Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Is Media Really Dictated by the Government?

 Meteoric rise of Republic TV to the top slot in English news channels as per BARC rankings has given a severe jolt to TV channels, particularly English TV news channels. Such is the shock that they have walked out of BARC which they had helped set up with new standards after dismal failure of earlier TAM rankings.  Arguments supporting this move are nothing but word play.  They should have waited for 2-3 weeks to see how audience finally settles down in next 2-4 weeks rather than pulling the plug on the messenger who pointed out to their diminishing relevance. 

Current reaction is a knee jerk reaction betraying their panic. Some of them have admitted that overall viewers for English channels have increased with advent of Republic. Many of our viewers may not be aware that English viewers form only a miniscule of overall TV viewership. It is too embarrassing a gap to be disclosed here. You can go to BARC site to check out. English news channels should have welcomed acquisition of new viewers to their fold.

By showing this intolerance for a system that was appreciated by all the channels when it was implemented, they have only exposed their anxiety. As an experienced observer I can easily see the viewership pattern settling down to a lesser skew and gaps reduced.

All of us have noted a huge change in news presentation with advent of Republic. All English channels have shaken out of their routine drawing room kind of debates into finding real content that would keep viewer glued to them. This is a welcome sign. I have individually complemented many competing editors for their new content and presentation. It is the way healthy competition should be, not mud-slinging against competing channels.  Today, one is forced to surf different channels to look out for something new, some new scoop or for some new development. Viewer loyalty is no more guaranteed.  Content is the king – truly.

This feverish change in all the TV channels’ news presentation itself tells us that government has not tamed the TV channels; it is the audience that has tamed them and forced them to change the way news is being disseminated.

If you were to view BARC rankings since advent of PM Modi on the national scene, you will find that the channels presenting nationalist viewpoint have prospered in ranking as compared to anti-government and so-called ‘secular’ channels.  Such is audience impatience with negativity towards nationalist approach to national issues that even old venerable doddering DD has gained much better viewership.

Rise of Times Now to #1 was solely due to its strong unapologetic nationalist approach and unabashed criticism of ‘secular’ ‘liberal’ lobby under stewardship of Arnab Goswami. People who couldn’t stand the noise of his debates still saw it as it seemed to reflect their  viewpoint. It is instructive lesson for competition and sour secular lobby that after Arnab’s exit the new editorial team of Times Now didn’t deviate from the earlier line that had paid them rich dividends.  Infact, the new team is even more strident, being confident that this is what audience wished to hear and see.  Its moot point why bosses of the group allow them to take this line though they push for typical JNU type narrative in their newspapers.  I would guess, it is commerce of viewership.

I do not get time to view regional channels but from whatever I have heard and seen, channels that are objective and nationalist have seen consistent rise in their TRPs. I view Hindi channels’ rankings and their content on and off.  I see similar viewership bias for Hindi channels that promote nationalist view point. Viewership is something that cannot be influenced by any government.  

Thus, the change in media narrative that critics and sour faced opposition lament about is not the taming of the media by BJP. They could never do it earlier, nor do I think they have the sophisticated arm twisting talents of Congress to do so.  The so-called liberal secular media didn’t reconcile itself to rise of Modi and all that it represented. They suffered in terms of viewership, and therefore, revenues since 2014-15. Then,  the reality stuck them hard after UP results and we saw a shift in the stance of many of the oracles of Secularism who spouted wisdom and spread the ideas like ‘intolerance’ and  presented ‘Breaking India’ forces as the genuine face of ‘dissidence’ as our political legacy.

If you look at this change in media outlook, it has been gradual. If BJP had managed it, you would have seen change in advertisement patterns and sudden mid-stream change in media narrative by 2015. It didn’t happen. Most of the channels reconciled themselves to the new India after UP 2017. Till then they were in state of denial and carried on their war against Modi/BJP brand of politics.

The presentation of a Republic or a Times Now or Zee TV etc may be shrill or lack sophistication. They may not carry faux liberal tones. But, left leaning channels and editors leave audience with no choice.  Audience wants to hear about core national issues that worry them, not patronising sermons.

I am one of the persons who feel that all so called national TVs are too focused on political stories and scandals; stories that fan anxiety and despondency. Many like us feel that there should be a better mix of genuine criticism about policy issues and projection of positive developments too. Unfortunately, it is still not happening.  I see no serious discussions or discussions on matters like Finance Bill or GST that impact our lives seriously. Such bills are passed without discussions while disturbances hog the headlines and strain opposition’s vocal cords.

