Naked Bias Threatens Media’s Credibility – A Statement by Some Mediapersons

An Appeal to Indian Journalist Fraternity by a Group of Media persons, released in Chandigarh, 16 March, 2014

In a terse comment, Aam Aadami Party leader Arvind Kejriwal said that a part of the media, particularly some TV channels “sold itself to Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) and is indulging in running a propaganda spree in favor of BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi”. As has happened earlier in many cases relating to deprived and unprivileged sections of the Indian society, that section of media took an undue offence to the comment that was completely out of proportion, and it launched a virulent campaign against AAP. This section of media is peeved at Arvind Kerjriwal’s remarks that if his party came to power, a punitive action would be taken against those media outlets which have been biased in their news coverage and suppressed the anti Modi news stories projecting his false claim to an ‘unparalleled development of Gujarat’.

During his field tour to Gujarat, Kejriwal started taking on Modi , attempting to expose the chinks in ‘Gujarat Vikas’, which according to him, is a ‘hollow projection’ made with ‘active support’ of a section of media. In what could be called an overreaction, a naked anti-Kejriwal slant became a routine affair in the coverage of some media outlets. It is not difficult to smell from the reports and debates of these media outlets that their journalists (by order from above or own their own) have shamelessly started walking in the footsteps of Hitler’s notorious spin doctor Joseph Goebbels, who also did a stint in journalism.

Some dailies including those priding themselves as ‘ national dailies’ are also carrying selected news stories and pictures aimed at showing Aam Aadami Party in bad light. Some electronic media outlets in their orchestrated debate shows are inviting the BJP, Congress and other anti-AAP politicians and providing them platforms for the use of even abusive language against Kejriwal calling him ‘a liar, opportunist and an autocrat’. They are trying to cow down Kejriwal by repeatedly claiming that he and his party was a “creation of the media’’ suggesting that if they can create AAP they can kill it also. And now they have loaded their news presentation and debates in favor of Modi. This is obviously a biased and propagandistic reportage which no sane professional will agree with. India is a largest democracy of the world where political parties are made and dismantled by people and not by the media which do has an important role but a peripheral one.

By using unconcealed media tactics to paint Kejriwal and his party in black, it would be difficult for the above media outlets to shield themselves behind the proverbial neutrality of the profession, which everyone knows, is easily compromised in this profit oriented age of the present media. Now media is less of a mission, more a business with maximizing profit as its goal. For revenue, the media outlets depend upon advertisements, which mostly come from the corporate sector. On the other hand, to protect and promote their business interests in the Centre and State Governments, the corporate and business houses fund political parties and their candidates in the elections. Hence, an underhand barter system operates among media outlets, business houses and politicians. The bitter truth is that in this kind of atmosphere, attempting to maintain impartiality and objectivity by a media outlet has become an arduous proposition. Hence, instead of attempting to project a ‘holier-than-thou’ image through retaliatory criticism of AAP, the media-outlets should view Kejriwal’s remark in a holistic perspective. And they should understand that AAP catapulted into a discernible political force out of peculiar circumstance crisscrossed by corruption, lawlessness and political despondency. Yes, the media deserves due credit in highlighting its activities which, to some extent, propelled it to a startling victory in the Delhi assembly polls. But it is also fact that by reading the public mood and supporting it, the media also earned credibility on the sly. Credibility, which is blood and breath for any media organization .That is why, the media should not expect ‘an explicit expression of indebtedness and gratefulness’ for highlighting Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign which gave birth to AAP, as it was a part of a bigger democratic upsurge which also brought into focus the independence, credibility and freedom of the media. The motivated campaign on the behest of some political forces or sponsors can jeopardize this hard earned credibility of the media outlets.

In the present state of things when the media managements rarely ignore the power of money and politics, maintaining of impartiality and objectivity has become a very difficult task and the need of the hour is to safeguard the sacred divide between propaganda and journalism. A journalist working on any level and position is duty bound to push back the hand which is eager to choke Citizens’ right to free and unbiased information.

They say it easy to light a candle in normal climate but the brave do so even in gale.

