Press Coverage of 26/11—Some Thoughts

[Warning: lost Long post]

In my series of blogposts on the Mumbai massacres of November, I have so far avoided dealing explicitly with one issue that has otherwise got a lot of attention, mostly negative, in the blogosphere and in discussion boards and online communities——the coverage of the tragic incidents provided by the Indian television media.

The most common criticisms of the Indian television media coverage of 26/11 may be summarized as follows:

1. By showing live footage of commandos going in and in focusing attention on that hotel guest one can see on the ninth floor, they compromised the security of hostages and of the entire operation.

2. The channels fell over themselves trying to get exclusives, stooping to the level of harrying already distraught victims for their “reactions”.

3. The spotlight was entirely on the Taj and the Oberoi and not on Victoria Terminus because the victims at VT were, to put it bluntly, “low class” in contrast to the glitterati and foreigners at the 5-star hotels.

4. Other important events like the death of VP Singh were ignored in the midst of the 24/7 media brouhaha.

Barkha Dutt, the primary target of public criticism, struck back with an article defending herself and her profession. This in turn led to another series of silly counter-criticisms and impassioned Barkha-baiting postings on “Can you please take Barkha off air” type Facebook communities.

Now most regular readers here at RTDM would know, that like most people, I am not really a big fan of the Indian television media. Far from it. I detest the ceaseless melodrama that NDTV, CNN-IBN and the others garnish every news item with. This includes their staple ominous background music, the hyper-emotional tremulous anchors (think Sagarika Ghosh), their obsession with “celebrities” (a discussion of 26/11 included such intellectual giants as Kunal Kohli, director of “Hum Tum” and “Fanaa” [which did handle terrorism] and Simi Garewal, a female Gandalf the White and Luke Kenny, a cast member of “Rock On”. In passing did you know that Ranbir Kapoor says that noone should live in fear?) and the overall presentation which seems to be less about reporting the news and more about selling it (This is an exclusive ! You will see this footage only on this channel !) with the hard-sell often so in-your-face that the only word I can think of in this context is “sleazy”.

Of course the only honorable exception are the vernacular news channels which with its delicious headlines like “Team India ne Kangarayoon par liya baadla, Dhoni ne dikhaya kamaal aur Veeru ne kar diya dhamaal” and “Antarjateek survey main Asia ke sabse sexy ladki hain Katrina Kaif. Peechle saal ke winner Bipasa Basu is saal doosre sthaan pe” have officially crossed the line from even quasi-serious reporting to comic surrealism and thus provides a different kind of exhilaration, a feeling akin to watching Shakti Kapoor as “Genda Singh” in Kanti Shah’s debut film “Aag ka Toofan”.

What however makes Indian media channels frequently insufferable are the personalities and the attitudes of the superstar anchors. While not cutting off people in mid-sentence or bullying guests or imposing their own opinions on others or getting in the way or repeating how these scenes are being brought live only by so-and-so-channel, these media superstars are usually found at the scene of every high-visibility news event, thrusting themselves into the center stage rather than just reporting the god-damned thing. Lest this sound like a criticism of only Indian anchors this ego-centrism has been a standard criticism of most world super-star anchors—-from legends like Dan Rather to unalloyed gasbags like Bill O’Reilly—each of these media figures have been accused of getting so caught up in their own mystique that the focus of their stories end up becoming just one thing—- themselves.

Even in this article we have some trademark Dutt touches—-like how she refers to communities critical of the media’s handling of 26/11 as “hate communities” (she seems to have little idea of what real “hate” on the Net is) and how, even while carrying the standard of the Indian media, she cannot resist getting in a word about people personally victimizing her (Im told that “hate” groups are trying to compete with “fan” communities on social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut. The Internet apparently is buzzing with vitriol and we, in the media in general, and sometimes, me in particular, are being targeted with a venom that is startling).

But once I can get beyond the “Oh here she goes again”, I do accept that she does have some basis for her argument. Not perhaps in the way she lays it out but otherwise.

Let me explain.

With respect to the accusation that the media compromised operational details, Ms. Dutt says that the press respected the security cordon and did nothing that was illegal (i.e. did not try to sneak past security). Now some people would not buy that excuse and insist that as responsible news outlets, it was contingent on NDTV, IBN and the others to voluntarily stay back, not divulge details of where hostages were hiding or when the commandos were entering the building. This is where I am prepared to cut Barkha and her ilk some slack. These people work in the competitive cable market and considering the high financial stakes involved, no channel can realistically be expected to voluntarily back off from reporting explosive events when there is no assurance that their competitors will exercise similar good judgment. And if they decide to hold back and their competitors don’t, then people are going to change channels and the channel has to answer to its advertisers and financial backers.

This is not to say that the fact that critical operational details and hostage locations were telecast is not alarming. However the responsibility for this lies at the doorstep of those dealing with the 26/11 emergency. It should have been their policy to remove all cameras and all bystanders to a range from which they would not be able observe an ongoing commando operation. Forget the press. There is a high chance that terrorists had “eyes” in the assembled crowd who were relaying to those inside what they could see from outside —these people did not need to watch an NDTV feed; they were standing just a few meters away from where the action was taking place and could themselves observe commando movements or prospective hostages/victims appearing in the windows.

All this was symptomatic of a much larger malaise for which the press should not be blamed. That being the totally unprofessional attitude of law-enforcement authorities with regard to protecting the sanctity of crime scenes. In one of the bomb blast incidents in 2008, I saw a picture of the site where a bomb had been exploded marked by a jacket that had been thrown there. That’s right. The crime scene had not been cordoned off, there was no police official. Just a jacket marking the spot, assuming no reporter or by-stander had not already shifted the jacket in their eagerness. Here too at the Taj and the Oberoi, politicians and their guests were allowed VIP access to crime scenes and after all this we still wonder why we are never able to get terrorists convicted in a court of law and why clever lawyers can always create reasonable doubt.

In response to criticism number 2 about news channels thrusting mikes in people’s faces and taking advantage of distraught people to boost their viewership, the press is on less firm ground. I am sure all of us have seen many times how intrusive and aggressive reporters can be in order to get a “reaction”. However there do exist victims who on their own accord want to come on camera and share the most intimate details of their grief. I blogged about this a long time ago:

What totally confounded me was an item a TV channel ran after 9/11. One of the unfortunate people who had been trapped inside the Twin Towers sent a voice message (which his family later got) on their answering machine in which he basically says goodbye to them.

I was intensely moved by the story——–but I also wondered why did the family give the TV channel these tapes? Werent the last words of a father and a husband something private meant for his wife and daughter ONLY? Why were his wife and daughter on TV allowing themselves to be subject to the questions of an intrusive reporter who kept on asking them “How they felt knowing that Mr so-and-so would never come back?” I understand the reporter was looking to increase the channel’s TRPs by playing on the grief of this bereavement but why was the family letting their genuine grief be made a public spectacle of ?

Sharing relieves grief. Accepted. But does it really help to do it in this very public, voyeuristic fashion?

Perhaps this is something I am unable to understand. However it is true that this very public sharing of grief is something that some people do voluntarily. Whether it is as prevalent as Ms. Dutt says it is however I am less willing to believe.

