Opinion » Lead

Updated: December 3, 2010 01:41 IST

The republic on a banana peel

P. Sainath
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Corporate lobbyist Niira Radia leaves the Enforcement Directorate after being questioned on her firms' alleged role in the 2G spectrum allocation case. File photo
Corporate lobbyist Niira Radia leaves the Enforcement Directorate after being questioned on her firms' alleged role in the 2G spectrum allocation case. File photo

Media-corporate links are structural. But journalists, certainly entrenched ones, can choose whether they wish to be stenographers or not.

It was gratifying to have the head of India's most reputed business house confirm the existence of crony capitalism in the country. True, others have believed this for 20 years but it carries more weight when Ratan Tata says so. As he put it in a television interview with admirable candour: “Yes, I can see evidence of it. I am not in a position to say a lot on it, but the evidence of it ...” Gee whiz! It exists, after all. A legendary Indian reformer also once observed ruefully that “all capitalism is crony capitalism.” But since the high position he now adorns won't allow him to own up to that remark today, he shall remain nameless.

Mr. Tata rightly warns us against becoming a ‘banana republic.' For “Banana republics are run on cronyism.” And things don't look good for “people of lesser power” in such states. “They go to jail without adequate evidence or their bodies are found in the trunks of cars.” A grisly thought. But we can draw comfort from knowing that our captains of industry, at least, are safe. They are not, as the Radia tapes confirm, “people of lesser power.” Presently, such awful fates befall, with distressing frequency, RTI activists, whistleblowers, people leading struggles against forced human displacement. Maybe they are at the wrong end of the banana, which does indeed ripen in stages from end to end and can wind up rotting the whole plantation if not cut and consumed in time.

Up to here, Mr. Tata's words would find wide agreement. The point of departure is when he sees the media as the biggest banana peel in that republic. Where he calls for “strictures on the media to not use the [Radia] tapes the way they have been using them.” Maybe we're being unfair, as his only objection is to “the way they have been using them.” But in the larger canvas, his worry is misplaced. The media are mostly stenographers to power, not its banana peel. Especially to corporate power. The Radia tapes, whether in origin, content or fallout, do nothing to dampen that dictum. (Too many, though, use the terms ‘media' and 'journalists' interchangeably. But that is another debate.) When, after all, have the media been disrespectful in covering Mr. Tata, for instance?

If the Radia tapes show us anything, they show us again who runs this country. Corporates. Not even the lobbyists who do their bidding — but would have much less clout without their backing. Not journalists who crave access to corporate titans or seek to advise them on how to fix the courts. It wasn't long ago that a whole session of Parliament went by in just debating the dispute between the Ambani brothers. A private spat over a public-owned resource called natural gas. Oddly enough, Parliament has never had a whole session focussed on agriculture. Not even through the sector's worst crisis in the past decade.

Whether it is gas, spectrum, or mining, luxury private townships or other dubious land deals, the last 20 years have seen the consolidation of corporate power on a scale unknown in independent India. It would be wrong to disconnect the Radia tapes from this background. From pitching for licences, mines and spectrum using money and media power to pitching for ministerial candidates and portfolios by the same methods is not a huge leap. The same period has also seen the emergence of media themselves as major corporate entities. Today, we often have seamless movement between the personnel of some economic or financial newspapers and non-media corporations. An assistant editor goes off to Company ‘A' as a PRO, returns in a more senior post to the same newspaper. Next, goes on as chief PRO, or maybe even as chief analyst or a business manager to a bigger corporate. But the newspaper's door is open for his or her return, perhaps as resident editor.

The dominant media are not pro-corporate or pro-big business. They are corporates. They are big business. Some have margins of profit that non-media outfits might envy. Media corporations are into hundreds of businesses beyond their own realm. From real estate, hotels, mining, steel, chemicals, rubber and banks to power and sugar. Even into private treaties with other corporations in whom they acquire a stake. On the boards of India's biggest media companies are also top corporate leaders. Some who find places on the Governor's Forums of the World Economic Forum. Others heading private banks. And then there are top political leaders who directly own vast media empires. Who can hold ministerial portfolios (affecting these domains) while running their media fiefdoms. The dominant media are not pro-establishment. They are the establishment.

