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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Indian Media – Debunking Ownership Myths

There’s a horrible email doing the rounds regarding the Indian media. As far as I can tell, it originated on an article site much like a blog, so I have no idea who first came up with it. It’s irrelevant. The important point is that it’s been picked up by all sorts of people to validate their theories on the Indian media and even I have received it as an email forward – from my mother, who’s a trusting sort of soul and tends to believe things she receives in emails.

Now this doesn’t mean that the Indian media is a pure white entity whose farts smell of roses. My point is that certain popular criticisms are false and illogical. There can be many more that are true, but the focus of this post is on the specific accusations leveled in the email.

Last month, I had asked a friend of mine in the TOI about the perceived bias in the Indian media. Apparently he too had received this email from someone who asked him whether it was true or not. So in return for a favor I did him, he’s taken the trouble to expose the myths in this email point by point.

His initial response:

Hi M, Thank you for forwarding some of the funniest shit I’ve read in a while. But this is also rather amazing in many ways; definitely an email for a researcher or two to analyse further. Comes from far right of the spectrum from what I can tell. Far right of sanity too, if you ask me.

Quite extraordinary how Indian right-wingers are gradually coming to mirror American ones. Talk radio and television in the US served to spread the ‘good word’ among the right-wing faithful there, before the internet appeared to further help ‘like-minded’ and ‘patriotic’ Americans share ‘vital truths’. Not to mention mobilize.

Interesting to see that the net jump-started this phenomenon in India. The last fifteen years have seen so many malcontents spew so much bile online that you’d think India’s largest-selling pills are Liv 52. Besides email forwards like this (and others slamming Mahatma Gandhi, uncovering the ‘Shiva temple’ in the Taj Mahal, ones questioning the Nehru-Gandhi’s paternity – and also from the other side about ‘Jewish-Hindu’ conspiracies to eliminate honest cops, the Indian Army’s ‘Hindu terror’ connections and big business corporations running the government- and the like) you need only to check the comments section of any op-ed article that touches on matters vaguely ideological.

The internet’s clearly become a giant echo chamber for hyperactive desi netizens, not to mention all manner of wackos. It allows many to slam everything from sliced bread (‘western conspiracy’) to rock music (‘the devil’s work’). The Indian media is a favourite punching bag. However, when you do consider what news television (especially Indian language news channels) is like today, you can’t fault some of that criticism though. But even more respected print and TV names are often slammed as ‘biased’, ‘liberal’, ‘anti-national’, ‘capitalist’ and ‘pseudo-secularist’ (a delightfully illogical phrase I puzzle over, and even asked its originator – L K Advani – about. Didn’t get a very convincing or nuanced reply).

Since you ask I reply to as many of these as I can – from what I know.

But some of this stuff really takes the cake

BTW, India’s rules for FDI in media are quite tight: 26% cap on FI in general news, editors and all key executives must be Indian, most of the board has to be Indian, 51% in a single Indian entity etc.

Point by Point Analysis (Comments in bold):

Who owns the media in India ?

NDTV: A very popular TV news media is funded by Gospels of Charity in Spain Supports Communism. Recently it has developed a soft corner towards Pakistan because Pakistan President has allowed only this channel to be aired in Pakistan .

Hilarious. Communism, rather famously, never ‘got along’ with Christianity, or any other religion. Churches are still ‘officially’ banned in China and North Korea. Besides, NDTV is publicly listed

Indian CEO Prannoy Roy is co-brother of Prakash Karat, General Secretary of the Communist party of India . His wife and Brinda Karat are sisters

True. But don’t see any hammers and sickles popping out of the subtext in NDTV broadcasts. Don’t see televised Politburo meetings either. NDTV is liberal, not leftist – by any yardstick. BTW, ‘co-brother’ is a phrase unique to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Probably indicates where the author of this post came from.

India Today which used to be the only national weekly which supported BJP is now bought by NDTV!! Since then the tone has changed drastically and turned into Hindu bashing.

Perhaps NDTV would love to buy the magazine, but there’s just the small problem of a significantly larger news channel, Aaj Tak, being from the India Today stable. Could Pepsi buy Coca-Cola?

CNN-IBN: This is 100 percent funded by Southern Baptist Church with its branches in all over the world with HQ in US.. The Church annually allocates $800 million for promotion of its channel. Its Indian head is Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife Sagarika Ghosh.

LOL. Seriously. $800m is a LOT OF MONEY – about Rs Rs 4000 crores. National parties (Cong, BJP) are said to spend about 600-700 crores in a general election. If he was wallowing in so much moolah Rajdeep would be be urged to float a new party right away, forget running some channel. He could then join a ruling coalition and dictate ‘pseudo-secular’ policy, rather than just comment on it on the 9 PM news.