Dutt accepts the third allegation as to VT being given less attention in comparison to the five-star hotels. However I suspect that the only way to defend this would have been to say what I believe the true reason was, a reason that Ms. Dutt would not be caught dead saying— a hostage situation that is happening live is much more dramatic, much more terrifying and by extension much more eyeball-catching than an act of urban violence that had already happened, an act that resembles in its effect the bomb blasts that take place every alternate month in India which through their regularity (and inevitability) have become such a part of our national life that people don’t really care about them anymore (an apathy that is euphemistically referred to as “resilience”).

The fourth allegation regarding not giving attention to other news items is not addressed by Barkha but the logic for that is same as that above. Not enough eyeballs. Though of course in a world where social justice had been implemented, VP Singh’s death would have had 49.5% of air time.

At the heart of each justification provided by the popular media is that old chestnut. The media provides us what the market demands. The fact that the wedding of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai is bigger news than farmer’s suicides is a reflection of public taste and that the channels merely service a demand. After all, they point out that once upon a time there was the baap of all channels, Doordarshan that provides news free of all commercial considerations in a sedate, non-dramatic way and viewers ran away from it at the first choice offered to them.

While there is more than a grain of truth in this argument, what is required is balance. The principal problem with Doordarshan was not that that their news did not have background music but that it itself lacked balance being in essence a government propaganda outlet, with the channel being reduced at one point of time to a kind of visual Twitter for Rajiv Gandhi, with the evening news running down the daily engagements and speeches of the great Prime Minister. Private channels came with the promise of independent reporting and more professional presentation. This was why people moved away from DD.

But then again, somewhere down the line, and in the middle of the millions of investment dollars, the private news media themselves became unbalanced, sacrificing plain and simple common sense, basic journalistic ethics and media responsibility at the altar of the TRP devi. And its not as if the channels are extremely independent either, almost all of them have their political biases and agendas.

The sobering truth is that with increased competition, the commercialization of news (which includes sensationalism and the obscene rush for “exclusives”) is only going to get worse. If one wants to look at what the Indian media landscape will be a few years hence, then the state of the US television media as it is today serves as a fairly accurate crystal ball. The cable news revolution began in the US during the Gulf war of 1991 where CNN brought to American viewers the first “war on prime time” where an entire generation sat down to steak and potatoes and watched with rapt attention Patriots and Tomhawks raining down on the enemy. The line between news and entertainment was blurred forever and viewership of the classical news anchors like Tom Brokaw, Ted Koppell, Dan Rather were eaten into by the louder, more opinionated, shallower hosts on cable news. (One of these, a certain Geraldo Riviera, a cable media celebrity of questionable grey matter once did a Barkha during the 2nd Iraq war by drawing on the sand troop positions, in the process divulging operational plans of the US Army).

Over the years, a new paradigm of market-driven audience-targeting became the driving factor for cable news in the US, a trend that will, in all probability, be replicated in India in the coming years. For example, CNN executives have identified a niche market in Americans bitter about immigration and outsourcing and for that they have one dedicated host, a certain Lou Dobbs, whose single point agenda is to pour vitriol on India, China and Mexico onto the airwaves, every week night. Fox News is well known for being a Republican mouthpiece. But even here, different anchors target different parts of the American right political spectrum—-while Bill O’Reilly panders those right wing Americans who think of themselves as independent (which is why Bill O wears a mask of impartiality and occasionally and very mildly chides the Republicans), hosts like Sean Hannitty play upto a more rabid crowd, throwing all pretense of objectivity to the wind. A similar trend is shown by MSNBC except that they go for the liberal end of the spectrum with obnoxiously full-of-himself host Keith Olbermann (he does have a good sense of humor) pulling in the extreme liberals while gentler, kinder and far hotter Rachel Maddow brings in the more balanced.

The only saving grace for US cable news— they do not play “Maa” as background music while reporting on the murder of a child and their reporters do not address a politician who has committed bigamy in the following manner:

“Kya aap maante hain ki aap ka jo amar prem hain …yeh to aitihaseek kadam aap ne liye hain…..”


[Mercifully, there was no background music of “Is duniya main prem granth jab likha jaayega tera mere naam sabse upar aayega” or “ik taraf hain gharwali, ik taraf baharwali” during the bigamy story. But then again I did not catch this on Zee News.]

In conclusion, the sensationalism and intrusiveness that we saw on 26/11 is, to a large extent, an inevitable outcome of the “war for news” and the amount of money that rides on every minute of telecast time. Harking back to simpler days when Prannoy Ray would quietly summarize world events after an ad for Vicco Vajradanti is a futile exercise in park-bench reminiscence as those times are not coming back.

And while some outrage at the coverage dished out is inevitable and desirable, if we were indeed to compile a list of all the agencies of independent India who dropped the ball on 26/11, the television media should not be very high on that list.

104 thoughts on “Press Coverage of 26/11—Some Thoughts

  1. bhabhi frst this time

  2. well…i think DD is the best news channel these days…considering its nt driven primarily by commercial interests…and government doesnt use it as its loudspeaker as its used to in earlier days knowing no one watches it in cities….

    btw…the post was unnecessarily too long and had too much of analysis….

  3. I guess you missed “intellectual inputs” from Leander Paes, Arjun Rampal, Shefali Shah, A. Padamsse, Javed Jaffery, Farooq Sheikh – this fellow was finding faults with commando operation.

  4. GB,

    >”Simi Garewal, a female Gandalf the White ”
    R.O.F.L. She is best left to her absolutely awkward “rendevous” interviews.

    On a more serious note, I agree with you about the state of the entire Indian media. Makes me want to go back to Friday nights as a kid watching “The World this Week” with Prannoy Roy. I accept that they’re in a competitive world where the TV remote-control rules as far as live breaking news is concerned, but that doesn’t explain the way the debates and discussions are held with absolute idiocy on these channels. It pissed me off to see MN Singh being cut off in what was probably one of the more sensible comments on the show mentioned above.

  5. should be working :-) December 10, 2008 — 7:28 pm

    Actually, I was quite impressed by CNN-IBN’s coverage during the 3 days of the attack. While Prannoy Roy’s legacy to Indian news channels, a crescendo of tabla based music, did get annoying; the channel itself tried to focus on the facts as much as possible.

    In spite of the barely out of college anchors, their obvious lack of journalistic training and the repetitive cliches, the events were covered with a reporters POV an not an editors.

    The problem stems from this constant demand of new nuggets of information throughout the day. We as viewers have to realize that that simply doesn’t happen. And since it doesn’t, *sarcasm button on* the poor new anchors are forced to Shefali Chhaya what she thinks will happen to that spunky lady, the Spirit of Bombay

  6. Forgot to mention this in the previous comment, but Adi Crazy described another one of the instances of such behavior on “We the people”.

  7. BalalSangh Parivar December 10, 2008 — 7:35 pm

    BTW, anyone yet commented on Sonu Nigam’s comments on the Mumbai attacks here?
    I never expected “Pariyon ka Chod” to be so deep. Not vitriolic, not awash with Dhimmitude…… but sensible and speaking from the heart.

  8. “Harking back to simpler days when Prannoy Ray would quietly summarize world events after an ad for Vicco Vajradanti…”

    Wasn’t it scheduled just after the Knight Rider show?

  9. @BalalSangh Parivar: Indeed. I saw that Sonu interview and wow I was impressed. This man actually put some thought into what he said.

    @Anomit: I dont recall Knight Rider being on DD. It used to be on Bangladesh. There used to be Street Hawk (a Knight Rider knockoff) but that was in the afternoons, if I am not wrong.

