Wednesday, March 24, 2010

7th letter to EG:Absence of deciding authority

Within minutes of writing this letter, Rajdeep Sardesai was kind enough to reply :) His reply is appended to the post. Thanks for the prompt reply Rajdeep.

Sir,

The recent fiasco bought to light by the Chief Minister of Gujarat again strongly underscores the need for a ombudsman mechanism to be established in the media.

Allow me to first present the facts threadbare. On March 11, The Hindu
broke a story saying SIT issued summons to the Chief Minister of Gujarat to appear before it on March 21. All the TV channels immediately picked the news up, had hours of discussions with attractive and eye catchy headlines. Subsequent to that, they have been continously reminding their viewers/readers that as the "day of reckoning" is nearing, there is yet no word from the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Some TV channels, like IBN have clarified on the first day itself that Mr. Modi was summoned "in the week of March 21" and he can "either appear in person or send in his representative". However, in subsequent days, I do not recall this fact being stressed upon with the importance it deserves. And upon his "non-appearance" on the 21st, sections of the media went ballistic asking what exactly is that the Chief Minister is fearing, why did he not attend the hearing, and above all why isn't he respecting the law.

And when the Chief Minister of Gujarat released an open letter to the people of this country, he has specifically mentioned that he was not summoned on the 21st of March as was being reported, and there was absolutely no reason to vilify him as was being done for his "non-appearance".

Unfortunately, most sections of the media, went on the offensive claiming that this is just a mistake on the date and there is no need to make a big deal out of it. I beg to differ sir. Viewed in isolation, it might just be an error in the reporting of the date. However, like it or not, most of the media used this date as the benchmark to decide on the respect for law a Chief Minister of a state has. It used this date as the deadline to decide whether or not a Chief Minister of a state can be vilified for purpoted cowardliness and willfully avoiding the due process of the law. How does questioning this wrongful coverage based on an imaginary date amount to side tracking the issue?

And even if it is viewed in isolation, doesn't courtesy demand that a clarification be issued saying an error was made in the reporting of the date? And viewed in totality, doesn't this whole judgement passed by sections of the media on the character of a Chief Minister of a state demand a stronger apology? The Hindu has clarified on the date
today, sadly others still haven't. Infact Indian Express ran an editorial decrying Modi for not appearing on the 21st despite SIT keeping its offices open!

And here's where I wish to bring in the total lack of absence of an authority to which we can go and complain. There is no authority in the country as of today, who can judge if you (as in media) or me (as in viewer/reader) is right in this case (or for that matter in any case). Let's leave aside an authority of the government. Except for The Hindu, no other newspaper or TV channel have an independent authority within themselves to assess the errors in factual reporting or to discuss with us their ideological leanings.

As much as I appreciate your drive to make paid news an offence, don't you also think that that by making it the only issue, the EG is sidestepping on other very important and pertinent issues such as these? On the same lines that it petitioned the EC, why doesn't the EG petition the I&B ministry asking to formalise a regulatory authority? Surely the least EG can do is this.

Best Regards,

Sudhir

PS: Here's Rajdeep reply:

Firstly, let me say that we are pushing for an independent regulatory authority.. Hopefully, the govt will accept our recos. Secondly, on narendra modi's date, yes, the date of 21st was erroneous. Yes, we shld have been upfront abt the mistake. But the mistake was not deliberate as the cm seems to suggest. More importantly, the crucial fact in the story was not the date, but the intent of the cm. Having said that, we in the media shld be ready to concede mistakes more readily than we do. Rgds

5 comments:

What's in a name? said...

:-)
Getting somewhere. Good. An independent regulatory authority would help.
Sadly, independent means different things to different people ;-)

Kris said...

Very good work.Admire your tenacity

SysErr said...

susu,

you are like a pug dog that relentlessly clings onto something no matter what. Finally RS had to cave in, great job. 10 on 10 Sire !

sanjay said...

I don't know if we really want the "independent regulatory authority" for media that is being pushed for by the "media" itself, good to learn that some editors appreciate the need for such a body though.

Sathya Siva Chandan G said...

excellent blog

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