Category Archives: Issues and Ideas

When Aveek Sarkar and Vir Sanghvi met a scandal-ridden Rajiv Gandhi in 1988, they could ask 208 questions and supplementaries, including one, ahem, on #NewIndia. That is called an “interview”, Narendra Modi and PMO please note.

  *** “In the first year of his prime ministership, Rajiv Gandhi was easily accessible to the press and gave candid, free-wheeling interviews. By the second year the candour was beginning to wear thin. And by the time the scandals surrounding his friends and the regime surfaced, he had retreated into his shell.” Thus begins…

How a newspaper Editor inspired a spunky English mom to name her first son Ranga—the amazing life and times of possibly India’s first woman columnist, Freda Bedi

Who was the first woman to write a column, and a stridently feminist column at that, in a mainstream Indian newspaper? Unless there were others before her in the languages, could the answer be Freda Bedi, the mother of the actor Kabir Bedi, who wrote in The Tribune, Lahore, in pre-partition India? *** In his…

Ahead of elections, a political party in Tamil Nadu which owns a TV news channel seeks to gag the state’s No.2 channel ‘Puthiya Thalaimurai’, whose owners run educational institutions

Can a TV news channel promise, before hand, not to air content that a political party or politician might later consider false or defamatory, or both? The answer is obvious, but not so in the bizarre world of Tamil politics and media where conflict of interest is a recurring theme. Last week, the Pattali Makkal…

100 years ago, today, the greatest Editor-in-Chief to have walked this planet had a dream, an epiphany—in the home of the owner of ‘The Hindu’—that changed India’s course

One hundred years ago, today, India’s struggle for independence from the British took a decisive and inspired turn, when Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi had a dream that would catapult him towards ‘Mahatma’-hood. On March 18, 1919, Gandhi met C.Rajagopalachari in the City that used to be known as Madras, in a home on Cathedral Road that…

The Jalgaon freelance journalist whose alacrity ensured that his two sons did not spend 25 years in jail on “terror” charges—but did not live to see their acquittal

In 1984, when Indira Gandhi was assassinated, her two Sikh bodyguards were quickly arrested and convicted. But there was a third man who was found guilty: Kehar Singh. His only fault was that one of the two assassins had visited his house, but he hadn’t informed the police. A campaign was launched to save Kehar…

What is common to Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Castro, Nixon, Putin, Kim, Trump—and the 56 inches of Narendra Modi? The belief that the press is the enemy of the people.

For all his soaring oratory—and his 56″ inch chest—Narendra Modi will go down as the first prime minister in Indian history who did not hold a single press conference during his five years in office. Modi did meet individual TV journalists, like Arnab Goswami of Republic TV and Smita Prakash of ANI, and he did…

You are what you watch: Gujaratis consume the least amount of TV news in India; Assamese the most. To no one’s surprise, Malayalees catch a lot.

Indians spend a little over 30 minutes of their day, on average, watching news on television, according to the 2018 yearbook of the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC). Viewers in the northeastern states watch nearly twice as much news as Gujaratis. Although news accounts for just 7% of total TV viewership, news channels attract more…

News connoisseurs to news nibblers: how BBC is approaching journalism in Indian languages with five words fast disappearing from our ‘bhasha’: trust, credibility, strength, depth, quality

If the English market is tough for serious players in Indian journalism, keeping the head above the water in the languages is a humongous challenge. So immense, so expensive, and so impossible is the task of attracting readers and viewers, and keeping them engaged with quality content, that nearly nobody is attempting to do it.…

What happens in the Northeast shouldn’t stay in the Northeast: ‘The Indian Express’ stands shoulder to shoulder with ‘The Shillong Times’ and tells Meghalaya HC to back off

Media solidarity sees a dramatic upsurge when biggies like NDTV are raided, or The Hindu is attacked. Industry bodies gallantly bounce into the picture and flex their notional muscle. Protest marches are taken out; editorials written. Not so when smaller players, especially in Kashmir or the Northeast, are affected. Or, language publications. Or, individuals. Thankfully,…

100% more editorials, 225% more opinion pieces: How Pothan Joseph’s ‘Dawn’ beat Pothan Joseph’s ‘Deccan Herald’ 77-49 and demonstrated the true role of a newspaper as a conscience-keeper

*** The hollowing out of Indian news media—from being serious, agenda-setting, conscience-keepers, to frothy, gutless, market-driven beasts without a soul—is all too obvious, but it was never more apparent than during the recent India-Pakistan kerfuffle. As the two nuclear powers peered into the abyss, there was a barely a commentary in any part of the…

