Narada Jayanti : Is the English Media
Intro: Unfortunately, the “Private Treaty” route has been adopted by several other media companies as well. All that matters these days is profit; truth be damned. The media always takes a moral high ground, but if the focus light is turned on this vital segment of democracy then lot of muck would come out.
I was associated with The Times of India as a journalist for over three decades. But, one day will always stand clearly in my memory. It was around 10 p.m, a day before Maha Shivratri in March 2005. As was my wont, I opened the front page basket on the computer before calling it a day just to find out the stories that were slotted for the following day. I was shocked to read the anchor story penned by my senior colleague, Bachi Karkaria.
It was an article on Lord Shiva to coincide with Maha Shivratri. I simply could'nt believe my eyes. It had several highly disparaging references to Lord Shiva, who is revered by millions of Hindus. The malafide nature of the article was clear from the fact that it was timed to appear on the very day of Maha Shivratri. I called up Bachi, a Parsi, and asked her why she had gone out of her way to hurt Hindu sentiments. She replied: “Bala, don't ask me anything. Ask, Samir Jain.” Samir Jain was the vice-chairman and continues to be so and runs the Times empire in tandem with his younger and flamboyant brother, Vineet Jain.
I called up Samir Jain and drew his attention to Bachi's article. I told him how it will hurt the sentiments of an overwhelming number of readers who were Hindus. It informed him that by publishing the highly-controversial piece on Maha Shivratri day, a sinisterly malafide motive was justifiably bound to be attributed to the newspaper. Samir Jain dismissed my objections by stating that I was old-fashioned! Many months later, during Ganesh Chaturthi I bumped into Bachi at the GSB Ganesh Pandal at Wadala in central Mumbai and asked: “How come you are worshipping Lord Ganesha after pouring scorn over his father, Lord Shiva? “She made a candid confession: “Bala, it was a command performance. I was asked to sex up the story.” The proverbial cat was out of the bag.
I wondered if The Times of India would dare to “sex up” Prophet Mohammed on Id-e-Milad or the gods of other religions? The answer is an unambiguous ‘No.’ Hindus have always been soft targets for the media and the trend continues till date. Many Hindus did protest against Bachi's article. But, that obviously did not deter The Times Group, which is the largest media house in the country. In July, 2011, Bombay Times, a supplement distributed with The Times of India, published on the front page pictures highly derogatory to Goddess Mahalaxmi, Lord Ganesh and other deities. I complained to the police against Vineet Jain, who is the managing director of The Times of India, and three others. Obviously, because of pressure from the media house, the police refuse to register an FIR. I had to file a criminal writ petition in Bombay High Court following which the police was forced to register an FIR against Vineet Jain and others.
These two incidents reveal the anti-Hindu proclivity of the nation's media behemoth. This attitude is shared by many other members of the so-called mainstream media who regard the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and other organisations of the Sangh Parivar as DM (down market). Apart from the managements, the church, which runs several journalism training institutes, also has systematically penetrated the media, both print and electronic, and ensures that the anti-RSS agenda is pursued consistently. No wonder, whenever a church is attacked the RSS and other such Hindu organisations are promptly blamed by the media. Condemnations also pour in from the West. But, when it turns out that none of the Sangh Parivar outfits had anything to do even remotely with the attacks, it is not reported because it suits the media to use Hindu organisations as a convenient whipping boy. Interestingly, whenever the saffron family is in power, then the attacks are carried out with renewed vigour. None of the achievements of the Modi government are highlighted, but the ghost of Godhra, which is rightly dead and buried, is resurrected with great regularity. The mass of evidence which the Gujarat police has unearthed against Teesta Setalvad, is ignored by the media but a chorus of protest breaks out when the cops try to legally proceed against her. The unwritten rule in vast sections of the media is to create an atmosphere which is inimical to the present dispensation at the Centre.
The anti-Hindu character is one aspect of this media and the other one is the total cremation of journalistic values. Never in the history of India, has the media been so crassly commercial as today. Minister VK Singh was not wide off the mark when he used the delightfully charming expression, presstitutes. The Times of India has a section called the Medianet. You can officially pay money by crossed cheques and have “news” and photographs published in Bombay Times and similar supplements issued with the main editions. For many years, readers were left wondering at photographs of celebrities and assorted socialites appearing in Bombay Times and other supplements. Mind you, the paper is registered as a newspaper, but few knew that much of the content was paid for. It is only now Times called Bombay Times an advertorial pull out. In fact, the expression “advertorial” itself is a contradiction in terms. A content is either an ad or editorial material. It can't be both. But, then who cares. The Hindustan Times Cafe also admits that it contains material which has been paid for. But, it does not say which item has been paid for. So much for journalistic honesty!
The Times Group also pioneered the concept of “private treaties” under which corporates enter into a long term agreement with the media house. Among other things, the shares of the companies are traded against ad space. But, the bottom line is that the company concerned is effectively protected against adverse publicity. So much for the freedom of the press! The Election Commission is already seized of the issue of paid news carried by several papers. Unfortunately, the “Private Treaty” route has been adopted by several other media companies as well. All that matters these days is profit; truth be damned. The media always takes a moral high ground, but if the focus light is turned on this vital segment of democracy then lot of muck would come out. People would realise how sham the media is. The Radiia tapes exposed several high-profile journalists. A few years ago, a journalist of the Economic Times was caught red handed by the crime branch of Mumbai police while accepting Rs 35 lakh extorted from a businessman. Ideally, the Press Council of India should concern itself with the anti-Hindu bias and increasing corruption in the media as a whole. But, unfortunately, it is a toothless wonder.
Bala Krishnan (The writer is former bureau chief of The Times of India, Mumbai)