  10. How can it be?! I can vividly recall Street Hawk being telecast on saturday night/evening. Maybe I’m wrong about the Knight Rider part. Now I think it was telecast on sunday night, and I was certainly not in Bangladesh at that time even though I was only 6 years old 🙂

    Someone please clear this up for me. Sorry for hijacking such a serious topic.

  11. World This Week was initially for many years on Friday night. (Again I may be wrong). And Street Hawk, at least for a season or two, used to be in the afternoons (1 am or so)—-the reason I say is that I could see it which meant it was not during my “study time”.

  12. Times Now had telecast the commando operations at Nariman House with extreme close-ups. That was their exclusive. What struck me was the nonchalance of the commandos outside, biding their time, firing a few shots , lobbing a grenade as the building almost came apart.

    One thing I couldn’t understand was why the commandos gave a press conference in the middle of the operations. Probably goes to show the clout the media exerts. And as you said this is just the beginning of the media circus.

    Street hawk used to be shown on sunday afternoons at 3:30 or 4 pm if I remember correctly. Later they also had an evening telecast of the same so maybe you are referring to that.
    I remember Knight Rider on fridays nights though I can’t recollect the exact timings.

  13. @ greatbong, anomit

    yes, Knight Rider was thr on DD for some time. Although young Indians in their 20s and 30s remember Street Hawk more than Knight Rider [for all the right reasons I believe].

    Greatbong, you are becoming more and more politically correct. Perhaps, you don’t want to to be seen as a sensible, logical indian or something.

    NDTV and CNN-IBN inspite of the evidence gave us a wrong picture of Gujarat elections in 2007. Secondly, Barkha dutt, along with Rajdeep has a long history of indulging in extremely suspicious secular rant [including “The world this week” guy Pranoy roy].

    Having said that while it was right to question Modi’s unwanted presence in the middle of the operation, Why is the media silent on Manmohan and Sonia Gandhi’s inability to act or at least react to threats? BTW it was Manmohan who couldn’t make it and not Advani because manmohan “had something urgent to attend to” or something.

    I mean punish everybody who works against national interest, whether it is an unwanted Modi during an operation or the suspiciously-silent sonia or the empty-promise-no-action advani or the silent-yes-madam manmohan.

  14. “Greatbong, you are becoming more and more politically correct. Perhaps, you don’t want to to be seen as a sensible, logical indian or something.”

    So sensible, logical Indians are politically incorrect? Did I miss the sarcasm?

  15. Political correctness [and not in a good sense] is exactly what you are doing- give arguments supporting both the sides or opposing both [or may be all the sides] so that nobody points a finger at you and even if someone does you can always say “see i am anti-everybody pro-nobody or whatever”.

    By being a sensible, logical indian, you call a spade a spade. Political correctness be damned. Pardon me if I didn’t put that sentence as a question. But I hope you got my point.

    I am one of your oldest readers. Take this comment as an honest criticism because I still agree on most of the points you said but not ALL. May be there is some basis in it.

  16. I agree fully with Arnab. The media is trying hard to sensationalise the terror attacks. I also feel that they are also trying to divert the attention of the viewers from the real roots of terror.

    But even the media cannot suppress people’s intelligence. Atleast one US-born South Asian, in an interview with an American media outlet, has spoken frankly about his experiences in India. I met this multi-religious young man (Yagnesh Vadgama) once about 4 years ago. Now 26, he is the son of a Zorastrian (Parsi) mother and Hindu father. In honour of his mother’s roots, he sports a Zorastrian symbol (Farvahar) as a pendant.

    In this article “Mumbai Attacks Hit Home For Young South Asian Americans”, Yagnesh Vadgama has been quoted as saying this of the terrorists:

    “No, I wasn’t surprised by the smiles on their faces and their bootlegged designer shirts. When I was backpacking through Kerala few years ago, I got to see different areas of the state, and specifically, the towns and villages that are predominately Muslim. There were streets and streets with houses flying the Pakistani flag.

    I asked these people why they were flying Pakistani flags, and they told me they felt a deeper connection with Pakistan because Pakistan represents Islam. Even though India is a secular nation founded on secular ideals, they reiterated that Pakistan represents Muslim ideals.

    So when I saw the faces of these terrorists on television, it almost brought me back to those feelings of tension amongst people in these Kerala villages who felt they were somehow being cheated by India and the government.”


    P.S: Should the first line of this post say “Lost Post” or “Long Post”, Arnab? I think this Freudian slip means that you think the media is a “Lost Cause”. Just kidding. 🙂

  17. @T,

    Pity that despite being one of my oldest readers as you say, you have never yet in all these years ever noticed that I try to be as fair as possible to everyone concerned, balance contradicting views and come to a conclusion. Again I try to be as neutral as possible (perhaps I am not always successful)–which again does not mean I dont have an opinion. Just that its not knee-jerk.

    If I didnt balance opposing viewpoints, there would be no difference between me and the media bigshots I criticize. Its a pity that balance and deliberation is called political correctness. If it is, I am proud to be PC.

    @Bengal Voice: Yes Freudian slip indeed. 🙂

  18. Why can’t you call a spade a spade Arnab? Balancing views is one thing, legitimizing the views that are not logical is another.

  19. Also, one thing that I agree with is the knee-jerk reaction to things. The indian media whether its post-poll punditry or terror attack is so shallow that comparing it with say Shourie’s investigative journalism would be like insulting Shourie’s legacy.

  20. I think the Tehelka scandal was a sort of turning point for the media. It could have taken up a new anti-corruption policy, and taken it on at varying levels. But it chose from that point to sensationalize more than anything else. The media’s gone from being an Alsation-type watchdog – grim and meaning business – to a shrill Pomeranian – it makes noise, that it knows comes to naught.

  21. “Harking back to simpler days when Prannoy Ray would quietly summarize world events after an ad for Vicco Vajradanti is a futile exercise in park-bench reminiscence as those times are not coming back.”

    Actually, there are still some channels which quietly summarize day’s events without any drama. As someone mentioned, DD news is still very much alive. There is this new channel NewsX which seems to have modeled itself more on DD news than the private news channels. Evening news on ETV Kannada is also not too bad.

  22. “if we were indeed to compile a list of all the agencies of independent India who dropped the ball on 26/11, the television media should not be very high on that list”

    I am not sure how valid that argument is. Other agencies may have dropped the ball, but that is more a sin of omission. And also, governing a vast, complicated country like India with all its problems is not easy. But all that the media had to do was to use a bit of common sense and judgment, sitting in the comfort of air-conditioned studios, step back, calm down and decide how best to present the events and they did a dismal job of it. Drama queen in her response talks about sixty hours of live coverage being impossibly difficult, trying circumstances, etc. as if she had to go there and fight the terrorists or save the hostages. What trying circumstances? Who asked you to do sixty hours of live coverage? All you had to do was to cut the coverage. Get the hell out of that place. What is so “impossibly difficult” about it?

    The defense of “if we hadn’t done it, someone else would have” doesn’t stand. If you don’t believe it is the right thing, don’t do it. Once you do it, be ready to be criticised for it.

  23. Perhaps the kind of media we have is a result of too much too fast. We moved from one state-run channel to a plethora of news channels very very fast. This mushrooming effect is bound to lead to a period of immaturity and polarized, sensationalized channels. But this very fact will invite the entry of a channel that is perhaps more considered and ‘balanced’. The sensational channels will remain but maybe not all of them. The market will pretty soon have the entire spectrum from DD which is all truth and no news to Zee which is all fun and games.

