Swapan Dasgupta on the silence of much of the media on the Zee News-Jindal Steel extortion case, in which the editorial staff of the Subhash Chandra-owned channel allegedly demanded Rs 100 crore in lieu of advertisements from the steel major to not publish stories in the coal scam, in The Pioneer, Delhi:
“The media didn’t react to the JSPL sting with the same measure of breathless excitement that greets every political corruption scandal because it is aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg. A thorough exploration of the media will unearth not merely sharp business practices but even horrifying criminality….
“Since the Press Council of India chairman Justice (retired) Markandey Katju is desperate to make a mark, he would do well to suo moto establish a working group to inquire into journalistic ethics. He could travel to a small State in western India where there persistent rumours that those who claim to be high-minded crusaders arm-twisted a Chief Minister into bankrolling an event as the quid pro quo for not publishing an investigation into some dirty practices.
“The emphasis these days is on non-publishing. One editor, for example, specialised in the art of actually commissioning stories, treating it in the proper journalistic way and even creating a dummy page. This dummy page would be sent to the victim along with a verbal ‘demand notice’. Most of them paid up. This may be a reason why this gentleman’s unpublished works are thought to be more significant than the few scribbles that reached the readers and for which he received lots of awards.”
Sudhir Chaudhary, Zee’s business head, has been removed as a member and office-bearer of the broadcast editors’ assocition (BEA) following the incident, of which Jindal Steel claims it has audio and video evidence.
Subhash Chandra too is named in the Jindal FIR along with his son Punit Goenka, and a Zee staffer Samir Ahluwalia.
Read the full column: Media, turn the mirror inwards
Read Sudhir Chaudhary response: Dear Shazi
Also read: Rs 50 crore? Rs 100 crore? It’s all in the business
I know of reputed businesses that advertise solely to keep newspapers off their backs. No Other Reason. In one case, some newspaper unearthed a fraud perpetrated by the business on the government by extracting loan and subsidy on a non existent factory. That paper and several others were shut up with an annual ad budget of a crore or two. Editors will call up the business proprietors to try and ‘settle’ or ‘manage’ the story before it gets out of control. So will reporters at their own level.
News channel reporters aren’t above blackmailing. Infact, they are worse. Channels broadcast across the country while local reporters generally print only in local editions. And so there are several reporters of the supposedly reputed channels who go around blackmailing politicians and businesses. Most small news channels based in the north have set targets for local reporters. These guys get no salary. They just ‘bring business’ and pay a minimum guarantee to the channel owner every month.
Money really flows during election times as netas scramble for airtime and positive stories. Editors call up politicians as soon as elections are imminent and ‘packages’ are worked out. Some of this dough is spread among the editors and reporters while the rest goes to the publication owner. All of this is black money since the EC will track all above the board funds. And the money is not spent on ads since the EC tracks those too. It is money for positive stories. This is the real Diwali for our dear media maroons. Another nationwide Diwali is coming soon for presswallas everywhere. A political journalist is worth nothing if he does not increase his wealth by a quarter every election.
At the national level, there are many big companies including ‘Support’ who blow away massive amounts of money on full page ads when trouble is afoot. Depending on the situation, the full page campaign can contain large disclaimers and public notices to ads for townships that seem to always stay under construction or just to remind people of the good work of the business house. In return, the publications ask their reporters to relax, and not take the story too seriously.
This incestuous relationship between the Press, Politician, Police and Business needs to end. And soon.
While It is undeniable that news media is heavily compromised (worked in news and couldn’t handle the duplicity), what surprises me is that Naveen Jindal’s line has been swallowed hook-line-and sinker by The BEA. The two journalists of Zee News are not stupid to ask for 100 cr in advertising- they know better what ad budgets on news channels.
Mr.Jindal is no Mahatma Gandhi- his record of corporate governance is not stellar and his name has figured in Coalgate. He is involved in 3 of the more corrupt sectors in India – mining, real estate and education.
My take is that members of BEA are cozying up to Jindal to keep the advertising pie to themselves. This is highly competitive, dod-eat-dog industry. The broadcast news business is influential but small, not very profitable and low-growth – ideal conditions for this circumstance arise.
The ‘slide’ in journalistic ethics began during Indira Gandhi’s time when she lured newspaper editors with large advertisement revenues. Editors who were already softened by her emergency strong-arm measures saw her point: ‘if rape was inevitable, it would be best to relax and enjoy’ and began falling in line. After the electronic media was opened up for private players the transformation was complete. Business houses began venturing into media business, more as an adjunct to their businesses rather than any sacrosanct ideals that drove editors till about the early seventies. Simultaneously businessmen saw the advantage of joining politics not only for the access it gave them to power centres but also as a source of power. Now they draft government policy.
As vernacular channels multiplied, many unscrupulous elements crept into what was once a noble profession. It is an open secret that many of them use the information they gather as a part of their work as a lever for blackmail. It is whispered that a share of the ill-gotten gains are passed up all the way to the top – something that is not unknown in government bureaucracies. The business-media-politician nexus completes the circuit. The rot has set in and there is no redeeming!
The Hindu story on stringer-special correspondent sounds like a cock and bull story.don’t understand what stopped the Reporter from naming the Channel.This leads to wild guesses regarding why the story was published.yes every story thAt is published/or not published carries a price tag. The Zee-Jindal sting operation and Media’s deafening silence is a pointer that media owner. Properitors/Managing Editors have their own share in this loot.