The intertwining is strewn with the corpses of Enron, Securities scam, UTI, and a hundred other scandals. Remember those sections of the media that stood by Enron to the last? One investigation that remains undone in our media: where did the millions of dollars set aside by Enron to “educate” Indian opinion-makers go? Given this long corporate-media jugalbandhi, should it surprise us that a lobbyist for two giant business groups is able to influence which story will appear on what page of which newspaper and even who will write it?

The Indian Premier League represents an advanced merger of corporate control, political power and media stenography. The media cover the warts in that enterprise only when forced to by its internal feuds. Corporate bosses own cricket teams. The nation's most loved sport stands privatised. Media companies own IPL teams too, or are their media sponsors. Political heavyweights are the big bananas in the IPL Republic. These links are structural and not about individuals. The complex nature of media-corporate links still allows for spaces within which honest journalists can function. The somewhat anarchic nature of our politics and institutions still creates situations where things tumble out. True, the spaces are shrinking but they exist. So journalists, especially entrenched ones, can choose whether they want to be stenographers or not.

In the larger context, the Radia tapes capture corporate power at work. Yet, clubbing all these tapes together doesn't help. If you're looking for a bunch of journalists who crossed ethical boundaries they shouldn't have, did things that were plainly wrong, or played games they were unwise to, these journalist transcripts are vital. If you're looking for the guilty in the 2G scam, or who is really running the country, this is the wrong address. If we divide the dramatis personae of the larger show into lead actors (for there are no heroes), main villains, supporting cast, minor baddies (the guys who “yes boss!”), comic relief, extras, wardrobe staff and make-up artists, the journos wouldn't make it to the top three categories. Nira Radia might, to the third. If you're seeking to understand the back channels of corporate power, the tapes as a whole are an education.

The journalists were out of line, some in worse ways than others. Varying degrees of naiveté, knavery and indiscretion adorn their transcripts. True, we don't know how many tapes are held back. And yes, almost anybody's calls taped without his or her knowledge can sound stupid. But some of the arguments in defence have been unacceptable, too. Yet lumping all the tapes together is wrong. And unfairly damaging to some while downplaying larger transgressions of others. One transcript has a strong whiff of quid pro quo. Another sounds like a waiter jotting down an order from a favoured customer (a what-can-I-get-you-today kind of thing). A third is showing off. A fourth, making awful errors of judgment that will haunt their author. Most exaggerate their importance, as journalists often do. All have damaged their vital asset: credibility.

There is a great deal for all of us to learn from here about how-not-to, why, when and what-not-to. Journalists can talk to anybody on a story. How you sift what you are told and assess who it is coming from then becomes important. Journalists do exist who are not gardeners for their sources. Who are outside the old boy's network that typically, in a state, hovers around the Chief Minister's point man. Or who attach themselves to warring corporate camps. In a fine piece on Outlook's website, Saba Naqvi makes the point that “credible journalists do know when to shut down a source or not to take some calls.” Those who show independence may lose out on some stories (the source fearing they will not spin it the required way, or worse, check it out). But in the long run it works.

Some are paying the price for a form of journalism they have helped create. A charge — any charge at all — comes up against politician A or B, and the first question to him on television is: “When are you going to step down? You mean you're not going to resign?” That logic now spites its authors. The chickens are home to roost in a stifling coop. That righteous drawing-room outrage hurts when turned inwards. Audience disillusionment follows when they perceive a fall from that high perch. Meanwhile, I'll take a pass on the bananas.

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Replying late! but since 2G is still in picture it makes sense.When I read this article when it was written I didn't find it much to my taste.I thought it to again come from a Journalist defending his fellow Journalist in a much articulate way.But now to read this article found it in depth.
Agree with you on everything except you not giving journos any role in top three of your 2G dramatise show.I will tell you why I may be wrong.. I would like to give here one example of my friend Rajdeep Sardesai when he defended his ex-fellow journalist.In both the cases the person who is talking is extremely honest and truely dedicated to his profession so is hurt when such things takes place and you know you too did the same while writing and he while talking on Radia tapes.I heard him he was so shocked that indirectly he was defending himself and his profession and nobody else.Actually both of you love your profession so much! feel good to see the sunshine amidst so much of gloom.Thanks!