    I have no problems with channels doing whatever they feel like. The viewer can then have the option to watch different sources and make up his/her mind. Isn’t that how the internet works?

  24. T,
    A spade is a spade. (Happy ? 🙂 )

    But, there are other cards in the pack.

    You forcing greatbong to subscribe to a view, is very akin to what CNN-IBN does – they forced BJP to make a political statement out of terror, even when it was not willing, they forced BJP to accept that it was their HUGE defeat, even when careful analysis shows it is not.

    Not every argument needs to end with a winner. Not everything needs to be either black or white. Either/Or.

    And also, when there is large information, huge complexity, varied and largely opinionated pre-conceived judgement, we can easily filter out things to our favour. [I know this statement does not make much sense, but just hover over it in free time. I may be wrong, but just give a thought!]. And thats where we loose objectivity and rationality.[I wont be able to defend this para, if you get into argument!!]

    And to quote Feynmann, not everything needs to have a reason or a solution.


  25. I was wondering why you haven’t yet come out with a post on this.

    “Though of course in a world where social justice had been implemented, VP Singh’s death would have had 49.5% of air time.” – ROTFL

    And may be its time you graduated to India TV from Zee News – you get the more jazzy lines and unbelievable stories there 🙂 [Ye kya hai Yuvraj Singh ki kalaai pe? Kya yehi laal dhaagha inko shatak pe shatak dila raha hai?] – just one of the many masterpieces.

  26. Great post.

    No mention of the rumor mongering which Rajdeep engaged in without checking facts about fresh attacks on CST.

    When India crashed out of the world cup, news channels were covering how frustrated Indians were in the back drop of mob violence. Looking at the way the news reporter covering it live was dressed & prepared for the incident, I suspect it was stage managed.

    Next thing you know, News channels creating a terror attack.

  27. Is it to late to petition for a swap to soothe the diplomatic tensions between India and Pakistan…..something along the lines of:

    Chand Nawab of Indus News for Bark-HaDutt?

  28. am i glad i stopped watching TV seven years back!

  29. I don’t know if you noticed but DURING the coverage and immediately after the end of 60 hours… the ‘greatness’ of Barkha Dutt was being shown on NDTV… there was an ad showing her from the war ships… then Kashmir and what not…


  30. @Ramesh

    Maybe right now we have some choice but as GB as pointed out, we are moving more and more towards the US media model. So the choice of various sources (profusion of channels) is only an illusion if those sources are controlled by a few corporations (Murdoch owns Star, Network18 along with Viacom owns a slew of others etc).

    But I guess we still have lots of independent sources due to the diversity of cultures(even this is set to change – and also because we are still at the early stages.
    I hope reports such as these are seriously considered ( and media ownership by corporations is monitored strictly by unbiased watchdogs (like the FAIR in the US).

    News channels will continue to be biased somewhat and sensationalize stuff. But atleast we’ll rest assured that vested political and economic interests are not served. Opinion-making pundits (they explain the news to us mortals) are yet to arrive here in a big way. But there are tell-tale signs. As Sanjana pointed out earlier, commentary – sensible or not – will be cut short on air due to the ‘need for concision’. For now, we need to protect the 26% ownership clause for print and broadcasting in India. The Broadcast bill and Content Code with all its flaws is a step in the right direction (specifically Section 12). Here’s the draft – This is Bill is now languishing –

    For those who are interested :
    2). consent
    3). Rolls in his Grave.avi (save link as)

  31. Priceless Gem GB.

    OF course ‘Simi Garewal, a female Gandalf’ is classic & brilliant GB stuff

    Great post BTW

  32. I happened to be in India during that week & was watching all the channels. Barkha is the most irritating of the lot. Wasn’t Barkha the inspiration behind the Preity Zinta character in Lakshya? The other irritating things were, in no particular order:
    – Catchphrases & trailers on each channel (Enough Is Enough, India’s 9/11, War On Mumbai, martial music etc.)
    – Visuals looping on (I can’t tell you how many times I saw pictures of the rappelling commando on Nariman House)
    – Incoherent anchors (one of them called Taj Palace hotel a striking piece of monument, another explained that Taj had a sepcial place in Bombay’s heart because all foregners went there)
    – Reporters giving total macho vibes (one of the women had a helmet on & in the ‘trailer’ is seen ducking, a la Nick Nolte in ‘Under Fire’)

    I should have noted down the names of the channels, but I was too busy cursing & tap tapping on the remote. INX News (Peter Mukerjea’s outfit) was one of the more restrained ones.

  33. @ anomit

    While you ar there, do you remember the name of the German spy serial on saturday nights prime time during first half of 1993: It had a title track called “Hearts of Stone”…?

  34. There are some open hypocrisies and double standards in our society that we have come to tolerate and accept.
    We might know the truth behind why NDTV, CNN-IBN, FOX etc might be airing certain views and opinions and why they show a certain incident in a particular manner.
    And even these channels know this truth. But they will conveniently hide behind their self-created maxim -“The viewer is the king”. They will claim they show what people want to see and its not their business to do so otherwise. If they do not do it someone else will.

    Take the case of Cigarette companies. Take the case of junk food companies. Do they not know the truth – that their products harm the health of those who consume their products ?
    Does the Govt not know this ? Do we not know this ?

    So why are the Cigarette companies being allowed to operate still? Why are more and more junk food companies being allowed to open up or expand?

    Bcos they choose the same argument – “The customer is king” . We only give what the customers want to consume. Its not our business to do so otherwise. If we do not do this, someone else will.

    So the point of my argument is that the Media is gonna be least bit affected by our criticisms. And we ppl form a minority, atleast i think so. I think most of the ppl out there want to see some kind of dramatisation of events. They want to experience some sort of thrill. So the media will continue to have this audience and continue to mint its money, even though they know what they are indulging in is quite blase`. The only way they will change is if they have some altruistic self-realization. And thats not gonna happen. If that was the case, the Cigarette companies would have shut down decades back.

    So mebbe we cannot force the Media to change, but hopefully we can force NDTV to change the irritating and the artificially empathising Ms. Barkha Dutt. The same for Ms. Sagarika Ghose. Will spare my comments for India TV. I get my weekly dose of entertainment by watching them for just 5min.

  35. @Laborer
    I think the German detective serial was called ‘Derrick’.

    But seriously, why is our love for old DD serials hijacking a serious discussion like this.

  36. The “inevitable outcome of the “war for news” and the amount of money that rides on every minute of telecast time” cannot be the “basis” of an “argument” that seeks to justify (or in the least defend)”sensationalism and intrusiveness that we saw on 26/11″.
    There are many moments of truth and acceptability in your arguments (as well as Barkha’s) but the premise that “media provides us what the market demands” is IMHO indefensible. The market demands are also born of the kind of journalism provided by the private news channels.
    I accept that the media houses are not the most culpable agency of mismangement – but their stance and more so their defence is not sound. Also you tend to begin your articles with a tone of ‘disagreeing with popular opinion’ and yet go on to make some arguments in favor of it. I think a truly “fair” and “impartial” analysis must begin with an impartial tone.

  37. @Rahul Khare

    Apologies for the hijacking part. Personal reasons for trying to get that audio track for a long time, but had exhausted local options. anomit seemed knowlegdeable but didn’t leave his contact outside of this forum……

    Also don’t you find this discussion one sided…all of us on the same side? We all agree where the anchors should shove up there own mikes, but God, can we do anything about it
    …thanks & sorry all the same

  38. “These people work in the competitive cable market and considering the high financial stakes involved, no channel can realistically be expected to voluntarily back off from reporting explosive events when there is no assurance that their competitors will exercise similar good judgment.”