Times group list:
Times Of India, Mid-Day, Nav-Bharth Times, Stardust, Femina, Vijay Times, Vijaya Karnataka, Times now (24- hour news channel) and many more…

Times Group is owned by Bennet & Coleman. ‘World Christian Council¢ does 80 percent of the Funding, and an Englishman and an Italian equally share balance 20 percent. The Italian Robertio Mindo is a close relative of Sonia Gandhi.

ROTFL.Rather well known that Times is a privately-held corporation owned and run by the Delhi-based Jain family. J-A-I-N, interesting Indian Christian surname, don’t you think?

Star TV: It is run by an Australian, who is supported by St. Peters Pontifical Church Melbourne.

Sure, Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most famous and powerful media baron, hails from Australia. Wonder how come Pope Rupertus IV hasn’t made a hostile takeover bid on the Vatican yet? Aussie Rules at all convent schools then, Oi, Oi

Hindustan Times: Owned by Birla Group, but hands have changed since Shobana Bhartiya took over. Presently it is working in Collaboration with Times Group.

Shobhana Bhartiya is KK Birla’s daughter. HT and TOI are fierce rivals, their circulation duels in Delhi are the media biz equivalent of India-Pak cricket matches. Amusing; shows how much this guy really knows.

Indian Express: Divided into two groups. The Indian Express and new Indian Express (southern edition) ACTS Christian Ministries have major stake in the Indian Express and latter is still with the Indian counterpart.

The Hindu: English daily, started over 125 years has been recently taken over by Joshua Society, Berne, Switzerland .. N. Ram’s wife is a Swiss national.

Wonder if this chap’s ever heard of the Prophet Moses Society, Svalbard? A society of Nordic warrior monks, furniture manufacturers and bankers, they plan to conquer the world in one final crusade – unleashing a terrifying evangelical blitz of malfunctioning mobile phones, bio-weapon bookshelves and marauding polar bears. The bears would provide for shock and awe. In any case, hasn’t this chap read the Da Vinci Code, that masterwork of historical scholarship? Who needs proxies? Jesus lives! His kids are coming to help ‘pseudo-secularists’ finally take over India…

Eeenadu: Still to date controlled by an Indian named Ramoji Rao. Ramoji Rao is connected with film industry and owns a huge studio in Andhra Pradesh.


Andhra Jyothi: The Muslim party of Hyderabad known as MIM along with a Congress Minister has purchased this Telugu daily very recently.

The Statesman: It is controlled by Communist Party of India.

Actually, you should ask a Calcuttan this and then watch him splutter and choke on his macher jhol.

Kairali TV, kerala: It is controlled by Communist party of India (Marxist)

Mathrubhoomi, Kerala paper: Leaders of Muslim League and Communist leaders have major investment.

Malayalis may choke on avial – easier to survive I think

Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle: Is owned by a Saudi Arabian Company with its chief Editor M.J. Akbar.

Akbar left two or three years ago. Owner of both is Venkatram Reddy. Last time I checked Reddy was a wealthy Andhra businessman who also owns the IPL’s Deccan Chargers. Wonder when they became the Deccan bin Bakwaas Al Saud?

Gujarat riots which took place in 2002 where Hindus were burnt alive,
Rajdeep Sardesai and Bharkha Dutt working for NDTV at that time got around 5 Million Dollars from Saudi Arabia to cover only Muslim victims, which they did very faithfully… Not a single Hindu family was interviewed or shown on TV whose near and dear ones had been burnt alive, it is reported.

Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka.com regularly gets blank cheques from Arab countries to target BJP and Hindus only, it is said.

The ownership explains the control of most of the media in India by foreigners. The result is obvious.

I can’t type anymore, I’m rolling on the floor, with some of my media colleagues. Wait, one of them is unable to get up! He…he’s frothing at the mouth, making strange noises, saying something about a deeper conspiracy…

‘Bugs in air conditioning ducts”… “churches-shmurches, naah! Media is party organ, Chairman Mao’s organ. The Chairman is well. Damn Chinese bio-tech… everywhere…(aargh)…but our Dear Leader shall return; shall lead revolution…glorious march forward (splutter). Lal Salaam Comrades…(choke)”.

Damn, he isn’t moving anymore; and his hair’s on fire.

There’s another informative response to this email over at Learning to be Terse.

How much information on the Internet sounds like th stuff above. Most of us have neither the time, nor the inclination to check the facts for ourselves. Now indeed one needs to be well informed to refute even a piece of junk. Something that most of us are not.

Hence, as a matter of policy, as far as conspiracy theories go, I like to get solid factual information from reliable sources. If not from the regular news channels, then from other areas – just like how Wikileaks has told us so many things that traditional news outlets haven’t. Even better, an informed consensus is one of the most powerful tools to make sure one isn’t being deceived. Whether it’s Climate Change or the issue of politically motivated large scale bias in the major media outlets.

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