from:  Ms.Farhat Bakhsh
Posted on: Nov 28, 2011 at 00:00 IST

The 'privileged' and the 'people' form two nations in India. The destiny of the nation seems to be in the hands of the Corporate fixers, who can fix ministerial portfolios, parliamentary debates, cover stories, anything that brings in the loot for their corporate benefactors. Individual interests of the politicians and the rest of this group. Seems to trump the collective needs of the nation. Mr. Ratan Tata has filed for privacy rights in the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, there is no private life which has not been determined by a wider public life. When Mr. Tata assumes public trust for his group, he should consider himself as public property. Presumably he feels it is public scandal that constitutes offense, and to sin in secret is not to sin at all. If he feels that his privacy was infringed, then the injustice done to an individual is sometimes of service to the public. His privacy ends where the right to information in the national interest begins.

from:  Yunus Sait
Posted on: Dec 18, 2010 at 02:17 IST

It is pitty such a resourceful man like Tata has opened his mouth about corruption after 20 years or so. These people are very opportunist knowing fully well that his image is likely to be tarnished after exposure of Radia tapes.

from:  Prakash
Posted on: Dec 12, 2010 at 14:06 IST

A big issue is being made of corruption, which has metamorphosed into corporate corruption today, and honest journalism in the country today. And it is a pity that we are wasting reams and reams of paper and polluting our stratosphere which is already riddled with holes with the megabytes of all those analysts and politicians. There has always been corruption in the media, and there will always be, and today the mediamen play a vital role because they are no more confined to journalism and want a piece of the kickbacks cake or want to be the guys who decide how the kickbacks should be equally or unequally distributed. And that is where the lobbyist comes into the picture. To help the media barons in explaining in journalistic language how big the kickbacks cake is and how they can benefit from the largesse if they join hands with the corporates. And this has reduced journalism, every journalism, into stenography.

from:  Vengoboy
Posted on: Dec 10, 2010 at 13:13 IST

Essentially, every news article - be it in print media or TV news channel, seems to be having a hidden motive behind it (very few exceptions). We being the "normal" citizens of this country have to exercise high amount of restraint in forming an opinion or reacting to the news based on this opinion or just falling prey to this "Paid news" or "corporate PR motivated propaganda" or just any hidden agenda behind every new 'story'. Because of these Indian media practices, I fear for the severe impact on the most important skills that an informed citizen should have like good opinion forming, decision making capability on wide range of issues by thinking in right perspective with the righteousness in mind and heart. God save India from the clutches of these highly greedy people.

from:  Sunil Bandameedapalli
Posted on: Dec 9, 2010 at 13:13 IST

As long as there is a govt, the people with money would want to make that govt dance for thier tunes. Liberalisation has just allowed more players to expolit democracy and steal benifits. Free market economy will only remain as a dream, it is never going to materialize because nobody wants a free market...all that they want is a crack wide enough to let them pass through! In the US the governments are made by corporates and oil tycoons. In India too, the government is made by the people with money. But unlike US India doesn't have desperate countries to be made a scapegoat so India is all that is possible on the bare back of the destitute and poor citizens of this country whom much of the 'elite' population has long disowned!!

from:  Aravind
Posted on: Dec 7, 2010 at 15:27 IST

First it was Politicians,then came the Bureaucrats and now its Media to be accused by a common man of being corrupt,,..Corruption follows the most powerful source,and in this information age "Media is the most powerful organisation of the entire system..So the question is "Are we pointing the mole in the face or is there a dirt spot on the mirror too??"(face and Mirror is a metaphor for system and media)

Posted on: Dec 6, 2010 at 17:50 IST

P Sainath's article is brilliant and is a must read for every citizen of this country. It is sad to see that, the media in general(with the exception of Hindu, and a few others) is displaying great reluctance in acknowledging the fallibility of Journalistic fraternity in the face of unholy Political-Corporate nexus. After this expose, it has become difficult to accept at face value, what is reported as news from the media(Print as well as TV). The media had come to symbolized as the most vital force in exposing the corruption involving politicians and bureaucrats. This trust has been severely breached with the unraveling of the Radiagates. I am sure there is lurking sense of hopelessness and betrayal in every right thinking citizen of this country.

from:  C S Vadiraj
Posted on: Dec 6, 2010 at 13:13 IST

Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi crossed the Lakshman Rekha . They must be punished by The Editors Guild of India, the Press Association and the Press Club of India, to atleast restore Indian publics faith in the Indian Media .

Kudos to journalists like P. Sainath and newspapers like The Hindu , atleast there is some hope for the fourth-estate in India to remain a pillar of democracy.