    That’s a very lame excuse (if there was one)

  39. As all focus on Rajdeep and Barkha , Arnab seems to have been allowed to go scot free in terms of criticism. For me the complete low light during the the whole coverage was Arnab beating his desk and screaming “how can they stop news channels broadcasts in Mumbai now” , the agitation in him was so inappropriate for a news anchor in a studio show.
    Coming to the point raised regarding advertisement on Barkha Dutt on NDTV , lets face facts , news channels in India are based on celebrity journalists. CNN IBN started as a Rajdeep channel , NDTV managed to hold its viewers for Prannoy Roy , India TV started in the names of Rajat Kapoor and Tarun Tejpal and i wonder where is Mr Bajaj aka RKB of Sahara News !!! So if NDTV is promoting Barkha Dutt , I dont think there is anything wrong in that.
    Regarding the lack of airtime to CST , I do not find anything wrong with that in the sense that given the choice between a live war situation and a closed battle , footage was given to the live battle. And i do not think it was done because Taj / Oberoi were high class targets. The next day when there were rumours of firing in CST , all news channels did reach CST within minutes. News Channels were looking for “live” situations and CST did not fit there !!! Class of people has very little to do with footage received. or else we would not have Prince being rescued as primetime news.
    And again , just as news channels resort to the argument that they broadcast what the publics wants , I strongly believe that indeed the choice aka remote lies in our hand. For eg. throughout the coverage , when i wanted the real situation , i would flip to NDTV / Times Now and when i was bored , i flipped to India Tv / News 24 / Zee News and Star News. If news channels are blaming us , maybe we should use our better judgement and our remotes in a better manner.

  40. Missed 2 points :

    Had really loved the “Rupaali bani Rudaali” episode in the movie Mumbai Meri Jaan. While watching the film had hoped that it would hit a few journalists in their solar plexus. But no lessons seem to have been learnt when it comes to invasion of privacy with microphones of grieving people.

    Also , as a professional (though nothing remotely to do with media) , really liked it when Prannoy Roy told Sreenivasan Jain at the end of one the shows ” Vaasu , i know you have had a long day … go home and rest”. Aah , would kill for bosses like that !!!

  41. @GB, while agree with everything else in your post except two points. First, the TV channels should start behaving themselves, instead of just depending on the perimeter laid down by the people in the govt security handling such situations. While the latter have to be more strict, blaming the TRP for such cavalier attitude is pathetic. When the I&B ministry tried to muzzle down the press, there was such a hue and cry about self policing from the media people. Like politicians, they conveniently forget such guidelines when something big happens. Point two, while Rachel Maddow is arguably hot, her cackle is equivalent to the smirk of Keith of Oblermann. I can stand neither.

  42. Prasun,

    I was tired of hearing the reporters repeat ad nauseum, How the Taj was a symbol of Mumbai and how the Mumbaikars’ heart bled when they saw the dome of the Taj on fire.

    No one denies that the coverage during the Mumbai incident was because of the live action happening there.

    But how many times do you recollect the TV Journos talking abt the CST massacre, even when they were just recollecting the entire incident or even post the incident, when they were busy shoving mikes into people’e faces ?

    All the discussion even post the incident revolved only around the two hotels. Most of the people called on the Talk Shows were the sort who frequent these hotels and not the local trains.

    So when you hear the reporter ask Ranbir Kapoor – Will you go to that hotel again?, thats when your heart bleeds bcos you are forced to wonder what abt the people who are still going to CST everyday, even now, probably even after one of their relatives might have been killed there.

  43. Good one GB.

    1. Does “Genda” in Genda Singh refer to a marigold or a rhino?

    2. Poetic justice for VP Singh. This bastard plaid a pivotal role in the rise of quota raj with all its attendant ills, and now not just content with devouring the public sector it wants to do the same with the private sector. His death was hardly covered. In fact I would bet that even those who benefited from his divisive policies knew that he died. I hope he did not have a painless ending. I like the title of this article, “V.P. Singh: An Enigma or Enema?”, and in my opinion he is the by product of an enema. “Though of course in a world where social justice had been implemented, VP Singh’s death would have had 49.5% of air time.” — ROTFLMAO

    3. I don’t blame the media for dumbing down the news. The private media exists to serve the consumer (the govt media exists to the serve the govt) and if the consumer would rather hear that “Comissioner ka kutta kho gaya” than the latest terror attacks, why they were allowed to happen and what is being done to prevent them, then neither would the TV channels. As is said “Yatha Praja, Tatha Raja”. The media is just a reflection of the people and the people are ugly. If you care about a particular media item being unfair, wrong then complain to the broadcaster but more importantly put pressure on the advertisers. When the money flow slows down, then the media will listen. That said Prannoy Roy had a gravitas and knowledge that the current anchors don’t have.

    4. @Laborer — Check out “Hearts of Stone” by Domain. Youtube is here However this is not the full song 😦 The name of the serial was “Der Bastard” but I think it was bowdlerized for DD. It was pretty interesting.

    5. Street Hawk was way cooler than Knight Rider. A Pontiac Trans Am??!!?? Couldn’t they get a Corvette at the very least??

  44. While most Indian and US news channels are disappointing, I’ve come to like Al Jazeera English which feels like it is run by adults. It is ironical that a news channel headquartered in the Middle East is the best English news channel out there.
    You can see opinions being expressed there which you’ll never get to see on any US or Indian channel. The default line of thought of the US channels is that India’s pointing out Pakistan’s involvement in the terror attacks is just a knee-jerk reaction. At the opposite end are the Indian news channels which seem to imply that Pakistan sponsored these attacks. I saw a discussion on Al Jazeera which seemed to me saner than any discussion on Indian news channels:

  45. There was a recent episode on discovery about the IC-814 hijacking in which Jasvant Singh claimed that the Government and he diplomats etc had several things in mind such as:

    1. At Chandigarh airport, the refuelling vans had guns to puncture tires of he plane and hence delay the take-off of he plane

    2. The plane that Jasvant Singh took to Kandahar had hidden commandos, and there was a plan to use it if there was a chance .

    The point made by him then, was that due to a huge media outcry and an overwhelming public pressure, India gave up Maulana Masood Azhar, which according to him, could have been avoided.

    I think that while Barkha Dutt and the great journalists have their arguments correct, a few things that might not be very right:

    1. There was obviously a flaw in the security cordon, due to which journalists could go to any length to get bites, but it might be a good idea for journalists to honor a cordon, especially in the 60 hours for which the siege was still active. An event which took the country’s security by total surprise, the last thing they would want to pay attention to was to cordon off the media

    2. I sincerely hope that ‘Rupaali Bani Rudaali'(as in film Mumbai Meri Jaan) kind of specials don’t make their way onto the small screen

    3. There was a hostage who had called up on Barkha Dutt’s programme, and who claimed that he was entirely satisfied by the Government’s reaction. The idea as always is, that if you are at the helm of affairs in an emergency, you sometimes just have to make a call, assess the risks, and just take the best chance you have.

    4. I found something interesting with respect to media coverage, though it might be due to the fact that I could not follow the whole episode completely on television. Why did NDTV or other channels not go after Raj Thackerey as they did after Ram Gopal Varma and Vilasrao Deshmukh. I personally thought, that the Shiv Sena’s total absense/inactivity in the episode was much greater news for the Mumbaikar, than the RGV episode ( which was not small by any means though). You sometimes see a bias in the media and I am not sure of why you see it.

