The TRPs for the second leg of Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘crusade’ against corruption may not have hit the roof yet. They hover between 3.2 for Hindi channels and 1.1 for the English ones. But the coverage of the IAC’s journey from campaign to political party has been relentless in the last 15 days. Kejriwal is providing expose after expose, and the media, both print and television, seems to be lapping it up faithfully and reporting it dutifully. It appears to have hitched its bandwagon to Kejriwal’s campaign and almost become an ally in his movement.
However, Madabhushi Shridhar, a professor at NALSAR, Hyderabad, calls attention to the lesser degree of media support this time round, compared to October 2011 when Anna Hazare went on a fast at Ramlila Maidan with a sea of people supporting him, and the media lavished all attention on him and his movement. “The media campaigned actively for the movement,” says Shridhar. With Kejriwal helming the movement now, he notices a difference in the media’s relationship with the movement. “The allegations levelled are specific. The media is only reporting it while doing its own investigation,” he says.
IBN-7 managing editor Ashutosh agrees, even as he concedes the media’s role as a force multiplier. “The media follows the big story,” he says, “and Robert Vadra by his association is a big story, so we followed it.” Regarding Kejriwal & Co, “When the media said the Mumbai maidan movement was a failure, Kejriwal and Anna were critical of us. When we failed to give their expose of Abhishek Verma carpet coverage, they were dismayed. As in July when we said there were no crowds.”
The media has certainly been on its own investigation trail as in the Salman Khurshid case, or on a parallel one, as in the Vadra case. A channel’s airing of a sting/investigation into the misappropriation of funds by a trust run by the law minister and his wife led to a trading of allegations and counter-allegations, and non-stop coverage of the exchange, prompting press council chairman Markandeya Katju to dash off a letter to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority to probe the matter.
The media, especially television, would never pass up an opportunity to have a polarised and shrill debate; it suits its purpose, in fact, to do so. As Padmaja Shaw, a professor of communication and journalism at the English and Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad, says, “It is worrying when thousands of people march towards Delhi protesting the denial of something as basic as land, it is not put to debate. But it suits the media to focus on Arvind Kejriwal and his exposes.” Perhaps it is an alliance of convenience, which the media itself may be reluctant to acknowledge. But if it serves the larger public good, it can only be a good thing.
Honest and right-thinking people have a major shortcoming: of being generous, accommodating and anonymous. And getting such people to contest elections is difficult. Alas, Kejriwal seems to have changed fundamentally with his decision to eventually enter politics: helped by the media, he’s busier promoting himself than promoting his cause or India Against Corruption (Breaking News Together).
N.K. Singhal, Rohtak
Your statement that the media pursued both Salman Khurshid and Robert Vadra cannot be more wrong: Khurshid’s anger was highlighted more than his wrongdoing; in Vadra’s case, the allegations were reported but never pursued to their conclusion, with IAS officer Khemka suddenly getting all the attention. Even in the case of Virbhadra Singh, the focus finally was on his threat to break cameras. But the media is going hammer and tongs after Nitin Gadkari. Are they scared of the Congress, or do they want to keep it pleased?
N.S. Rajan, Bangalore
The Indian electronic media has the dubious reputation of overkill in reporting scams and exposes. But when the scandal involves one of their own—the Jindals have accused Zee News of an extortion bid—they do not provide any coverage.
Ramesh Ramachandra, Bangalore
It isn't about corruption, at all. It seems, if people felt, that they could spend sensibly, on goods and services, they wouldn't bother about corruption, because there wouldn't be. It seems, food, and what is essential to ultimately consume it, is dear in economic terms. Also, isn't natural gas a mineral, like any metal, and isn't petroleum, also the same? It appears, that minerals are not exhaustible. Why? Because they have always been extracted, or mined. If so, then it also seems, that they are not the same as vegetation, because even animal life is limited because it seems human activity is the cause. I think, the consumer is not seeing any reason to feel that he consumes responsibly, increasingly in society, and this might be what is termed corruption, in any way.
The statement that the media independently pursued Salman and Vadra investigations cannot be more wrong. Salman was highlighted more for his bursts of anger than his Trust's wrongdoings. Vadra's case was even worse. The media was only happy to report allegations but strangely ran out of steam midway.Khemka and his sudden transfer got all the attention. Now no one is sticking his neck out and the trail is running cold. Even in the case of VBS, where there seem to be clear facts available such as his sudden revision of agricultural income from under 50 lakhs to over six and a half crores,the media seems strangely reluctant to take the case further but only happy to report his threat to break cameras of newsmen. All sections of the media are however going hammer and tongs at Gadkari and Digvijay's letter to the PM about him. Is our media scared of the Congress and wants to please the party by the strident attack on Gadkari?
First the media covers this mans bold and courageous posture.
And then it moans and cries, feminist like, the fact that it had to do so!
Crass ( but usual ), hypocrisy from the media.
The electronic media has always been selective about the space it provides to various happenings. And lately it is seen that airing a particular story by a channel prompts other channels too to follow the same story. However, at times, almost all the channels either deliberately or ignorantly opt to bypass a vital public interest related issue. To quote a recent instance, the apex court had pronounced that CAG was not merely a "Munim Ji" who simply maintained the government's account. But sadly no channel held any debate or highlighted the court's comment on a macro level. However, on the specific subject of maligning Narendra Modi with a covert intent of keeping a decade old issue of Gujarat alive, majority of the channels have apparently unanimously resolved to run the story cum debate periodically.
The Indian electronic media has the dubious reputation of overkill in reporting scams and exposes, of which there is one every other day. Switch on any TV channel and, depending on the scandal which is current, viewers are fed an ad nauseam overdose of CWG, 2 G Spectrum, “Coalgate”, Vadra, Gadkari, or Khemka visual footage accompanied by sensational headlines and screaming voice-overs of excited TV anchors. This is repeated ad nauseam 24 X 7, like an endless tape. But when the scandal involves one of their own, they display double standards by closing ranks to protect their species. A case in point: the recent Zee News-Sudhir Chaudhary/Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. Rs. 100 crore extortion sting operation, which was virtually blacked out by all the major TV channels in an obvious conspiracy of silence. It is this sort of insidious “self censorship” which is more dangerous to democracy than blatant state censorship at whose mere mention the electronic media shrilly rail.
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