Posted on: Dec 6, 2010 at 09:26 IST

Sainath's piece is the most perceptive and insightful write up I have read so far (and I have read most of what has appeared in print and on the net)on the credibility crisis of the Indian media in the wake of the Radia tapes. As a journalist working in Orissa,I have seen corporate power at play in winning of elections, formation of governments and formulation of policy from very close quarters. Editors being appointed or thrown out of media houses, particular journalists getting out of turn promotions, prime property or other goodies at the behest of corporates - it is all part of the game.

from:  sandeep sahu
Posted on: Dec 5, 2010 at 23:45 IST

The rot did not set since recently. Journalism as a calling prompted great journalists of the pre-independent India to play a role of educating, informing and forming the public. Maybe it is the disappointment with the new rulers and their Achilles heels or the mere recognition of journalism as yet another job rather than a calling caused journalists to be come cynical. As a 21 year old management student, I approached a very well respected editor in Kannada for help with collecting data to identify the determinants of job satisfaction among journalists. His advice to me was that I stay away from it as in his words" "You will not find a more cynical bunch than journalists anywhere". How true. Cynicism and recognition of fiduciary responsibility to the public do not blend well.

from:  Sridhar
Posted on: Dec 5, 2010 at 22:54 IST

As anyone who does business knows, corruption is pervasive all over India not only at the central government, but also state government level and.

All the leading English Indian print media have extensive contacts at every social level in the places from where operate, and they know about the extent of corruption. They should know this, if only they care to listen to what they hear. Yet, when is that last time any print media seriously pursued corruption in Chennai, Mumbai, Bagalooru, Kolkata, Hyderabad?

The silence of the established English media on this point is astounding. In the supposedly more "progressive" South and Mumbai, corruption is so well integrated into every level of society that everyone is simultaneously a victim and beneficiary of corruption -- including those in the media. That is why nobody in the media digs into individual cases.

And individual citizens with conscience, but without any social and political clout simply have retracted from any social discourse knowing full well that it would be futile.

from:  Kollengode S Venkataraman
Posted on: Dec 5, 2010 at 20:55 IST

Did you guys seriously think that all these multi billion dollar empires are made and sustained by selling goods ? Even running a small business forces you to make choices you are not proud of , then to build and maintain a corporate house is definitely not a joke. It is very easy for everyone to sit in judgement against Ratan Tata, Ambanis etc but how many of you provide employment to even half as many people as them. The lobbyists have always existed and will continue to exist. All this crap about ethics , who decides what is ethical and how do you trust their motives ?

from:  shashank
Posted on: Dec 5, 2010 at 13:34 IST

These tapes are only available on internet and majority of our people have no access to this medium.Hence somebody like Shobha De should write story so that have daily soap on TV on this subject so that "Aam Aadmi" also understands the idea of India.For students of marketing these are gold mines and covers most of the things like prospecting,establishing rapport,problem identification,positioning against competitions,overcoming concerns,gaining confirmation,follow-up and follow through and personal management.Niira Radia performs all these skills with high level of competence.She is better than Dale Carnie who wrote "How to win friends and influence people" .

from:  Madhusudan Thakkar
Posted on: Dec 5, 2010 at 08:55 IST

P Sainath and The Hindu should conduct a mass program like Restoring Sanity/Fear by John Stewart and Jim Corbert recently in Washington. Stewart speech at the end of the program on 24/7 media was very good. You can watch it on youtube. The speech and rally is relevant to India also.

from:  prasbad
Posted on: Dec 5, 2010 at 06:21 IST

Did anyone watch the show with Ms. Burka Dutt explaining her actions to fellow journalists on NDTV? All one can deduce from her performance is she believes in attack as the best form of defense. From a certain narrow perspective, the tactic worked well in dominating the course of discussion. Though I am sympathetic to the issue of privacy breaches, we'll have to debate that in a more detailed review of current interception laws and practices. Frankly, I for one, found her argument of 'stringing my source along' utterly unconvincing. Hats off to The Hindu for frankly discussing the topic. Mr. Sardesai from Network 18, kicked up a firestorm at the Editors Guild by stating, in her defense, other 'journalists were just envious of her'! Clearly, for some journalists, there exists one standard of scrutiny for the rest of the world and an entirely different standard for their own.

from:  Radha
Posted on: Dec 5, 2010 at 03:15 IST

It is very difficult to differentiate between corporate and politician these days.As we saw in Maharashtra , more than 180 crorepatis won the election and the net wealth of politicians have increased by 300-450% between last two elections.Media was of a little comfort , but even that is a corporate now.If only we had more legends like Mr P Sainath or more newspapers like Hindu which give chance to these journalists ,India would have been a better place.

from:  Sachin
Posted on: Dec 5, 2010 at 01:06 IST

The defence of journalists like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi and Prabhu Chawla on the Radia tapes is extremely lame.