  46. People get emotional when a carnage is happening to places which you call as your “own”. So irrational reporting is expected in such times, even from seasoned reporters. Even the stiff upper lip BBC started calling the London bombers terrorists when the bombing were happening in London (BBC has policy no to use the word “Terrorist”), they conveniently call the Mumbai attackers as “Gunmen”. I think the Indian Media and Indian Police despite all their flaws are unfairly treated, they are no better or worse than any other institution in India including Army and Judiciary.

  47. @Harshit,

    Just a minor factual thing, it was the Amritsar airport and not the Chandigarh airport….

  48. We need India’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

    Some people blame media for airing same images and stories again and again……Dude it is 24 hours news channel, you have a remote control in your hand.

    TV channels should have not shown slain police men with cotton in their nose and being given last rites. I thought it was insensitive.

    Please give credit to the media for bringing the general outrage of the whole episode. Home ministers, chief ministers etc. are sacked because of media.

  49. GB, I think this was a very balanced view from you.

    The channels have much to answer for. Their conduct and the complete lack of self regulation, for whatever reason, has been appalling. Almost every channel had ‘breaking news’ and exclusive – visuals / interviews / information throughout. Just not done.

    Part of it can be loaded on the young reporters but what about the seniors. B was there throughout. She surely has a nose for stories. Kargil made her and Mumbai might just break her. Most of you have already documented her antics and we need not go over them once again. This is not to say that CNN-IBN and Times Now were any better.

    Forgetting CST while the coverage was on was also understandable. There is live action unfolding. CST thread can be picked up later on. In any case for the entire media fraternity – print and TV – Sabina Saikia trapped in Taj was a much more tragic news item than a Muslim daily wage earner who lost 6 of his family members at CST (all adult males). I have nothing against Sabina, may God rest her soul. In the above comment you can replace Sabina’s name with any name from Taj / Oberoi. A rich man suffering a poor man’s fate is far more…. hmmm.. can’t get the word.

    The so called south Bombay celebrities were very interI was surprised not one of them said that they will go out and vote. Last Lok Sabha election South Bombay had 44% voting and Milind Deora (sitting MP) got half of them (source: election commission website).

    Having said a lot against the media one has to admit we are better off because of them. This sense of outrage, anger and desire for action would not have been possible if these visuals were not beamed live for 60 hours. Today Parliament debated the issue of terror. After a very very long time our parliament actually sat down and debated an issue. There were no interruptions, storming the well, walkouts, etc. I heard LK Advani say that on this issue the opposition and ruling parties stand united. With the kind of time our parliamentarians have wasted walking out and stalling this year this was no small achievement. This would not be possible if we just had DD and The World This Week.

    TV Media needs to learn but they certainly do not deserve to be hauled over the coals – first. There are many people still shamelessly occupying seats they should have left long ago. Take aim, elsewhere.

  50. Interesting insight

  51. Hi Greatbong,
    The newspapers aren’t doing any better either. On 30th Nov, the headline of the ‘serious’ newspaper read: Quantum of Solace.
    very smart journo and but sorry very heartless too.

  52. “Apart from ignoring other “important events” like VP Singh’s death.”

    How many bothered to report on hurricane Nisha in Tamil Nadu?? Not even one… was it really so unimportant to only merit a one liner in those flashes at the bottom??(sorry I don’t know what they are called!!)

    IMHO that was definitely worth more media time than VP Singh’s death

  53. @AlphaQ very good points U have made..

  54. Great Post Arnab, infact I just signed Vishal Dadlani’s online petition ( to take the media to court( or rather restrict them) on the same matters.

    I noted that you take on Barkha heavily.Would like your view on ur namesake in Times Now..a very emotional guy I feel, and do u NEVER watch the great Headlines Today or do u feel they are unworthy of a mention?! 🙂

  55. @Wall…GB shares his name with tht guy…hence survives the sarcastic sword…

  56. I think, topping the list for providing “entertaining news”, is “India TV”. While the entrie world was looking into the Mumbai Maassacre, India TV surely found out some time to figure out reason for Salman Khan’s bad mood, and indifference towards his girl friend Katrina Kaif. And who can forget the “oye lucky lucky oye” back ground song depicting the lucky escapes of virendra Sehwag, in the last ODI. And also, the “Baaz bahadur” episode, where the eagel had transmitters attached to its claws. Hats off!!!

  57. very balanced and good post. I do think Indian media was more concerned about eyeballs and there commercial interest rather than the news per say but there is no point in blaming them. i don’t understand why police allowed them so near to place of operation even correspondent on BBC was wondering about this thing. in short everybody made mess of the situation and there should be guidelines and self enforced code of conduct for media in dealing with these kind of situations.

  58. About the only silver lining is that this is kind of a free for all, “Wild West” phase in Indian cable news. Eventually there’ll be a shakeout, some channels will go out of business, the rest will mature & find their niches, & eventually some Jon Stewart-type comedian will begin to poke fun at them & show them for the attention-junkies they are. Instead of evolving in response to criticism, they will first feign outrage & then jump on the comedy-news bandwagon, a la CNN & DL Hughley.

    And there will always be an extra dose of masala melodrama, because face it, we Indians love our melodrama.

  59. Well I have to differ with some earlier comment that the blog was not balanced. I think it was commendable dissection of the cause and effect with the existing media.

    I feel my sister some what nailed it when we were watching live. She felt Barkha overdoes the whole senationalism, jingoism and excitement on ground zero because it doesn’t come naturally to her. There was other female reporter Sherlyn Chopra on NDTV profit which is a business channel. She was more so in the line of fire but kept her poise and did not overdo it.

    I probably can write a book about the media. It is something that has troubled me every since government has raised the foreign investment cap.

  60. I anyway was not interested in watching the Mandal Man’s journey to Hell.

  61. Don Ayan de Marco December 11, 2008 — 4:39 pm

    Barkha Dutt is indeed hit by recession. Every other day she wears that faded red kurti of hers.

    Sorry guys for writing this but i do not like her and everything she does doesn’t seem right to me.

    Long ago SRK made a super flop called Phir bhi dil hai hindustani. What we are seeing today is his prophecy. Looking forward to RGV’s Rann.

  62. Comrades!! Just when we thought we knew the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, The CPM comes up with this gem

    So Kasab was just angry about the nuc deal!! If only we knew!

  63. Reading this makes me go back one of the more unmemorable Bond movies but with the rather more interesting premise of the media mogul wanting to own the world by the news he creates. Anyone remember “Tomorrow never dies”?

    To be honest, I think the Indian media is not any worse than the media here in the US. In fact I’d put the Indian channels a notch higher than their US counterparts simply because they are more world-aware than the oh-my-god-a-cat-got-stuck-in-a-tree news mentality here. However, some subtlety is always welcome in the high decibel (never mind stakes) game.

    Rajdeep Sardesai for me was by the far the best of the lot when he hosted the “Big Fight” and was under the tutelage of Prannoy Roy. It was fun watching him wear down Narendra Modi once, haven’t seen too many people do that. However, things have gone a little downhill since he hooked up with CNN.

  64. Rajdeep sardesai’s “wearing down” Narendra Modi helped Modi win the election.

    Modi’s campaign used those interviews in election campaigning.
    Sardesai was hopeless.

