Friday, December 31, 2010

Dark Side of Indian News Media

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One thing I always noticed in Indian visual and print media – if they get some sensational news they publish it without taking steps to write or understand both sides of the news. Here is a perfect example. Yesterday few Malayalam channels and some newspaper had reported that Dr Shashi Tharoor has become the brand ambassador for Teachers Scotch Whisky (I never knew that there was a brand called Teachers and thanks to media I learned something new! I saw the same advertisement in Outlook magazine and never knew that it was Whisky). Here is the news report that came in Kairali News Channel, mouthpiece of CPI(M).
Here is the news that came in Metro Vartha (See the last portion of the below news)
The jobless youth wing of the communist party (read DYFI and SFI) who had nothing to say when their own government gave liquor license to so many new bars in Kerala came out strongly against Dr Tharoor without ascertaining the facts. Here is the news about their statement.
Now Dr Tharoor has to come out with a statement in twitter denying everything. Here is his statement.
Dr Shashi Tharoor's office also had a press release against this baseless allegations and here is the press release
Allegations against Tharoor on Teacher's award ad - baseless and motivated. 
We have noted that some channels wih political links are alleging that Dr Shashi Tharoor, MP has appeared in an advertisement as a "brand ambassador" for a liquor company. The charges are completely false and deserve to be dismissed with contempt.
Dr Tharoor, in his capacity as an internationally-respected author, won a 'Teacher’s Achievement Award'  for Communication at a public ceremony in Mumbai, in October, where other eminent Indians were similarly honoured. He was photographed holding the Award trophy and this photograph has appeared in an advertisement congratulating the winners. He has neither agreed to be a "brand ambassador" nor posed for an advertisement for any liquor brand or company. Indeed, liquor was not mentioned at any stage in connection with the award and no endorsement of liquor was implied by any of the winners.

The Teacher’s Achievement Awards have been instituted to honour extraordinary people who have excelled in various fields. First constituted in 2001, the Awards recognize and reward individual excellence and exemplary achievement in the field of Sports, Entertainment, Communication, Business and Lifetime Achievement. The award is done in partnership with KPMG, the leading global audit firm.

The "decade of achievement" event hosted this year saw Shabana Azmi being awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, Aditya Puri (MD, HDFC Bank) the Achievement Award for Business, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Actor) the People Magazine Award, Boman Irani (Actor) the Achiever of the Decade for Entertainment, and Pankaj Advani (Billiards Player) the Achievement Award for Sports. Since the award does not have a category that includes politics, no politician has received the award so far. Dr Tharoor was nominated along with four others since the communications category was devoted this year to authors.

Dr Tharoor has neither endorsed any liquor brand nor posed for any advertisement. His photo with the award memento was featured in an advertisement put out to honour the award recipients, which did not include any reference to a liquor product or for that matter any product.

It should also be noted that this year's Teacher's Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Shabana Azmi, noted actor, social activist and former Rajya Sabha MP. She was also featured in a similar advertisement published to honour her achievement. 
The current controversy raised by a few over Dr Tharoor's receiving the Teacher's award, portraying it is as an endorsement of liquor, reveals either ignorance on the background of the award or cheap political cynicism. None of the previous winners, who range from eminent sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and poet Gulzar, to ONGC CMD Subir Raha and ICICI Bank Chairperson K.V. Kamath, and respected sportspersons like cricketer Rahul Dravid and badminton champion Saina Nahwal, would ever be accused of endorsing a liquor brand. To suggest that winners of the Teacher's Award endorse whisky is like saying that accepting a Nobel Prize is an endorsement of dynamite, Alfred Nobel's most famous invention whose royalties funded the Nobel Prize.

Eminent Indians formerly associated with the Teacher's Awards include Shyam Benegal (Film Maker), Vinod Mehta (Journalist), Gulzar (Poet & Lyricist), Karan Thapar (Journalist), Pritish Nandy (Journalist), Anupam Kher (Actor), Virendra Singh (Boxer), Saina Nahwal (badminton champion), Dipika Pallikal (Squash Player), Abhinav Bhindra (Olympic Medalist), Anu Agha (Industrialist), Chandra Kochar (ICICI Bank), Raj Kumar Hirani (Film Maker), KV Kamath (Chairman, ICICI Bank), Prasoon Joshi (Ad Man), Karan Johar (Film Maker), Subir Raha (CMD, ONGC), Anjali Bhagwat (Common Wealth Gold Medalist), William Darlymple (Author), Yogesh Chandra Deveshwar (Chairman, ITC), Jug Suraiya (Associate Editor, Times of India),  Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy (Musicians), Rahul Dravid (Cricketer), Major Rajwardhan Rathode (Olympic Medalist), Ustad Amjad Ali Khan (Musician), Naina Lal Kidwai (HSBC Bank), Mahesh Bhupathi (Tennis Player), Yash Chopra (Film Maker) and Jagjit Singh (Singer).

Here is the advertisement that appeared in Outlook Magazine, where Dr Thaoor holds the trophy. There is no mention of whiskey anywhere in it.
Now my question is – Can’t these media people contact the person against whom they are making these allegations to understand the facts before they telecast/write something like this? This is a norm in American media – if an allegation is made against one person/organization the views of that organization/person will definitely be there or at least there will be a statement something like this “so and so person accused in this was not immediately available for comments” or “so and so person does not return his calls”. Isn’t that the right way to report the news?
Indian Media has to go a long way in learning how to report in this era of 24X7 news.

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Blogger scorpiogenius said...

Trust our journos to make a mountain out of pure vacuum, leave aside the mole. A few CPI guys went about foul-mouthing about this photograph and that appeared in a few 'affiliated' media, I think nobody is any too serious about this. Well, these guys always need something to hang themselves to and this time they managed to get hold of this photograph and put in their figments of imagination into Page 3 stuff. Very characteristic...

December 31, 2010 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indian media has to learn to report and more importantly keep pace with a population that is very internet savvy and well informed.

January 01, 2011 6:50 AM  
Blogger Musthafa said...

Good post with all the facts.

Now it has become the readers/viewers' task to check for the other side and for the correctness of any news/reports! Media no longer will do this for its readers/viewers! The time of independent media has come to an end in India especially in Kerala.

January 01, 2011 6:51 AM  
Anonymous Naveen K R said...

This kind of a behavior is possible only from a media house in Kerala, outside media have their on standard and they do better researches before doing their stories. Its a pity about our media/politics. Nicely put up!

January 01, 2011 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it was the West, the news channel would have been sued. Nobody takes action against false allegations and character assassinations in India, that is why the news media is getting so bold. I hope this year, the govt puts in place safeguards to protect people from agencies like the media that has the power to reach millions. Its time to stop this media mayhem.

January 01, 2011 7:25 AM  
Blogger Yasir Kuttiady said...

10thTeachersAwards 2010 -->

January 01, 2011 8:35 AM  
Anonymous sha said...

Although the media reports and the statement given by the oraganisations are baseless and twisted truth, there are some naked facts hidden in the whole affair.Liquor companies have restrictions in advertising their products.So they organize such events to bye-pass the system.It is one of the many tricks they use to cheat the restrictions.Remember VSOP Tshirts,Bacardi Blast CDs etc.Please see the word "SPIRIT of achievement" in the ad.It says it all.This kind of ads uses the word "spirit" to hint what they actually want to project.They have succeeded in fooling the famous people including Tharoor or they are playing along.Also this is not the first time that this award is being presented.
There is no free lunch for anyone!!!

January 06, 2011 5:27 PM  

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