A channel that can bring in this kind of mix has better chances of scoring with the viewers. But, till then, they will stick to channels that are in sync with their own view of the nation; an ‘Idea of India’ that is very different from apologetic guilt ridden ‘Idea of India’ being served to them since last 70 years.  Majority of audience have taken their blinkers are off.  I hope electronic media too remove their blinkers and take a dispassionate look at the changing national scenario rather than lashing out at the messenger.

First published in Organiser weekly dated 26th May, 2017





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Why Media is responsible for Kejriwal Fiasco

This Sunday 7th May turned out to be a truly hot Sunday for media. It was a denouement many observers like me were waiting for.  We knew that Kejriwal was a media created phenomenon who is not just unscrupulously ambitious but politically and ethically corrupt person. Media also knew it. New charges of financial corruption were not really surprising. It was but the next step for him.

Then, why did media keep supporting Kejriwal? A few are still carrying on last ditch battle on his behalf. It doesn’t matter whether he comes out of this muck unscathed or drowned in it. This is the end of road for Kejriwal and AAP in their ambitious plans for power.

If observers like me could see through Arvind Kejriwal’s megalomania and naked thirst for power, why media with all its intelligence gathering couldn’t see what was apparent based on facts in public domain?  

I therefore, charge main stream media for deliberately obfuscating facts about Arvind Kejriwal in an urge to project him as an alternative to PM Modi.  That this projection of a glorified mayor of a city state like Delhi, or between a giant and a pigmy was itself ridiculous is another matter. But, being blindsided about his follies and critical failings in his character has led media to another avoidable failure in inglorious personality building exercise.

Let me put forward a few known facts out again to buttress my submission –

1.       This apparently honest IRS official never got transferred from comfortable Delhi for nearly 20 years. His IRS wife posted in Ghaziabad also never got transferred.  Give me one example of an honest IRS or any IAS officer who wouldn’t have been transferred atleast 6 times if not more in this period?

2.       There is a letter in public domain allegedly from Mrs. Sonia Gandhi that recommended stay  on his transfer. Since it is on Social Media and I don’t have resources to check its authenticity. But, there surely were powers who let him enjoy his term in Delhi undisturbed. He was one of the few hundred fortunate ones with right connections in Lutyen’s Delhi. These connections don’t work without some moral cost. 

3.       All his so called social services were at the cost of exchequer during this period with long leaves and absence from his desk.

4.       He received highly desirable Magsaysay Award within a very short time of his establishing his NGO - for working for RTI, though he was not the prime mover of RTI movement.  There were Ms. Aruna Roy and Dr. Jaiprakash Narayan of Loksatta. But he tried to corner all the accolades, duly backed by many in the media.

5.       Ask any other Indian Magsaysay Award in India. They will vouch for their hard work before they got these awards. Was Ford Foundation behind this early recognition? Media should have found out.

6.       It is known within Lutyen Delhi circles and journalist fraternity that Arvind’s ambition to be duly rewarded in public life for RTI but failed.  He then picked up IAC platform as the atmosphere was ripe with scores of scams bursting forth and exposed by media, people like Dr. Swamy and RTI warriors.

7.       To bolster his image, he roped in Shri Anna Hazare. Crafty Arvind knew that without backing of a known face he will not get the much needed push to his ambition in public life, so he brought gullible Anna to Delhi, who is a highly respected name. This was his master stroke and media, in search of ‘non-Sanghi ‘ leader to counter the rising crescendo in favour of nationalist forces, lapped up the idea.  Media found someone whom they could probably manipulate and project and not be beholden to other regional casteist satraps.

8.       Many journalists who covered Kejriwal’s indefinite fast in Delhi had come to know about his duplicity and crafty image management. I have heard personal anecdotes from senior editors and anchors about his image build up exercise. But, media kept quiet.

9.       After professing to never join politics and his supposed guide Anna advising against it, Arvind went on to establish his political party AAP realising that time was ripe for next leap.  But, media rather than questioning his U-turn, went berserk, projecting him as the answer to Modi.  There is no problem in projecting anybody against anybody. But, for left influenced media to do so with all the background information available, it was sad. It was built on plain animosity to nationalist forces represented by BJP and Modi at that time.

10.   After Delhi Assembly elections, he again took oath that he will never seek help from Congress but took its help to form his first ministry.  He then junked Congress at right time with flimsy excuses and people fell for his stunts ably misled by media.