  65. …And if they decide to hold back and their competitors don’t, then people …. ” – not a good enough reason (morally).

    V.P. Singh not getting enough attention – I hate that guy… he didnt deserve any attention.

  66. @ Sanjana

    I read Adi Crazy and her take on that particular episode. I remember watching that episode of “WTPeople” as well. There is a bit of history which Adi Crazy had not mentioned. Don’t know if it is THE reason for Barkha’s anti-blogger stand on that episode, but the timing suggests it might just be. It is certainly not idiotic. Berkha takes airtime on NDTV very seriously. It is her personal fiefdom; a place to propagate her biases and take revenge.

    There used to be a blog “War For News”. I understand it is out of circulation now (if some one can access the archives please share the link). This was the equivalent of a sailors pub for the TV News fraternity. It was a free for all where foul language, unverified allegations, steamy gossip, inside information on channels, insinuations, etc. were bandied about. It was clear that the regulars were taking out professional frustrations as anonymous contributors. It was fun to read if you were not the target. There was no moderation.

    Most top media figures were hot targets, but Berkha being Berkha figured in the top 2-3. Hitting below the belt was frequent.

    Sometime after the blogger was busted (i think) and the blog closed down Berkha hosted this show. The particular slant taken in that discussion on the show was greatly inspired by the type of contents found on this blog.

    My guess. I may be wrong as well.

  67. sorry about unverified allegations.. i guess allegations will be unverified.

    please read it “…. where foul language, allegations, steamy gossip, inside information …. “

  68. deskjockey – “To be honest, I think the Indian media is not any worse than the media here in the US. In fact I’d put the Indian channels a notch higher than their US counterparts simply because they are more world-aware than the oh-my-god-a-cat-got-stuck-in-a-tree news mentality here.”

    Seriously? Print & electronic media in the US is waaaay inferior to India. I say this after spending almost 2 weeks in close contact with Indian media. Show me programs like Meet The Press, SNL, Colbert Report, Daily Show, 60 Minutes etc. on Indian channels.

  69. And after Modi won the election i also watched Rajdeep Sardesai interviewing Modi one-on-one in Gujarat …. And no guesses for who was ‘weared down’ then ….

    Sardesai cut such an apologetic figure in that interview.

  70. @Ravi,
    Her name is Shaili Chopra and she did a very admirable job. She was there in front of Taj right from the first evening of attacks. Once, the camera was focusing on her and Shivraj Thukral and a bomb went off in the vicinity. One could see the unvarnished look of fear on either of them. Still, they continued giving updates without being shrill or over dramatic. Those two guys were pushed to the background the next day, when Disaster Dutt started her histrionics. Shaili Chopra and Shivraj Thukral and people like them are the real reporters on that terrible day.

  71. Pankaj Roy: “Seriously? Print & electronic media in the US is waaaay inferior to India. I say this after spending almost 2 weeks in close contact with Indian media. Show me programs like Meet The Press, SNL, Colbert Report, Daily Show, 60 Minutes etc. on Indian channels.”

    I agree that there are some stellar programs here that have become institutions. And there are a zillion more turkeys for every good one. However, I gauge the effectiveness of news channels here from how educated in world affairs it makes the average person. Even though it perhaps isn’t so much the case today with the Indian news channels, there is a reason why you and I (or even average joe who hasn’t been outside India) can discuss and debate most world affairs whereas locals here have difficulty naming the capital of their own state (ok thats an exaggeration). Even though the decibel/hyperbole attack can use a dollop of subtlety, you can’t deny the reach they still command than the news channels here.

  72. “no channel can realistically be expected to voluntarily back off from reporting explosive events when there is no assurance that their competitors will exercise similar good judgment.”

    not even when lives are at stake? call me naive, but i fail to understand how this can be a ‘realistic’ assumption.

  73. i don’t want to curb any on-going debates but please bear in mind why this whole discussion started. i don’t want us to forget the ghastly terror attacks and their impact in our zeal to lambast the indian media.
    just read an article today on ndtv site talks abt the suffering family of one of the waiters who passed away in the shoot out at leopold cafe.
    my question is how can we help? do we know if this family will get any decent compensation from the govt.? or should we as individuals shoulder some responsibility and try to re-habilitate this family.
    if you have time pl read the story under the heading ” Family loses breadwinner in 26/11 attacks ” on ndtv site.thks for your patience…

  74. @spark : I believe that the term used by BBC was ‘practitioners’ not gun men. Although I fail to understand why people who were murdering innocents in the streets of Mumbai were anything other than terrorists. Has nothing to do with the killing of one’s own as you put it.

  75. 1) I like Barkha Dutt. She’s human after all and will make mistakes from time to time. Lets not forget about her absolutely brilliant coverage of the Kargil war in ’99. Yes, we the people is a bit mushy-mushy and unbearably emotional at times, but its still words of the people. Atleast in India, the people can raise their dissent unlike in so many other countries.

    2) Times Now is by far the best English news channel there is in India today. They have a set leader in Arnab Goswami and brilliant supports in Mahrukh, Rahul and others. Their in-house analysts are also the best in the business. Maroof raza, nikunj garg etc etc

    3) Lets not forget that the indian news media is still in its infancy. Soon enough the weed will get thrown out, and accuracy will preside over competitiveness.

    4) Also on a side note, i believe that UTVi is the best business channel. Yes, CNBC has some absolutely bombshell hot woman anchors but Utv helps people make money and that’s what counts.

  76. ROTFLMAO @ “Simi Garewaal, female Gandalf The White” & the Zee News bit …. insanely caustic writing!

    Now onto the media’s coverage. I concur with you completely. Barkha sure knows how to mouth off an argument and defend the media, but she has become so integral/ingrained a part of the same tasteless industry that she defends. And so she has lost objectivity and the ability to take criticism constructively.

    I don’t condone some of the vitriolic hate comments across the cyber-world targeting Indian Media, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Arnab Goswami among others. However, this cannot be cited as an excuse by the likes of Barkha to ignore the many sane cynical voices (including yours), who base their criticism of the media on neutral observations and objective assessment.

    Again your assessment that the media’s sensationalist machinations is a result of the aggressive commercialization of news is indeed correct. And perhaps, as you said, it is inevitable given financial and TRP considerations. Also, the idea that a sensationalist media serves over-the-top news to serve the needs of a sensationalist audience, may also have some truth in it. This, however, is still not an excuse to indulge in petty one-upmanship in the media. One wishes, despite all this, that the media return to its true purpose – reporting events in a fair and neutral manner.

    I myself have written a blog-post in this regard. Link:

    [I would be pleased to hear your and other people’s thoughts on it]

  77. The job descriptions of most Tv journalists today in this country seems to be to make the news as sensational as possible. During the attacks, a desire to get a better idea of things led me to the internet. where i found more information than our CNN-IBN, headlines, x news, NDTV etc were dishing out. The limited approach that our news channels have is disheartening.
    In sharp contrast, the moment you switch to CNN, or BBC(the only 2 international channels i get) They are so much more calm, composed, and present news as news, not like a school child viewing his/her first EVENT!

    Like the author pointed out, the media is merely doing what a majority of our countrymen want. To the authors statement of the better days for television media not coming back, i think it can, provided this generation recognizes the flaws for flaws and decided to change it.

  78. @Nikhil,
    To watch an insane CNN u shud have seen their US Elections coverage where they went to the extremes on Why Obama smiled a particular smile at some particular moment in the debate, how McCain’s smirk would have cost him 2 Blue Collar workers’ votes in Missisippi, why Hillary wears purple pant suits and how Palin’s hunk husband is a winner of Snow Boarding etc.