Signatories:

Anil Chamaria, columnist, author and head of Media Studies Group, Delhi

Sidhu Damdami, former Editor, Punjabi Tribune

Rajesh Kumar Verma, Senior Journalist and Media Analyst

Prashant Tondon, Senior TV Journalist

Daljit Ami, film-maker and Chief-in–Editor, TV channel

Daljit Sra, Editor, The Amritsar Times

Chanchal Manohar Singh, Editor-in-Chief, Punjabkhabar.com

Jagtar Singh, Senior Journalist and Author

Hamir Singh, News Coordinator, Punjabi Tribune

Jaspal Singh Sidhu, former UNI Special Correspondent and author

Prof Navjit Singh Johal, former Head, Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Punjabi University,Patiala

Avaneesh Kumar, Journalist, Media Studies Group

Jetindra Kumar, Senior Journalist

29 thoughts on “Naked Bias Threatens Media’s Credibility – A Statement by Some Mediapersons”

  1. Hope, other journalist will also will come forward at this troubled time and express their views against such corrupt journalistic practice of few main stream media in the name of ‘free press’.

  2. In addition to this gross bias displayed by the electronic media against AAP, the quality of coverage and reporting of the electronic media continues to be very poor and unprofessional. Most reporters and anchors on these channels probably have not had proper training/education in journalism. That is why very often they make sensational or emotional statements. They exploit events from the history of India, India’s freedom movement and many icons from mythology. Often they make gross personal comments loaded with earthy language, on personalities from the world of politics, sports, movies etc. The quality of interviews is very poor; most interviews being shouting matches and the panelists going at each others’ throats. The moderator makes very little effort to stop the melee. Maybe he/she thinks that this kind of melee brings better ratings.

    The Breaking News segment on electronic news channels is of specially poor quality. Instead of being news it is generally squabbles and fights between individuals that the viewers have no imterest in. Print journalism on the whole is better, but I find that websites of major newspapers now contain a lot of titilating reports on sexual affairs, photos of scantily clad young women etc. Too much coverage of the personal shennigans of movie actors/actresses and their affairs and loose gossip. Surely media, especially electronic media is going through a crisis.

  3. First, A salute to these brave journalists who have a conscience !
    Second,The electronic media must move away from a TRP based system to a system where advertising revenue goes to channels which are have professional ethics as their core value. Without regulation they have become a law unto themselves.
    Third, Indian media needs to have an Ombudsman or regulator which is comprised of media profesionals as well as eminent citizens.
    Fourth, We need to name ansd shame journalists who dumb down or hype news stories. This is biased journalism. The critique on journalists should be based on factual data which is not difficult but needs focussed attention. But in a vibrant democracy , this is necessary.
    In the past I have personally written to the NBA to protest slanted news during the Anna Hazare agitation. I got no reply and the emails of the news channels were unresponsive. I have documentary evidence to prove this.
    A year later, I wrote again and this time Sagarika Ghose was a office bearer of the NBA and when I complained to her she replied. But denied the allegation that her channel was biased.
    I have been a BBC Listener Panel Member since 1974 for their BBC (Radio) World Service until about 1992 when they disbanded it. As Listener panel members we had to do objective and subjective analysis of their programmes through questionnaires. I am now a member of BBC Global Minds and there are similar questionnaires. Our e media has no such feedback mechanism and hence needs an Ombudsman body.

  4. Even while they try to act neutral, the leading media channels like NDTV, Times Now and CNN IBN deliberately dumb down debates and take the sting out of issues. All this even while ordinary people raise much smarter questions over social media. Corporate media no longer breaks the news or raises critical debates. People compel them to take on issues. When they do take them on, they do so only to blunt them. Clearly the purpose that they serve is to ensure that there is no radical change and the status quo is maintained. This is an ideal time to study the media.

  5. I was really surprised and hurt by the stand taken by a section of Media against AAP in general and AK in particular because all Media persons are well educated and highly experienced in public life and are fully aware that they are doing the wrong thing…this trend in our society is really worrying and could be the root cause of why we have such a political leadership to deal with.
    I am happy to see this post as the hope is still alive and hope we will have many more people understanding the facts and voice their protest in public.