11.   Seven out of six of his cabinet ministers have corruption charges against them. 21 MLAs are on the verge of disqualification for ‘Office of Profit’ case. How was he any different (at a much lower level) from Mr Manmohan Singh who presided over a corrupt cabinet quietly?

12.   Arvind’s disagreements with his team mates always resulted in senior members being thrown out, disgraced. Nearly all the founding members have been thrown out.  These expulsions used to be just a few minutes news for all TV channels and small columns in newspapers for a day.

13.   TV Channels invited his buddies on every topic under the Sun in debates. It was strange to see  voluble upstarts of a local party talking about national issues or criticising others as the whitest of all knights out to demolish existing system – without any alternative in sight.

14.   All his months in power in Delhi were lost in tamasha, hate politics, insulting Prime Minister of the nation with no work and no responsibility. Media still backed him. Not all had benefited from his largesse of posts in various education institutions’  managing boards. Some were obliged with crores of advertisements.

15.   Arvind Kejriwal’s open support to anti-nationals, Maoists, Urban Naxals, Separatists of Kashmir; and getting support from pro-Khalistani forces in Punjab didn’t disturb the main stream media. But for alert Social Media, his shenanigans would have gone unnoticed.

16.   His defeat in Punjab was engineered by alert voters who realized his games and duplicitous way of working or we would have seen Punjab burning like Kashmir today.

Wise readers understand that paper cut-outs of any size cannot really make a great leader out of a morally, ethically corrupt leader with no vision for the society and nation but only blind ambition for for self.

I feel strong empathy for ex-AAP workers, and founder members who worked selflessly for AAP and gave whatever they could to Arvind Kejriwal to see a change in society and bring in reforms but were failed by their leader.

I belong to a generation that had put faith in phalanx of great opposition leaders who had spent their lifetimes working selflessly for the society. We had sacrificed for democracy and anti-corruption drive in 1975-77 like current generation volunteers of AAP. But, we were not driven by media that didn’t have today’s reach and was subservient to Mrs. Indira Gandhi in Emergency. It got no chance to project opposition.  But JP movement and fight for democracy strongly backed by RSS had become people’s movement and defeated dictatorial Indira Gandhi. 

We too felt betrayed by petty politics of the leaders once they gained power. It was cathartic moment. But, many of us having faith in non-political way of reforming society and system, could still rise again and return to social work. Some others diverted into other movements and kept working for the society.  Many went back to normal life, with cynicism for politics.

Unfortunately for this generation, media with all the power of communication did not play its role objectively. Therefore, I blame main stream media for this Arvind Kejriwal fiasco. It was an avoidable disaster that our nation can ill afford at this historical juncture when its people are ready to break out of years of tyranny of poor governance, self-pity and make their mark in history.

I hope that our media has learnt its lessons and will be more realistic, alert and non-partisan in coming times.

First published on 8th May, 2017 on www.newsbharati.com 

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Shifting of priorities of BJP governments

I am surprised by sudden surge of love for supposedly Hindutva agenda in BJP state governments and state units. Supposedly, because Hindutva agenda is not limited to a shallow view about what people eat.

If one notes carefully; since the time Modi ji has taken charge of government, stress has been on development agenda with an underlying flavour of Hinduness. This has been welcomed by people at large. The latest elections show clear approval of this approach of Mr. Modi.

While core problematic area of education seems to be on the backburner at the Centre as well as at state level, stress on meat and beef and similar issues has taken centre stage now. Let me underline the fact that I am a strict vegetarian and like to persuade people to give up meat etc as a humane act and environment friendly habit. In West, such sensitization has weaned away large sections of society away from meats and made them vegans and vegetarians.

We know that huge number of Hindus are vegetarian too. So, this sudden love for converting a state into a vegetarian state, like Gujarat Chief Minister has been quoted as saying, and groups roaming on the streets shutting down meat shops in different states sounds strange.

There has been sudden rush by some within BJP in other BJP ruled states to call for stricter laws on cow slaughter, making meat business almost a crime. Cow-protection is central to Hindu psyche both on religious and environmental grounds. Simple solution is applying existing laws strictly, not making tougher laws. If tougher laws were an antidote, we would have seen drop in heinous crimes like rape, but we have seen rise in brutality. People also confuse beef with cow meat, though cow meat is also beef, but so is buffalo meat. This confusion is further compounded by media that talks of cow meat and beef in same breath, vitiating the atmosphere further.