    To watch a BBC go insane watch what happens when Prince Harry or William breaks up with his girl friend or goes and buys a new pair of undies on Oxford Street..

    The point being, every media has some touch points on which they go out of control. Of course Indians dying is not an exciting issue for CNN’s reporters as Palin’s Open-Toe heels or Hooker style boots.

  79. Arnab and everyone… here’s our fav author again.

    As usual it is RSS, BJP, Narenda Modi, Kashmiri Pandits fault. How could we miss such a simple logic? I can never understand. She is a genius. I think we should make her the Home Minister and External Affairs Minister.

  80. @ Shashank

    At least post a link that works before you go round character assassinating someone, you dolt.

  81. Hara hara bom bom December 13, 2008 — 1:20 pm

    Just copy paste the link in to the address bar, mate, & you’ll get through. Its certainly no big deal.

    Thanks for the article. You see, unless we unite as a country and manage to form a strong central government, we will have to swallow insults from female clowns like A.Roy. However, setting aside her unashamed Hindu-hating India-hating frenzied Bagala-rupa (!!), she does have some points on the rights of the tribals and dispossessed.

    But I agree that she’s a fifth columnist.

  82. It has been a while since I last visited your blog. Needless to say that its good. Amused to know that you have a pen name ‘GB’. Do tell me what it stands for. I don’t know many people who have the B**** to criticize Barkha Dutt. Was an interesting read.

  83. Agree with most of the points discussed in the post.

    The only thing that disheartens me is the fact that perhaps we lack even a single channel which provides ‘NEWS’. It is absolutely depressing and irritating at times. Still remember that “Prince” story. It seemed as if the only thing happening in the country at that time was the rescue operation of the price..

    Hope to see some change.. !

  84. @Animall or Animal whatever…
    GB is widely recognised as India’s best blogger. GB stands for GreatBong (doesn’t need an Einstein to figure that out from the blog’s URL itself, does it?).
    May be inhabitants of the ‘Animall’ – world are not aware of it.

    @ GB:
    Sorry just couldn’t resist the temptation.

  85. I’ve got an exam tomorrow. Yet, right since today morning i’ve seen this photograph so many many times. It grips you.$pid=1218093981287

    1) I’m sure most of you must have seen this pic. Yet, just stare at it for 10 mins and you’ll see.

    This is what we’re fighting for. The wide grin on his face just hits you right?

    2) My dad was an Indian Navy officer for 21 years(retd as a captain). Which is why i feel so much closer to this guy.

    3) He has more than a couple of Strings videos in his videos section. Never seen such cruel irony in my life.

    Everybody. Just look at him for a while. For the first time in a long long time, he makes me feel proud of being an Indian. Really. No emotions here. Just plain truth.

  86. Apparently, the above link doesn’t load coz of “privacy settings”. Anyway, plz do find time to goto S Unnikrishnan’s orkut profile and see up the pic where he’s sitting on a rock with a white tee and jeans and his legs outstretched.

  87. If everything can be justified just because two players are in competition or because viewers like it, then why not show porn on TV or do away with anti trust laws ? And to blame the lack of police supervision to prevent journalists from shooting, it a sort of ridiculous argument. From when did media censorship become police duty ? Clearly, notions of self regulation are unheard of !!! The only reason press gets so much freedom under the garb of ‘freedom of speech’ guaranteed under the constitution, it cannot be extended to trivial news items. If media self regulation is not working, time to come up with concrete rules and laws to stop them from taking advantage of the privilged position they have.

    P.S. Your lack of reasoning disappointed me. I think you should restrict your writings to movie reviews. 🙂

  88. “And to blame the lack of police supervision to prevent journalists from shooting, it a sort of ridiculous argument. From when did media censorship become police duty ? Clearly, notions of self regulation are unheard of !!!”

    Protecting the sanctity of a crime scene and preventing a crime scene from being photographed *while the crime is in progress* isnt “media censorship” O Anonymous before me, it is part and parcel of SOP for law enforcement officials around the world.

    “Media self regulation” is only a word for curbing press control–like the self regulation of not subjecting politicians to sting operations.

    And when do “regulations” start becoming impingements on freedom? For instance, I might think that there should be concrete rules and laws to stop dumb people from reproducing. If there was one, for instance, we would not have commentors like you ! 🙂

  89. i guess i did utter too much law for you. And you clearly dont know how to make respectful arguments. 🙂 I could not get head or tail of ur arguments and saw no logic on it. and then, as predictable as it would be, your comment will be that “oh yeah, if dumb people understood my oh-so-superior comments, then they wouldn’t be dumb”. 😉 what do you do, mister in real life other than talking shit. 🙂 One of those those frustrated pricks whose batchmates and juniors have got promotions over you ?

  90. The fact that you couldnt get neither head nor tail of what I said is because your head is so far up your ass that it disorients you. As to you being respectful, I saw how respectful you were to the blogger whose blogspace you are writing in.

  91. Ramesh Srivats, who I noticed had commented earlier here, has this exaspereted take on Indian TV coverage during the attacks –

    Well worth reading.

  92. Barkha did a short telephonic with Shantanu Saika, the husband of Sabeena Saika from TOI who was (then) missing (later declared dead)… it was a live thing and Shantanu broke down on the phone as she said, “Shantanu, what are you telling your kids, at the moment? Its been 36 hrs and Sabeena is still missing.” I thought, at least now, Shantanu would say, “I dont want to talk to you…” and bang the phone. Instead, after a few muffled sobs, he said, “I am just giving them strength… not telling them anything at the moment…sob sob..” And Barkha went on, “Shantanu, have we upset you? We’ll give you time… you can pour your heart out…we’re praying” etc.

    You’re right when you say that people themselves don’t feel hesitant in going on air. Media has gone to the dogs.

    (ps- I am a journalist too with JAM magazine)

  93. are you the blogger himself writing as anonymous ?? :O possible, fair critique must be hurting.

  94. Yes I could be the blogger. I could be Salman Khan. I could be Obama. I could also be a close family member of another anonymous who rues a decision taken a long time ago.

  95. Why “independent India” in the last paragraph? Why not just India?

  96. Sagarika ‘Ghose’, not Ghosh 🙂 Unless that was a truly emotional pun (think “Gosh!”) 😉

  97. VP Singh? The bastard deserved his anonymous death. May he rot in hell!

  98. Hi yourfan2,

    Thanks for the interesting article’s link from NY Post. In this article, Ralph Peters makes a chilling observation:

    “What causes do these terrorists represent? Their name, Deccan Mujahedeen, captures their vision: an India once again under Muslim rule.

    To us, this seems an absurd, impossible goal, as mad as al Qaeda’s dream of a global caliphate. We’re dealing with sometimes brilliant operators, but we’re also facing dreamers whose visions are irrational by our standards.

    Madness and genius are not mutually exclusive. And rational goals don’t attract suicide commandos.

    For centuries, the Deccan plateau was a Muslim stronghold in central India, ruled by tyrants from mighty fortresses. The subcontinent’s Islamist extremists believe that Muslims are entitled to rule India again.

    They view the Deccan as Islam’s dagger in India’s Hindu heart.”

    I think Ralph Peters is just rehashing what is already well-known in Indian intelligence circles. Well, he must have read this report:

    ‘Pakistan-Bangladesh plan a Mughalistan to split India’

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