The larger public should not let this issue just die down.

from:  Zed Mistry
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 23:08 IST

If media has just become another form of advertisement, if journalists have become stenographers, actors have become advertisers and athletes have become assets, our educational institutions are reduced to mere training grounds for forming the letters and adding the numbers in the way that will serve the machine. Responding to another talk where Sainath discussed the media's "structural compulsion to lie," historian Romila Thapar called consumerim the opiate of the middle classes. Are the press, sports, cinema are all pushing this opium? and: SRA makes a good point. From the tone of the very first "Hi Niira" you get the impression that Ms. Dutt and Ms. Radia have such conversations often.

from:  LS Aravinda
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 22:26 IST

While stating that the corporates, not politicians run the country, I feel an obvious fact has been missed. Politicians have today permeated the entire corporate spectrum. From telecom, airlines, industry to construction, there is a political shadow in most business houses. Most personal agendas of politicians are pushed through under the guise of the corporate. I find the wealth statement of Mr. Reddy, who just left the Congress party, most revealing.

from:  Tony
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 16:45 IST

Both Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi cannot escape their act of irregularity as journalist.They work as a mediator, inducing a public official to act otherwise than as his duty requires or to his duty when otherwise he would not.The inducement or bribe need not be money alone. It can be the shape of promise of support in an election,or formation of ministry,or appointments to higher position or reward of Pdmashree/Padmabibhusan with deceitful argument.The beneficiary of the 'bribe'may not be an individual but a party or faction.Dishonesty thrives as vested interest earn huge money from the deal.Many journalist and media persons see a jungle of nepotism and temptation through which they have to hack their way. Their enthusiasm and idealism is thus turned into a cynicism.

from:  Chanchal Dutta
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 15:31 IST

Couple of days back i was watching Burkha Dutt in NDTV . The program was supposed to be organized to ask questions to her and clarify viewers of her position in the entire episode .It was shocking to see her arrogance and she didn't have patience to listen to questions and answer them adequately . May be she believes she can never go wrong. While publishing of the tapes could be invasion of privacy ,however it definitely showed the media's(may be part of media's ) true color to public.

from:  Ravi Annadurai
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 14:35 IST

From the audios, Tatas interest in having Raja to man the Telecom Ministry is obvious. Having been seen on the wrong side, one feels that the Mr. Tata should not have gone to the SC. Because, his right to privacy is implicit in the fundamental right of RIGHT TO LIVE. How can one be right in using one constituent of a fundamental right to infringe upon the other fundamental right, viz. right to be treated equally by law/Govt., of vast majority of citizens? The simplest definition of Company is that it is a legal citizen. So, have all the legal citizens and natural citizens been treated equally by Law/Govt. in the 2G spectrum scam? The ball is in the Supreme Court to answer.

from:  KVSKumar
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 14:34 IST

If the lady from the noted channel, who keeps herself busy bustling amongst the audience she invites for her righteous shows, does not resign, it is because she adopts two standards. One for her seemingly audacious interrogation of target politician; and one for herself. Take the high road when dealing with others, but the lowest of the low roads when you are being extremely kind to yourself. This is our media today. Would Pranoy please do the right thing here? Or, does he have many standards to follow as well?

from:  Ramgopal Dass
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 09:46 IST

The media ( visual media in particular ) is an entertainment these days - just like a comedy flick. Everyone want to "break" news. No wonder some satirical shows make fun of them by imitating "Breaking news: today is Diwali!" In today's world I do not take every newspaper's and news channels views and reports at face value. I check at least 5 different sources from the internet ( even from international media house portals if applicable) to get an unbiased view. Its really a sorry state for journalism today.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 08:58 IST

