In my younger days, I used to be fascinated with the field of journalism. It seemed like a very noble profession. The idea of pursuing truth with unbridled curiosity was very seductive to me. I was also under the impression that our Indian journalists were highly independent and objective. I would lap up their perspectives without any doubts and completely trust their point of views. Admittedly, I was very naive and gullible. Later on, I started understanding the hidden agendas and vested interests that would dictate how any piece of news would be distorted, manipulated and twisted to suit the requirement of news agencies. The experience of realizing that my opinions were not actually my own but were spoon-fed to me with ulterior motives was akin to an internal bubble getting busted with a pin.
Over the years, I saw the country deal with one scam after another like Commonwealth Games (CWG) scam, 2G spectrum scam and Coal-gate scam. It was mindboggling to see the humungous amounts that were being looted from the coffers of the country. Any citizen would have been seething with anger to see the tax-payers money be swindled by the powerful. Yet there were a handful of journalists who seemed rather flustered instead of angry. The topic of corruption by the then ruling party, Congress would make them uneasy and queasy. These were the same journalists and anchors whose opinions I used to hold in high esteem namely Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Sagarika Ghose, Karan Thapar, Nidhi Razdan, Sonia Singh and Amrita Rai.
Suddenly, reputed and highly respected channels like NDTV would turn into Congress apologists and would instead target the then opposition party, BJP at every given opportunity. This behaviour led me to investigate the ownership details of NDTV which was publicly available as it was a listed entity. 61% stake was held by Prannoy Roy and his wife, Radhika Roy. Radhika would turn out to be the sister of Brinda Karat, the Vice President of CPI (M) and wife of Prakash Karat, the then General Secretary of CPI (M). That explained the anti-BJP stance of the channel but it still did not explain the open favouritism towards the Congress Party.
Digging deeper into the shareholding pattern, I noticed that 14% of the shares in NDTV were held by Oswal Greentech Ltd which was promoted by Abhey Kumar Oswal, the father-in-law of Congress MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal. Co-incidentally, Naveen Jindal is the same person who made the allegations that Zee News was trying to extort Rs. 100 Crore for not airing negative stories. After digesting these pieces of information, I looked at NDTV with new eyes. The nexus between media and politicians was getting more evident.
One of the most well known faces of NDTV is Barkha Dutt. Now whenever she appears on screen, I cannot help but smile. Taken at face value, she would appear to be the epitome of liberal values who espouses important ideals like secularism, tolerance and freedom of expression. But her true picture emerges once you go through the transcripts of the Radia tapes. It turns out she is a glorified wheeling dealing operator who acts as a middleperson between Corporate Lobbyists and Congress Party. In the tapes, she is caught actively participating in the haggling of ministerial berths for none other than A. Raja. The very A. Raja who as the Telecom Minister, freely distributed a valuable national resource like spectrum and caused a loss of Rs. 1,76,000 Crore to the exchequer. No wonder she was mighty uncomfortable when the 2G scam was uncovered.
NDTV is not the only media corporate with ties to political parties. Shobhana Bhartia who promotes Hindusthan Times Media was nominated to the Rajya Sabha on the recommendation of the Congress Party. The Times Group too has historical deep-rooted ties with Congress starting from the time of Jawarhal Lal Nehru and the “Times of Indira”.
There are numerous other examples of political ownership and connections in media. This insidious and incestuous relationship exists with the main objective of distorting public opinion and manipulating issues to suit the agenda of a political party. Since it is done under the guise of neutrality, there is a large element of deceit inbuilt into this kind of mechanism of providing news. A newspaper like Hindu does not hide its left leaning ideological inclinations so it cannot be accused of deceit. Likewise, the newspaper Pioneer openly states that its ideology is biased towards right-wing conservatism.
This brand of ideology based journalism is acceptable as what you see is what you get. The problem arises when mainstream media agencies like NDTV use their news platform to highlight hidden political agendas and motives under the garb of neutrality. This is tantamount to manipulation of public opinion and is a breach of responsibility that is entrusted upon the media.
This kind of underhand arrangement between mainstream media and political parties allows a certain amount of impunity towards the crimes of political parties. A recent example is the disruption of Rajya Sabha by Congress on frivolous and flimsy grounds. This kind of behaviour is highly objectionable and unacceptable.
Yet, due to the subservient and servile attitude of media agencies who found no fault with this kind of behaviour, Congress could get away with harming the country’s prospects in broad daylight. But as an eternal optimist, I do believe things will change for the better. I have faith in the words of Abraham Lincoln who stated “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”.