Friday, November 19, 2010

Mediagate!

Watergate was a major scandal back then in United States. It led to the fall of the then President too. Indian media, to showcase its utter lack of imagination, includes a "gate" to almost every scandal that gets exposed in India. Following their eminent footsteps, this blogpost has been titled "Mediagate" (word not my invention, but many folks have been using this on twitter and elsewhere, ever since the latest scoop got exposed!).


Anyways, let's get to the point. Nira Radia, a PR consultant and a lobbyist, was in news recently because of her alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum (Check out this link, for exhaustive info on links to follow). Turns out, she was also in touch with a lot of media folks. And then turns out, she had discussions with Barkha Dutt (during the 2009 UPA2 govt. formation), and Vir Sanghvi (during the 2009 UPA2 cabinet formation, and also about the Gas pricing fight between the Ambani brothers).

Quite expectedly, these have created quite a stir . And also quite expectedly, peripheral and generic rebuttals by both Barkha and Vir Sanghvi have come out too. The purpose of this blog (a copy of which has been sent to feedback@ndtv.com for Barkha's response. Not sure how to get in touch with Vir) is to pose some specific questions to both these eminences, with a vain hope of extracting a clarification from them. Multiple questions to Barkha on twitter (1, 2, 3, 4) have not yielded any answer from her.

The conversation between Barkha and Radia is here. These tapes are real - that much has been established. In defense of her conversation, Barkha Dutt points out:

Gathering information against the backdrop of a political story is not unethical. Nor is using that information to get more information

In isolation, this tweet looks perfect and most logical too. The problem arises, you see, when there is a difference between "using information" and "sharing information". Take for example this line by Barkha:

Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them?

Now, the first and foremost commonsense question that comes to mind is - who are "them". What should Barkha tell "them" that will ease the situation? When asked this pointed question on twitter, there is no answer. When asked if finding out what to "tell them" is "sourcing" information, no answer.

We move on. To this line.

BARKHA: Also, but, but the Congress needs to tell Karunanidhi that we have not said anything about Maran.

BARKHA: Okay. Let me talk to them again.


So here she says she will talk to "them" again on what needs to be communicated. Naturally, a doubt arises if that communication has happened. But hey - ask her this and no answer!

Lastly this -

BARKHA: No, I’ll set it up as soon as they get out of RCR.

RADIA: What she saying is that, you know, that someone senior like Ghulam [Nabi Azad, senior Congress leader]---because he is the one who is authorised to speak. ….

BARKHA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

RADIA: Right? Was to speak to her then she can tell her father that I have got this message from the Congress.


BARKHA: Theek hai, not a problem. That’s not a problem, I’ll talk to Azad---I’ll talk to Azad right after I get out of RCR [Race Course Road, presumably, the PM’s residence].

RADIA: Yeah, and then she said when father lands, I can speak to him.

BARKHA: Okay.


"Sharing" information eh? "Sourcing" Information, did someone say? "I will set it up" comes under these categories?

Well to be fair, here's what she replied to some folks in a generic sense. No specifics. Only generics.

@diptosh Thanks for a voice of sanity.Many things said as diplomatic nice-nice to get info. Challenge magazines to prove any quid pro quo

Now would she care to define "many things"? Assuring that something will be "set-up" is part of a "diplomatice nice-nice" to get info?

Barkha also says this -

Radia was a valid news source for DMK camp. She gave info on Karunanidhi, and sought my analysis on what Cong may do next. Valid journalism.


I am sorry, but from the tapes, does it really sound like someone's "analysis" was being sought? Is it just about interpretation here?

@samratd diff btwen humouring a news source politely and acting. for the record, no call was made to azad. Check with him.

Yeah right, we should check with Azad (because he is one icon of trustworthiness!) And despite Barkha not delivering on "many things", I just wonder why Radia keeps calling her up? Radia is not as intelligent as she is made out to be?

