that he belonged neither to the East nor to the West and was at home nowhere. And you know what a mess Nehru made of India during the seventeen years that he was in power!
Fortunately, the Westerners do not accept them as their own. I was once sitting in a BBC studio in London for an interview-they were interviewing me, I was not interviewing them-when I spotted an anchor from one of the Indian channels who also was in the studio. I thought he too was being interviewed by BBC, which was rather strange, considering that one channel does not normally interview a person from another channel. I really do not know what happened, but the man had to beat a retreat and quietly left the studio without even saying good-bye.
So, as I said, they are neither here nor there and lead a precarious existence, as Anglo-Indians used to do during British times.
But the real reason, as I said, is not cultural but economic. The channels make their living, if you call it living, on their advertisements. Take out the ads, and they would just collapse, as many do from time to time. And where do the ads come from? They come mostly from multinational companies. Sit down before your TV set and count the number of ads of foreign companies. I would say that 90 per cent of the ads are from multinational-companies like Hindustan Unilever, Nestlé’s and foreign airlines like British Airways, Qatar Airlines etc. Unilever had an advertising budget of Rs 2,000 crore, last year, which is more than the turnover of a large-sized Indian company. Without ads from multinationals, your channel or company is a big zero and doomed from the start.
These multinational companies operate globally and the ads they spend their money on here are only a fraction of their worldwide advertising bill. So they have to be very careful about their ads in India and their contents. To be, “secular” is to be safe, as you cannot afford to hurt anyone, particularly the Muslim companies, some of which may be investing heavily in your company. Many western companies have Muslim tycoons and Muslim governments-which means sheikhs and Saudis-as their chief shareholders. One wrong ads anywhere–say praising Hindus-and you may end up antagonising non-Hindus, and of course, anti-Hindus elsewhere. So you have to be very very careful about what you say and how, for your business, that is, the business of your media company, may depend upon it, which means also your job.
That is why MNC executives are always anti-Hindu or prefer to be. And they advertise only in “safe” media, that is, non-Hindu media. They would think a hundred times before advertising in say, Organiser, for then they will be marked men, marked, that is for dismissal. But if you are pro-Muslim or pro-Christian, fine. Your company, say IBM or GE is sure to be owned by them, and you are therefore on the right side of your owners.
So, if Pronnoy Roy or Rajdeep Sardesai maintain their distance from BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad in their channels and paint them in lurid colours, it is because these names are poison to them and their ultimate owners. Who knows who these owners are. For all you know, it could be a couple of Sheikhs in Abu Dhabi or Medina. I should like the government to investigate who the real owners of our media companies are and how they influence their policies.
If your real owners are Muslim, and your advertisers are MNCs whose owners too may be Muslim, one false step and you are out on a limb. Instead of eating your breakfasts at the Taj, you may have to crawl into the nearest Nirulas for your supper!
So ultimately, for all the big noise you make as the channel, the stomach is mightier than the microphone. You can offend Hindus for we are a mousy lot and always offer the other cheek. But if you slap Hindustan Lever or say the wrong thing about the sheikhs in Abu Dhabi, who may be your owner, you are on the street. The best policy is to damn the Hindus in the name of secularism, run down Hindu institutions, and praise Allah. You thus keep on the right side of your advertisers, who pay your bills at the Taj, and of your ultimate owners in Dubai and Qatar, who pay your salaries, even if you have to cook up a few figures at election time and run down BJP every few minutes on your shows!