Is UPA hitting back at ToI, India Today, DNA?

There has been plenty of buzz in recent days that the Congress-led UPA government has quietly begun hitting back at the media for the manner in which it has exposed the scams and scandals, and for the proactive manner in which it backed the middle-class led “Arnab Spring”.

There have been rumours, for instance, of the Union information and broadcasting ministry actually proposing a ceiling on the number of minutes a news channel can show a specific news event and so on. Now, as if to show that the messenger is indeed being wilfully targetted, these two stories have emerged in the last two days.

Exhibit A: Nora Chopra‘s item in The Sunday Guardian (above), which talks of the government making things difficult for cross-media groups like The Times of India and India Today.

Exhibit B: DNA editor Aditya Sinha‘s column, in which he links a 10-day stoppage of government advertisements to his “mass-circulating” paper to the paper’s stand in the Anna Hazare episode.

“We advised ad-sales to seek an appointment with I&B minister Ambika Soni. It was a pleasant surprise when the ad-sales executives immediately got a slot to meet the minister.

“Soni was pleasant enough. She told our guys she was unaware of any DAVP action; but in any case the government was rationalizing the flow of ads to English and language newspapers.

“Her body language, according to the ad-sales team, suggested otherwise. And then, during a general chat about the newspaper, she came to the point: she said that DNA ought to look at its coverage over the past few weeks and introspect….

Soni’s statement led us to infer that our Anna Hazare coverage was being punished by a suspension of government ads, and that Soni met our ad executives just to ensure the point was driven home.”

For the record, a point Sinha artfully sidesteps, DNA has been in the government’s crosshairs for an incendiary and imbecilic column written by the Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy after the July 13 bomb blasts in Bombay.

For the record, DNA is part-owned by Subhash Chandra‘s Zee group, some of whose journalists (present and past) played a key role in the media management of Hazare’s fast.

And, also for the record, Ambika Soni traces her Congress origins to Sanjay Gandhi, whose role in ushering in press censorship during the Emergency in 1975, has been long documented.

Image: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Read the full piece: Ambika Soni‘s arm-twisting

External reading: DAVP wants balance sheets

Also read: How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

Is the Indian Express now a pro-establishment newspaper?

The ex-Zee News journalist behind Anna Hazare show

Ex-Star News, ToI journos behind ‘Arnab Spring’

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?


  1. Sam

    It could be the other way too –
    Aware that the government were planning to introduce these measures (to prevent a monopoly in the media and to foster competition; make it more accountable) the organizations mentioned above, may have decided to support the Hazare movement / attack the government as a preemptive measure; to later claim that they are being ‘targeted’.

    As you pointed out in a previous post, even you found it strange that the ToI was taking a very public anti-government stand and supporting the Anna Hazare movement.

    While I support the government for the well meaning intentions to hold the media accountable, the news about allowing Wall Street Journal to operate in India is quite disturbing. Foreign media will only serve their foreign masters, and we should all actively campaign to prevent their entry into India.

  2. cnm

    It is necessary that some sort of control should be there over media. Allowing foreign media houses will no doubt prove disastrous for India. But , then after Sushma Swaraj’s mindless and dangerous decision to a allow FDI in the media it has become difficult to say that our Mainstream Media is still Deshi and that it does not dance to the tune of their foreign investors.

  3. Anonymous

    See the ad on this page:

  4. BE

    Just so some research regarding the DNA coverage of Modi’s fast and you will realize what a little bit of government pressure can do. The DNA was the same paper that published Swamy’s article after the Mumbai blasts. So, how could a paper change its views so suddenly is a matter of some research.

  5. Jesse James

    Hmmm … more Queen’s Party supporters on this forum than i had expected

  6. Krishna Kumar

    I don’t understand this paranoia about foreign media. None of the Indian newspapers can hold a candle to WSJ, NYT, Guardian etc, in terms of quality or editorial ethics. If foreign investors can invest in TV channels, Banking, Nuclear Power Plants etc, why are they prevented from investing in newspapers? It is actually a canard spread by Indian media barons like N Ram, Arun Poorie, M K Sonthalia, Samir Jain etc, who have much to lose if print media is opened to foreign investment. It is only to ensure a protected market for the trash they publish. It is only because of the power they wield in the corridors of power that the print media is protected from competition from across the border. Even if the foreign-owned newspapers indulge in ‘anti-national’ activities, the government can always stop their printing and publication using the already extant laws.

  7. Sam

    @Krishna Kumar:
    I don’t know if you are naive or just pulling all our legs. 🙂

    When freedom of speech is itself loosely defined (especially for the media) how do you define what is anti-national? Say if the government of India decides on a policy that is at loggerheads with the west, and the west in turn try to influence the indian public, through their media outlets, to persuade us that the government is wrong in taking such decisions … of course it is an anti-national activity, but how will you prove it?

    Also, don’t forget that they have money – what if they decide to buy out all the large indian media houses and establish a monopoly?

    Take the DNA incident (whether you like it or not) – do you think the government will be able to strong arm them by with holding ads? (Some foreign consulate or business will always compensate them by buying ad spaces – after all, it is in their interest to do so!). Do you think a media outlet that doesn’t feel the pressure to be neutral, will remain neutral?

    To sum up – You seem to be really under estimating the power of the media … indian or otherwise …


    “With the Supreme Court permitting the Union Cabinet to take a decision on implementing the recommendations of the Justice G.R. Majithia wage board for journalists and non-journalists, Union Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge has said the subject will soon be placed before the Cabinet …. As per report of the Wage Boards – one each for the journalists and other employees of the newspapers/news agencies – the new wage structure will come into force from July 1, 2010, and the managements are required to pay arrears for the period till the increased wages are included in the regular pay of the employees.”

    Other golden nuggets:

    ““The new wages were not recommended in excess. I did my job in a very honest and principled way and it is to be kept in mind that no employee could work with empty stomach” he had told The Hindu then … Justice Majithia had pointed out that the Boards had concluded that the labour cost of the industry (management) ranged from 10 – 14 per cent of the total expenditure cost. ”

    Source: Decision on wage board soon: Kharge

    Aren’t things starting to become clearer and clearer?

  8. Siding with Anna has annoyed the Govt. But now Dig vijay says that we did the right thing by accepting 26 demands and other three which the Govt. conceded after his fast. Actually whole of the media the media was siding Anna in one or the other way. It is foolish act on the part of Govt. to take such steps to stop Govt. advertisements to a particular group.

  9. […] Fact: government advertising is what sustains “free media” in India, and pulling back government ads is standard operating procedure. […]

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