There are more specifc questions that Barkha Dutt needs to answer. From how long has she been in touch with Nira? What stories were aired on NDTV based on her sourcing (Question via auldtimer)? (since she claims she is trusted source)? Exactly who were "them" and what was "set-up"? Or were they amongst the "many things" that were just said and not acted upon? How much trust did Radia place in you, that she is asking you to pass on information (or in your terminology, "share" information)? Does NDTV group have a corporate ethics policy? 2. If yes, does it endorse an ends-justify-means strategy? For ex: can NDTV staff lie to or strike dubious deals with sources? (last 2 questions from auldtimer). And then these superb questions from the editor of Open magazine (this line added on Nov.26) . Mere rebuttals with fancy words like "defamation", "unsubstaintiated" etc etc don't mean anything at all.

It is not this blogger's contention that you "lobbied" for A. Raja or for that matter, any individual. The above questions are asked based purely on the material available on the net, and not picked up from magazines that you have accused of defaming you. Nor am I am a part of a "lynch mob".

Now comes Vir Sanghvi! More than the transcripts, his rebuttal is more hilarious! First for some points on the transcripts - He talks about writing about the Gas pricing tussle between the Ambani brothers -

VIR: What kind of story do you want? Because this will go as Counterpoint, so it will be like most-most read, but it can’t seem too slanted, yet it is an ideal opportunity to get all the points across.

Also Vir Sanghvi talks about how an entire interview has to be "scripted" before it goes on air. Vir Sanghvi in his response, does not talk about any of these. Just goes on to rant about how he has never lobbied for Raja and how that is an unfair allegation. Many questioned as to how asking for the kind of story she wants, amounts to ethical journalism. No answer yet!

Check out this piece of conversation during the cabinet formation:

VIR: I’ll pass this on?

RADIA: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks to you.

VIR: Yeah.

RADIA: That was really great, you know, you all, I mean it was exactly as you had said and…

VIR : Okay.

RADIA: They were very relieved and she was so relieved. So, wants to say thank you to you personally.

VIR: I’ll pass it…


Does this not make it clear that he was "passing" along some information for which some people were very "thankful" about? And in his "response", he says this:

I received many calls from different sources during that period. In no case did I act on those requests as anybody in the government will know.


Does the pompous Vir Sanghvi see no need to clarify on these issues too? And first of all, which magazine has accused him of "lobbying for A. Raja"?

Why should these journos get away with merely rubbishing claims that were not made in the first place? Aren't there so many grey areas in these conversations that need clarification? Or is it that they think these are not worth clarifying? Just use hi-fi words, get on the offense, shout loudly, thank their supporters (who I presume haven't read/heard the transcripts) and therefore skip the specifics? Some journalists think the "complexities" of the source-journalist relationship needs to be understood better. I am sorry, Mr. Diptosh - getting away with such language doesn't befit the profession you are in!

It is an open challenge to these journos to answer these specific questions. Mere generic and peripheral "rebuttals" are not helping in bringing this watershed moment a.k.a the "Mediagate" to a closure!

PS: This blog has more follow-up posts on Mediagate, after writing this one. This link will take you to all posts labelled mediagate.

21 comments:

Dravidesque said...

Nice one mate if you are interested you can read my take here. http://www.ravithinks.com/2010/politics/the-buck-starts-here/
haha I too even took on that diptosh's tweet

Anonymous said...

Great Post. I think the nexus between corporates , govt and media is disturbing.

Barka in particular has been acting deeply partisan and lynch mobbish.

I think people should stop watching or reading these two

CodeNameV said...

Superb post sir. Bull's eye! The tapes have exacting details on how, what and who were being contacted and at what time. One other important question is "what transactions happened, what wheeling dealing happened before, during and after the formation of government". But of course, first her eminence Padmasri Barkha Dutt has to accept her involvement, no! Which I think would take a life time anyway!

Another I felt w.r.t all the tapes is that they need to put together to gain a perspective. The clinching proof lies in what Radia told Kani Mozhi, A. Raja, Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi. Once they are put together and viewed in continuum, the underlying conspiracy can be unveiled. I hope to see that happen in due course!