  6. BBC programme “Press for Sale in India” is shameful to credibility of our Media. Anyone will know A.K is right when he said that. Our media too is being operated by money lenders? Where are we going to?

  7. I agree completely with the author of this piece. It is particularly distressing to be subjected to a ‘paid’ torture everyday, in our own living rooms, by these so-called mainstream media. It would have been even better to name this rogues in the media who are bringing down the name of Indian media even furthur. TIMES NOW, in particular, has been running political ‘hashtags’ which exude anti- AAP sentiment. All debates have tweaked debate topics, with the AAP representative having to defend against everyone else, including the anchor himself/herself. The motive becomes clearer by the day. Its a deviant plan to kill the hope which was generated by a handful of well meaning activists.

    1. Absolutely correct! I remember I had questioned TIMES HOW on how could they choose hash tags like #AAPDrama (and just recently #IntolerantAAP) and still maintain they’re neutral? The BIAS is evident. Their motive is to attract anti-AAP responses, trend it on Twitter and then sell hand-picked AAP hating remarks as general public opinion at prime time. Clearly they have no respect for ethics of journalism.

      Same with FEE News, Footlines Today and Lijjat (Be)Sharma from BikGaya Today. They would ask pre-loaded opinion poll questions where the anti-AAP slant is obvious, fudge with poll results (like the percentages on a Y/N poll didn’t add up correctly on FEE News once) and the studio reporters (and the ones on the field too) would keep belittling, berating AAP themselves instead of presenting other people’s views and just restricting themselves to managing the debate.

      Well, money talks and people sell themselves out. Yeh, Bharat desh hai mera!

  8. Anyone with a lick of sense will never believe a word of these utterly shameless, hyperactive ravings of Corporate owned TV. If it is Propaganda, then it is of a very poor, substandard variety. People have to blame themselves if they ever take them seriously.
    Looks like they don’t take them seriously as you can just compare who these assholes support and which party actually wins in each election season.

    I was sitting at my company’s cafetaria sometime ago (maybe a year ago). TimesNow was blaring from the TV of cafetaria. I watched it for maybe 10 minutes. In those 10 minutes, they managed to complete the grand slam of 4 stories portraying pakistan, china and Sri lanka and naxalites tormenting poor innocent India. And they were 4 different stories. The whole spectacle was not even subtle.

    If a martian came and watched it, he would have thought India is under attack from all corners.

    How can anyone take it seriously ?

  9. stopped watching news since 15-20 days. It looks like TRAI had issued a certificate to telecast advertisement on news channel for 45 min for political parties 10 min for brand ad and rest 5 min in new channel self branding.
    God saves authenticity

  10. This is a bit rich isnt it. Kafila is proud of its own leftist , pro minority and secular stances so why shouldnt other media have the same freedom of choosing viewpoints and causes of their own choice.

    1. Pingle, you are confusing too many things here.
      In the first place, the media is being criticized not for ‘ideological’ biases of the kind you mention, which everyone has. You could add to that being neoliberal as well. But there is a world of a difference between being a neoliberal because you believe in the creed and being bought over by corporations. The media has been criticized for many years now, for phenomena such as ‘paid news’ and ‘advertorials’ – where advertisements masquerade as news and editorials. )The electronic media has its own versions of this phenomenon and we do intend to come out with more stuff sooner than later). I hope you understand then that the the point here is about plain deception. In an earlier time, the distinction used to be maintained between ‘editorial’ – where the newspaper had its own position spelt out – and ‘reportage’ which had to be as objective as possible.
      In a larger sense, this is the distinction that has been completely obliterated by the mainstream electronic media. ‘Anchors’ now combine in them the editorial writer, the reporter, the judge and everything else. They talk as if they are heading a tribunal.
      In the second place, therefore, you are also missing the key point about all the criticisms that are being made of the media: Declare your allegiances. If you become Ambani’s or Modi’s mouthpiece, you need to declare it, and not pose as a public institution that does opinion making. Kafila has no pretensions about its ‘ideological’ positions – although there is not a single paisa of money that is spent or taken. Political parties have their own newspapers and nobody expects them to do anything but put forward the positions of their parties. These questions are raised only because their is a pretension to objectivity and neutrality.