The phenomenon of media becoming a part of corporate world is sad. People with power always hog the limelight using media for their advantage. Hitler once appeared on the cover of Time magazine as the person of the year.His deeds later may have embarrassed the founders of magazine(in heaven), but he was made a hero.So media should not be quick in making someone hero or for that matter to demonize someone.Crony capitalism reminds me of famous Miliband-Poulantza debates and concept of deformed polyarchy,I think state is hardly autonomus of corporates atleast not of their lobbyist.We Indians are very inclined to make comparisons between India and USA like NBA and IPL ,9/11 and 26/11,NASA and ISRO, HOLLYWOOD and is mine if they have got military -industrial government complex we have media -industrial government complex.

from:  vikas kundal
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 04:24 IST

The greatest good of the Radia tapes has been in giving the common people a very good peak at the rot. While this is a good sample, much more of this rot needs to be revealed before their current frustration grows into anger and finally action -- action by the people, NOT by those in power. I believe this calls for a Wikileaks Of Indian Corruption.

from:  Kondalarao Palaka
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 02:13 IST

Your point on Agriculture, which employs more than half of India not being discussed enough by policy makers, stands out. Capitalism works because it is very close to human nature (evolution). We have to learn to work it and live with it.

from:  Ganapathy
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 01:36 IST

Year 1999, My senior friend; Major Rishi, was serving our elite Rashtria Rifles. I asked him, 'we got the National News paper saying who is who behind the (Kargil) war, why does not the government 'nip them in their bud?'. He said to me "Every one is doing Time Pass." I did not understand it then. I thought for a moment - what an irresponsible answer. Later through the years I understand all of us are doing time pass. We are dull. We know the entire problem and we do not want to act. All of us are dull headed. We do not care if the Coprorates, journalists, media, doctors, teachers, army and police who are supposed to build the country break the very foundation of it. My respects to the majority of the sincere lot because of whom the country is still alive in the ICU.

from:  Sriram Umasankar
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 00:44 IST

The expose' on Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi and Rajdeep Sardesai have laid threadbare their claims to any kind of journalistic integrity. Secondly, Mr Tata needs to come clean in this regard and expose all those involved. He needs to avoid smears on his reputation and that of the Tata group; especially so at a time when he will soon pass the reigns to a new leader.

from:  Arant Agrawal
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 00:26 IST

India's moral universe is shrinking. The current and past episodes represents the society we are living in and the value system our children will inherit for India's future of tomorrow. There should be a movement in India against corruption. Against this no holds barrel deals between Corporate India and Government of India. This nexus is more cruel then the naxalism or the Kashmir problem. Atleast we know who the enemy is there, here the rot within is trying to destroy us. In Hindu mythology..Ram used the army of monkeys(Vanar Sena) to conquer Ravan. What would have happened if he had all Rakhsas sena by his side. Defeating Ravan would be a very tough task then. This is the Indian state currently, the prime minister is very honest but his subordinates are corrupt. Replacing A.Raja with T.Balu will not solve the problem. Corruption has to be questioned, exposed and blacklisted at every nook and corner. We need a pan India movement that revolts against corrupt practices at each and every level. India should erase the current slate and rewrite it. That seems to me as the only solution.

from:  Sumit
Posted on: Dec 4, 2010 at 00:12 IST

Interesting that his column does not name a single journalist involved. The tapes clearly show that Prabu Chawla for example crossed the line and anything he reports should now be viewed with suspicion. Lobbying by corporates by itself is not wrong, in fact, policy decisions do require discussion with corporates as the babus cannot be expected to be knowledgeable of all the implications that a particular policy may have, especially given the nature of the appointments of the bureaucrats. It is when money or other favors exchange hands from corporates to policy decision makers that things begin to break down. The real issue that the courts have to focus on is whether money and favors exchanged hands and not the fact that there was lobbying going on.

from:  Pravin Kumar
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 22:36 IST

When we lack the ability to bring about qualitative change in the one group of people we have relatively greater control over i.e the elected members of the Lok Sabha - it sounds ridiculous to imagine we have the capacity to influence the unelected members of the Press. Idealism aside- my point is there are limits as to how far institutions on the periphery from power, such as the media, can remain unsullied from the central political core of the Nation. That is what bites the most. A Frenchman once observed "People get the government they deserve." Ms. Burka Dutt, Mr. Vir Sanghvi, Ms Radia and Mr. Raja are only symptoms of a society that have enjoyed tremendous economic reform but little shift in the social structures of patronage that allows the rot to live on and grow. Result? Let those ideas of being a "superpower" rest in peace for the next century. we'll meddle along, neither as a leader of the world nor the worst off.