I-Ore Trading said...

"From The Dizzy Heights of Kargil to Despairing Depths of Oblivion"

http://ioretradingindia.blogspot.com/

The new high came in 1999 Kargil War. Channels brought this war right into our living rooms. While the men in uniform covered themselves with glory in the battlefield, a hero was born or should one say a Heroine of the small screen no not the glamorous kind. A news reporter who became the visible face of the 24 x 7 News Channels!

She won our hearts and ruled our minds. We became her slaves believed every word she uttered as gospel truth. Then came a minor shift in 2002, became a little more slanted in 2004, gradually the slant became more steep, which compelled me to scrutinize what was being said on the channel and compare it with others in electronic media and also with the print.

Broadway said...

A summary of the barkha tapes
---------------
The conversations are sometime after the 2009 elections and before the formation of the UPA coalition. Radia has good contacts who update her about every little thing.

Tape 1: Radia and barkha are talking about a fresh rift between DMK and UPA. This rift was caused by DMK member baalu who revealed to the media that DMK has withdrawn support to the UPA. This has angered manmohan singh. Barka asks radia for some suggestions to proceed further wrt congress. Radia tells barkha to convince the congress to talk to karunanidhi directly but in private because she claims that k-nidhi is intimidated by his partymen like baalu and maran. She suggests expulsion of baalu. The two then talk about cabinet seats. In the side, congress has said something about maran which radia points out. Barkha tells radia that NDTV has stopped airing that particular footage.

Tape 2: Radia tells barkha that congress(particularly, the PM) doesn't plan to give infrastructure portfolio to maran or baalu and that those two have been informed about it. But the two have withheld that particular info from k-nidhi. Radia tells barkha to instruct the congress to convey this withheld info to k-nidhi through kanimozhi. Barkha assures radia that she will meet gulam nabi azad(congress leader) at the PM's residence and tell him about what needs to be done. Kanimozhi tells radia that DMK partymen are no longer updating k-nidhi on the day to day events.

Tape 3: Barka has had long chats with unknown congress leaders. She tells radia that the congress is now ready to take maran, raja or whoever. The congress has promised barkha that they will send ghulam nabi azad to talk to the DMK men. Meanwhile, the DMK men are undermining k-nidhi orders again. K-nidhi's daughter, kanimozhi is the only one that follow his orders. She has been isntructed to leave the city @ 5pm. In tape 2, ghulam nabi azad is supposed to meet kanimozhi. Barkha calls azad and informs kanimozhis plans to leave the city.

Tape 4: Navika kumar on timesnow thinks that congress will not give anything to maran, raja and baalu. Barkha asks radia whether navika's assertions are true. Radia tells barkha that navika is wrong. They then talk about maran, raja and baalu on which cabinets they demand.

Tape 5: K-nidhi previously instructed dayanidhi not to attend the swearing in ceremony. Dayanidhi claims that congress leader ahmed patel had specially requested him to attend. Barkha privately enquires with patel about it but patel says that he never forwarded such a request. K-nidhi tells dayanidhi in his face to join congress. Dayanidhi does not attend.

Siva Chandan G said...

Terrific Post!!! No words to explain!!! Must Read for everyone.
Pass this to each and every journo on twittter and let's see what they have to say.

btw my tweets to diptosh and I never got any reply from him:-
@diptosh So any expose on politicians=sting operation and the same on journos=smear campaign? #doublestandards

@diptosh Touch your heart and say.Were all IBN sting tapes were authentic? You would be lying if you say yes.

@diptosh Sorry to say but @sardesairajdeep @bdutt @virsanghvi have a lot to answer.They have something to do with the lobbying group.

Dravidesque said...

As you pointed out virsanghvi's is more worse than barkhas...he wanted to rehearse before it goes live...and also in his clarification he wrote this as his defence.
[i] I also wrote, “Why do the Ambanis think that all of us should take sides in their battle? Or that we should care what happens to them?”[/i]

and hence he is asking us to believe he didn't favour anyone. But then this is what even Nira wanted him to write checkout this convo

[i]
RADIA: It cannot be the basis of the way how we can proceed on these sorts of issues. I mean, you have to attack the fact that the judge has only gone into the MoU. His entire judgment is on the basis of the MoU.