  11. Excellent article. Kudos to these brave group of journalists who have taken a stand and side with the truth! Hope this article is published in multiple platforms and gets maximum attention. Thanks!

  12. YOU NAILED THIS POST WHEN YOU WROTE THIS –

    Yes, the media deserves due credit in highlighting its activities which, to some extent, propelled it to a startling victory in the Delhi assembly polls. But it is also fact that by reading the public mood and supporting it, the media also earned credibility on the sly. Credibility, which is blood and breath for any media organization .That is why, the media should not expect ‘an explicit expression of indebtedness and gratefulness’ for highlighting Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign which gave birth to AAP, as it was a part of a bigger democratic upsurge which also brought into focus the independence, credibility and freedom of the media. The motivated campaign on the behest of some political forces or sponsors can jeopardize this hard earned credibility of the media outlets.”

    Superb write up.

  13. All along we have been saying the same thing against media houses like ‘Times Now’, when they blatantly take sides in issues sepecially womenoriented issues. The anchor himself sides up with the woman arguments even if some of them are totally wrong. Now, election commsiion have come up against them as ‘paid news’. What with crores of money in the name of woman empowerment, we always guessed as much.

  14. Hundred percent correct. Recently NewsX and India TV have started circulating the only interview given by Modi to Madhu Kishwar.The interview itself is the outcome of the demand of the general public and with an attempt to undo the impression that Modi only barks on the shortcomings of others and makes false claims of his alleged model of gujrat development.This interview only could be given either to madhu kishwar or may be to recent addition of another fake journalist m j akbar to ensure that real questions are not put and modi is given a chance to support all false claims and improve his mukhota.

  15. Modi and Jayalalitha are having same ideology of autocracy, believing everything is below their feet

  16. I am so happy that finally some people have realized the brazen anti AAP campaign that is being waged since two three months.. spearheaded by that barking dog Arnab Goswami…. it would be a collosal shame if AAP is defeated in this Loksabha elections thanks to this vicious Media attack on this party. Hope people wake up and voice their opposition to the ilk of Arnab Goswami and Karan Thappad etc etc

  17. Correct assessment.Consider the apparent bias of the channels like Newsx, india news,& IBN7 cnbc aavaz particularly people like sanjay pagalia, anil singhvi and rahul shivshinkar & co.It appears all these fools are on the payroll of bjp/modi.

  18. its really shameful, news channel used to be the source of correct information whatever used to happend in the society earlier, now news channels are property of an individual and anybody can guess who is biased to whom. and top of the list is india news, india tv, ibn seven..and zee…but they are playing with the future of the nation coz whatever they are showing can effect our future,

  19. Shame to our Media. Watched COMEDY CENTRAL in Daily Show with John Stewart how Indian media falls so low and sell themselves for a buck.

  20. Media never was independent & always appeared to be biased and guided by the interests of their masters i.e the corporate owners. Now, Reliance Industries Ltd took over media conglomerate Network 18. In the days of open economy, liberalisation, and industrialisation, where so many vested interests are at stake, it is futile to expect independent approach in any matter from the journalists, they would always be guided by the interests of their paymasters RATNAKAR BHARTI.

  21. I wish some one writes in details about the corporatization of Indian media and the ever diminishing media ethics. Today a time has come when media will decide what people should see or know and anything that might be against their interest will be blocked or sidelined. This was clearly demonstrated during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In fact, people should have known the cost of media advertisement by the political parties and where the money came from. This deterioration of media ethics started long back. I remember a firebrand lady reporter known for her daring as well as controversial reporting who struck a compromise with a public sector management for not exposing a big corruption. When the Oil Sector Officers’ Association(OSOA) went for strike demanding pay revision, it was the media that played most dubious role in projecting the struggling officers as “worst than terrorists” and at that juncture a section of media had offered to project them otherwise should OSOA pay them as they demanded. OSOA was not in a position to meet their demand. If that is the character of the so-called fourth column of democracy, one can easily imagine what shape democracy will take. Unfortunately, the public voting in 2014 Lok Sabha poll was largely influenced by the media advertisement. Who paid the money for so much advertisement? Definitely not the poor masses but those who are to gain profits under NDA government.

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