from:  Arti
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 22:26 IST

The article beautifully exposes the politics-journalist-corporate nexus. It's a sad picture of Indian democracy, which is though emerging for the rest of the world but internally weak and degrading. Can India really emerge in the hands of private sector? Time has come to reconsider our economic policy and mend it before it's too late.

from:  swati surve
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 20:59 IST

A well articulated thought. Whats really taken the sanity down is the fact that there is more hue and cry on the release of the tapes than the content of it. Leave the fact aside why and who leaked the tapes. Deal with it later if one has to... we cannot deny the content of it be it the esteemed jounalists who have enjoyed the respect of the the common people, be it the much maligned politicians or be it the most respected corporate head of independant India. They all are talking as characters of a bollywood flick centered around our country's corruption.

Sometime I wonder how come some movies are so real... they even know what will happen to any investigation on big scam or corruption.....NOTHING

from:  AS
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 20:32 IST

This is probably the way the world media is progressing -- completely controlled by the corporates. Look at what is happening in the US, UK or any other western country. Atleat we don't have (at least not yet) some one like Rupert Murdoch. But Indian media is fast learning from their sister concerns like the FOX news. Look at the way they covered certain Delhi oriented murder mystries like the Nitish Katara murder, or the Arushi murder case so as to blank out coverage for so many other important issues. They cunningly make a common reader (or viewer) loose a sense of priority in focusing on important issues. Why would a common man keep quiet in the face of extreme price rise? poor roads? corruption? , because all that you see in the media is about the Ruchika molestation case or the Priyadarshinin Matoo murder case. Where the baddies are eventually kept behind the bars and you can go for a candle light vigil assured that the nation is safe. They make idiots out of sensible people.

from:  sunil
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 20:07 IST

"True, the spaces are shrinking but they exist. So journalists, especially entrenched ones, can choose whether they want to be stenographers or not." This statement is wrong because there may be space for few people like Sainath. For most of us, there is no space at all, Sir. Most of the district stringers, both, in print and TV, do not get any remuneration for their work. Those who work full time, get less than subsistence allowance and are forced to work double shifts. There are no trade unions capable of safeguarding the media staff. The society at large, does not bother about use of media to further the corprate interests, nor does it bother to see how a journalist is going to survive. The governments, as Sainath has pointed out, are run by the corporates. Media houses are an extension of the corporates. The non compromising journalists are forced to leave. The space thus created, is filled up by those who do not know the 'C' of credibility and 'v' of values. But they survive and prosper. The only way left for the non compromising journalist is either to become a stenographer or kill his family before committing suicide. Yes, the stenographers sometimes do get some space between the quarrels of the corporates and this opportunity gives them some ethical subsistence. The rest of the article is excellent. And sadly, helpless.

from:  gunjan sinha
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 19:04 IST

As an urban educated youth, I watch these primetime news channels for entertainment and NOT infotainment and I think by declaring this I am voicing out the thoughts of a million others who no longer watch news channels with trust or belief of the reporting agency. It is a shame that news reporting has become melodramatic with show-hosts emoting, acting, coupled with loud or situational music... I think the nation knows how to react when a Tsunami hits or a gory 26/11 incident. We do not want recursive pictures with heartwrenching music to feel bad about such incidents. At the same time,we also encourage the media in bringing the criminals to justice be it the Jessica Lal Case in much less brash and dramatic way. The two journalist-icons were well respected for their courage with the way they questioned authorities and represented thoughts of several others but today their credibility is at stake. It has forced us to question ourselves and the need to invest our time in less meaningful and dishonest entertainment.

from:  Aishwarya Krishnan
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 18:42 IST

The dissection of the issue is precise in every manner. The candid revelation of the ugly collusion among corporates, journalsits(stenographers) and politicians depicts the multitude facets of corruption in India. The metaphorical elucidation in the article fits aptly. Finally as Sainath had earlier written, Indian ministers' job is to serve India Inc. not the people of India.

from:  Rakesh Halley
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 17:38 IST

In the entire argument, the stress seems to imply economic power wielded by corporate drives everything. I am afraid that is missing the point. It is ultimately the political power that drives everything; with that one can have not only economic and other powers; most importantly political power, republic be it in any flavor - banana, strawberry whatever - provides legitimacy for every thing. Economic power is only a subset, political power is everything.