VIR: Yeah.

RADIA: And therefore a judgment between two family members cannot be how you decide the future.

VIR: Okay. Let this Rohit come, let me explain to him, and I’ll talk to you and tell you what line I’m taking.

RADIA: Okay. And you’ll do it for next Sunday, is it?

VIR: No, no tomorrow[/i]

Anonymous said...

This thing is going to explode on Barkha Dutt's and Vir Sanghvi's face big time! Every celebrity is present on YouTube and everyone keeps a tab on what is going on in these big journos lives. A lot of high society must be rubbing their hands in glee.

These 2 morons will now never be able to conduct any interviews/talk shows with conviction. Imagine doing a show on corruption and a cornered guest/politician insists on raking up the tapes issue, and that the tapes were suppressed and never talked about on the channels. Media complicity in this is so completely exposed and the damage that it has caused is so irredeemable that it's unbelievable.

What a great, exhilirating story this has turned out as!!

Anonymous said...

I meant Twitter above and not YouTube. Sorry.

theone said...

The MSM has become a mafia, fully seduced and corrupted. Its back needs to be broken. What is needed is a real lynch mob , not the one on twitter.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant article..

PR said...

Challenge magazines to prove any quid pro quo

2G scam details were out in public (eg. The Pioneer) many months ago. All these months, did NDTV and Barkha do anything special to expose Raja and expose the humongous scam ? Did they expose the congress' silence? Did they actively campaign for Raja's resignation ? No! That in itself amounts to quid pro quo, right ? (even CNN IBN did better than NDTV in this regard)

Also, we all know how NDTV writes about Rahul Gandhi and the dynasty. They write as if they are agents of dynasty doing "Rahul is great" propaganda. In the context of these tapes, we know why!

Rising Gladiator said...

Awesome post mate

Anonymous said...

Good one.. Excellent Article!!!

THOMAS said...

PLEASE VISIT THE LINK GIVEN BELOW AND READ ALL THE ARTICLES WHICH EXPOSES THE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO DESTROY INDIA.
http://www.itimes.com/public/people/xby9uh16cqdxq5j02k8fvsgr/blogs

Anil said...

Stop creating a smokescreen and promoting hidden agenda http://blog.livemint.com/liveview/why-we-are-quiet-on-the-open-magazine-story/

Govind Kini said...

Excellent Post Sudhir... Really barkha will fall flat is she reads this...Bulls eye... :)

AJ said...

Great read.

But one thing you missed (and this was an unpardonable miss) is that you failed to mention/analyse the actual article (Counterpoint 21/06/2009) that was being discussed between NR and VS on 20/06/2009. You unfortunately took the bait from VS as he intended to confuse everyone quoting from his article of 15/08/2009. Pl visit http://openthemagazine.com/article/voices/this-is-not-journalism-as-we-know-it where this lame defence has been brilliantly demolished.

Yours is a great piece anyway!

Thanks.

prashhanthkpp said...

Sudhirji,

Wonderful and legitimate query of a normal citizen. But did it elicit any response - YET - from either / or of the subjects. I doubt. This would be yet another one of those to be archived with a question mark I suppose.

Determined pursuit it is anyway and it should be. Support bank guaranteed from the likes of us, definitely. Great mate.

Sudhir said...

@AJ - Actually I wrote this post before Open Magazine's editorial came out. I linked it later. However, gave it a more prominent space in the latest blog :) Thanks for pointing this out.

@Prashanth - no sir - they didn't care to reply :)

rashid1891 said...

These 2 morons will now never be able to conduct any interviews/talk shows with conviction. Imagine doing a show on corruption and a cornered guest/politician insists on raking up the tapes issue, and that the tapes were suppressed and never talked about on the channels. but I like it so much This is very very good Thanks AS.................

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