To me, this shift in BJP style seems like an easier way of satisfying hot tempered and emotional Hindu nationalists. Because, core problems like changing school text books that still teach toxic  defeatist history; and syllabi that have no scope for ethical, moral education or religious education are not even being touched. How damaging these books are, can be understood by stupid tweets of supposedly learned lawyer like Prashant Bhushan, just to give an example.  I have noted elsewhere that such utterances tell us about the success of Left-Secular irreligious education model that leaves people rootless and bereft of self-respect. No nation has risen without pride in its culture and history. There are no such examples in the world. With 7 decades of damaging academic and intellectual exercise, we are the only nation in the world that is still debating about its nationhood and doubting our own heritage and history.

If efforts are being made to rewrite NCERT text books, they seem to be very superficial. It seems that same left cabal is still ruling the education departments. An article by a pro-Hindu academic like Koenrad Elst and others about exchange of letters regarding glaring mistakes and misrepresentation in history books and poor defence offered by faceless babus of education department or ‘experts’ tell us about poor focus HRD ministry has on this core issue. An effort is being made in these supposedly revised books to white wash Islamic invaders’ atrocities by bringing in false equivalence of rare deviations by a couple of Hindu kings. This is just one example. This happens right under the nose of concerned ministry. 

Three years of present Central government have passed without any fundamental review of education system built brick by brick since 1948 by Nehruvians and Marxists. I doubt if  BJP state governments have done anything seriously about their state education books. Examples that proliferate Social media tells us that nothing has happened.

It is accepted widely that 93rd amendment to RTE has sounded the death-knell for conventional mainstream charitable school run by non-minority trusts or organizations that have been around for decades. Many of them have closed or offered closure, or are on the verge of closure. By exempting minority institutions from RTE, previous government has kept away a large number of good institutions out of bounds for deserving poor students. This has also resulted in many communities vying for ‘minority status’ in various states. This affects Hindu society most as it is being broken up with the help of such laws.

BJP government or party has not yet shown any inclination to touch RTE and its obnoxious 93rd amendment. May be, party fears that it will pilloried by left and media controlled by left if it takes up such contentious issues. BJP forgets to learn from current history that whether it does something or not, it will be abused and criticised anyways by Left groups of various shades, whose ultimate aim is to break India. Demonetisation is one such example that exposed the Left who opposed it bitterly though their assumed constituency of poor fully supported it.

Not only with regards to this serious and tough issue of education, BJP governments have not even tried to free temples from government control. Infact, Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, has recently taken over 100s of Hindu temples in Madhya Pradesh through ordinance. Category of visa for missionaries introduced by Sonia Gandhi’s run UPA hasn’t been removed so far which is an administrative action.

Compared with such core issues, making noise about meat seems so easy. Shutting down all illegal businesses is right step for a law abiding society, but extending this idea without proper planning to pander to noisy, over enthusiastic Hindu groups, who claim to be working for Hindu society, will alienate all major sections of the society across various faiths. Such populist noises about meat etc without home work will dilute governance issues tackled well by BJP governments and cloud the positive environment created by Modi ji.

It is in the interest of BJP to go for reforms that have crippled our society’s mental faculties and work for better governance, enforce equality before law and organise a good education system. Short term propagandist acts will not benefit anybody, including BJP. Time is running out.

First published on www.Newsbharati.com on 4th April, 2017

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Friday, April 7, 2017

My interview on Rediff about Shivsena proposal of Presidential candidature of Dr Mohan Bhagwat


I called it a cheap gimmick by Shivsena

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Debate on Freedom of Expression and its misuse on TimesNow


A hue and cry was made about a Hindu activist filing a case against Kamal Haasan for quoting Mahabharat out of context. it was made out as a Hindu fringe creating problems about Freedom of Expression.

It was good enjoyable debate as I split the argument into two different issues of violence against FOE and using legitimate legal route. I suggested scrapping of 295(A) to get rid of this route totally for all and also raised issue of violent killing of rational Muslim's killing about which nobody spoke a word.

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Another debate on Times Now about Ram Temple through SC offer of negotiations


Second debate on Timesnow on topic of Ram Temple through negotiations and consensus on #TimesNow

Again, ofcourse Mullahs tried to evade any positive response. Moderates Muslims are hardly called for such debates.

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Ram Mandir takes centre stage again. On TimesNow about negotiations


SC offered mediation as way out to close Ayodhya Ram Temple issue. Ofcourse, Mullahs couldnt accept so all of them were making a spectacle of themselves on TV debates

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