from:  Ravee
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 17:34 IST

Mr. Tata is a very respected person abroad and particularly in India. He is right to go to SC and demand for his fundamental right which is guaranteed in the constitution. Didn't Mr. Tata know, as Mr. Sainath exposed, who really runs the country -the elected government or the Corporates? Didn't Mr. Tata and other Corporatre tycoons know what a banana republic is? Look at to South Amerian countries about 20 years ago. Do they really wish to make India a banana republic forgetting all the past of India`s freedom struggle against colonialism and forgetting all our poor people in the distant villages? Today India is full of scandals, corruptions and cronyism. Mr. Tata can advise and take the initiative with his cronies not to make India a banana republic. Most of our politicians have no moral values and money became their god since 20 years. As the respected critic Prof. Sukumar Azhikode wrote: " dont convert our politics as a cow-dug-pond with creeping worms."

from:  Mathew Embrayil
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 17:28 IST

Taking into account the structural overlaps between the “media” and the “entities and personalities” they are tasked to cover, it would be most naive to imagine any real shift in “loyalties” from these so called journalists towards the various “camps” spread across the political/corporate/ngo spectrum. Even in the aftermath of these recorded conversations being published. Rather, readers and viewers must develop there own “internal guidance system” capable of absorbing those pieces of information that have value and disregarding the rest. In other words, expect little change in “ethical codes of conduct” and follow the concept of “Buyer Beware.” P.S- For those who think this is all NEW to India please read the “The Mitrokhin Archive -part II”. Our Press was wide open to manipulation long before the advent of large Corporates. The former head of KGB archives in Moscow devotes an entire chapter to KGB India Operations, describing them “as so successful, we made it a model for penetration in third world countries”.

from:  Roy
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 17:20 IST

Brilliant Sainath. Great Article. As you have rightly pointed out when did Parliament ever have a discussion on Agriculture. The Radia tapes have been an eye opener of Himalayan proportions. The Gods of the Fourth Estate have had a disgraceful fall. Which cabinet post should go to which person ? Does the PM decide or the Corporates ? Banana Republic ?? We truly are one already.

from:  Shrinivasan V
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 16:33 IST

The article exposes how far the media and journalism has drifted into the murky world of dealing and wheeling of big business and politics. What India needs urgently is laying down rules and regulations for the function of an independant,free and responsible media (televison, radio and the printed media). Probabaly a study of how this is achieved in the European countries and America will help. There has to be a legal frame work, independent regulatory bodies and accountability.

from:  H B N Pillai
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 16:33 IST

In any metro in India you can see that the IAS officers,the journalists,the judges and the legislators, all have their colonies in the poshest areas, bestowed by government of the day for favours received etc. Thus all the "estates" work together for "public" good. What does this indicate?

from:  rao
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 16:28 IST

The worrying factor absolute arrogance of Barkha and Rajdeep. They are new to the word Humility. When they interview others they are so assertive and when they defend themselves also they are assertive. They believe they cannot do anything wrong. How about boycotting these channels by not giving interviews and stop distribution of these channels by cable operators. At the end of the day some amount of punishment is needed.

from:  pras
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 16:18 IST

We have moved, due to growing corporate influence, from the age of media propaganda (manufacturing consent) to media censorship (manufacturing silence).

from:  hari
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 15:33 IST

You have hit the nail on the head. I am sure that the tapes although illegaly mined will do good to the journalism and the reading/watching public to look for integrity in reporting, doing justice to the profession without compromising on values with the sole pursuit of TRP and readership. Emperors(and of course queens) are naked. Better realise or get punished!

from:  S.Baskaran
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 15:29 IST

Super article. Well written. It was shocking to hear senior jornos agree to play message couriers or discuss their articles with PR people beforehand. And their defense sounds lame, irrespective of the gusto in which they are made

from:  AM
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 13:16 IST

While it is also true that there are thousands of journalists putting in a hard day's work but journalism in India has become a cesspool and as they say the scum always floats up to the top. There is much within the profession which needs cleaning up. News gathering among senior journalists is just a pretense for either sucking up to the political powers of the day or Corporate houses lobbying either for themselves or for someone else. It is a mutually convenient arrangement where news stories are completely twisted or planted by senior editors/ proprietors or complete hacks barely a few months into the job.

from:  Anil Kotwal
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 08:25 IST

What bothers me is not that that they were in contact with Radia but they were pretty much following orders. The conversations seemed like this activity had been done many times.

from:  SRA
Posted on: Dec 3, 2010 at 06:09 IST
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