In Meghalaya, an Editor’s posts on Facebook prove costly as she fights (and loses) a contempt of court notice against ‘The Shillong Times’ in three months flat

*** The editor and publisher of The Shillong Times, a well-regarded newspaper from Meghalaya established two years before India became independent, have been held guilty of contempt of court in an extraordinary case that has implications for freedom of expression enjoyed by mainstream and social media voices across the country. The Meghalaya High Court rejected the…

Listening to Vineet Jain’s and Rahul Joshi’s cringe-worthy speeches welcoming Narendra Modi, you are left with only one doubt: was the text approved by the Prime Minister’s Office or its propaganda division, Niti Aayog?

“After #Pulwama, the Indian media proves it is the BJP’s propaganda machine“ This was the headline of an article in the Washington Post, on March 4, by two researchers of The Polis Project, who looked at the “contradictory, biased, incendiary and uncorroborated” reports in a number of media vehicles including India Today, NDTV, News 18, The…

Usually journalists try to enter politics during elections, but when a first-class, four-time Member of Parliament decides to return to journalism, it is news

When elections loom into view, journalists with an eye on the main chance, fancy a stint in politics. But in Odisha, the four-time Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MP Tathagata Sathpathy, a stand-out parliamentarian, has taken the opposite route: back to journalism. Satpathy, owner and editor of the well-regarded Odia newspaper Dharitri, and its sister English…

74 full-page advertisements in 3 English newspapers over 6 days: Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal show how media silence can be bought before an election by the square centimetre

*** Fact: government advertising is what sustains “free media” in India, and pulling back government ads is standard operating procedure. Fact: the government was the biggest advertiser in print and on television before the 2014 elections, overtaking FMCG, automotive, etc. *** Still, it takes the breath away to see the quantum of public money being…

When a military expert’s son—a patriotic, war-mongering studio warrior who is on Amit Shah’s speed dial—is ferociously shamed by a Union minister, it is a signal to journalists everywhere: beware

India Today group news director Rahul Kanwal is one of the “lucky” few in Indian journalism who gets a chance to interview BJP president Amit Shah, in public, at least once every quarter. Every few weeks, Shah dutifully appears at an India Today event where Kanwal goes full pelt at his subject with kid gloves, and, in…

“‘Fidayeen Anchors’ like Arnab Goswami did what is expected of them. It is moderate-looking journalists like Shekhar Gupta, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai who have shed their masks.”

The flame-throwing, fire-spewing, war-mongering conduct of the “commando comic channels” in the recent India-Pakistan kerfuffle has attracted near-universal criticism on both sides of the line of control—and across the seven seas. Indeed, these incursions by the TRPF (Television Rating Point Force) into the soul and sanity of the subcontinent were about the only ones not disputed by…

Hawks, hotheads and hysteria: ‘Al Jazeera’ looks at the “mad prophets of the airwaves”—India’s war-mongering TV channels and anchors

Channels calling for war. Studios populated with former generals talking military tactics. Social media messaging apps flooded with fake news and propaganda. Al Jazeera‘s excellent media programme ‘The Listening Post‘, hosted by Richard Gizbert, takes a look at the war-mongering, hate-spewing, “unjournalistic ranting” of primetime TV in India. *** Rohit Chopra, an associate professor at…

Kashmir’s small English dailies show more balance and sobriety than mainland India’s gung-ho newspapers in putting out the casualty figure in the air strikes on Pakistan

Verification is a vital function of the news media, especially when the reader-viewer-surfer is exposed to relentless propaganda via electronic and social media. India’s air strike on Pakistan on February 26 posed a test of the newspapers and television against the backdrop of opposing claims made by the two countries. As if to prove the…

Pakistani editor Beena Sarwar does the most unfashionable thing in contemporary media: sticks her neck out and spews peace

While a vast majority of Indian and Pakistani journalists become megaphones for war-mongers and hate mongrels, the admirable Pakistani journalist and editor Beena Sarwar takes the high road. #JungSeJungHai #AmanSeAmanHai Also read: TV anchors wrap themselves in tricolour, hail air strikes

How TV anchors wrapped themselves in the tricolour and proudly cheered India’s latest aerial strike in Pakistan, unmindful of its consequences

An Indian response to the February 14 terror attack in Kashmir, the deadliest in 30 years of militancy, was a dead certainty—and one which many “commando comic channels” craved for. With a difficult general election looming, Narendra Modi did not disappoint. The surgical strikes on February 26 deep inside Pakistan territory have resulted in an…