Posts Tagged ‘TV’

Wolfowitz and Hazare (by Jawed Naqvi)

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2011 at 6:05 pm

From: Dawn.com

Wolfowitz and Hazare

By Jawed Naqvi

On September 8, 2011 @ 1:53 am

ON April 15, 2008, India’s most televised anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare received the World Bank’s Jit Gill memorial award for ‘outstanding public service’.

On April 12, 2006, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz had claimed in Jakarta that corruption was “one of the biggest threats to development” in the Third World.

A neo-con author of America’s invasion of Iraq, which he justified to the world with a lie, was explaining in his new avatar how his brand of development was threatened by corruption. It “weakens fundamental systems, it distorts markets, and it encourages people to apply their skills and energies in non-productive ways”, Wolfowitz proclaimed.

“Civil society, the private sector, borrowing countries and other multilateral banks all have key interests and responsibilities to tackle corruption,” he said. What is this civil society that the World Bank leans on and how does Anna Hazare fit in?

It is well known that the neoliberal worldview and old fashioned democracy in the Third World do not go together. The prescribed preference is for a free-market democracy. Populist idealism of a Nehru or a Bhutto is required to be filtered out.

Pakistan had previously barred the poor from getting into parliament by a harmless sounding fiat — only graduates are allowed in. Did the state first make provisions for everyone to try and be a graduate so as to get an equal chance? A similar demand to exclude India’s poor for their lack of education came from Hazare’s platform last month. But India in any case offers a good glimpse into how the filtering is done more artfully and virtually overnight.

The project began in early 1990s and the first step was to exorcise India’s decision-making institutions from the ghosts and spirits of past populists and idealists. The Indian parliament would be a challenge here. It has a majority of MPs voted by the most marginalised. And though the country boasts of the world’s largest billionaires, parliament in its current form is in no position to wish away the 800 million people who live on less than $0.30 a day. Adding to the malaise is a debilitating caste system that seeks to court social exclusion to keep political power from being fairly distributed. Anna Hazare’s movement is shored up by fans of Manu, the mythical king regarded as the first proponent of the caste arrangement.

Ambedkar, the Dalit icon and author of India’s constitution, had warned against equality in politics in the form of one-person one-vote and inequalities in social and economic life. For political democracy to succeed, it needed to be founded on the fibres of social and economic equality, he said. Nehru and Gandhi shared Ambedkar’s fear.

How were they to be dealt with in the new Indian order? Two teams were created as make-believe rivals — the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.

WikiLeaks documents have exposed how both were sworn to outdo the other before their patrons at the US embassy in Delhi.

A left-backed third alternative was tried but was subverted.

Even with the subterfuge, parliament continued to be at least verbally deferential to the poor and to their less than polished representatives mostly from rural constituencies.

The urban elite remained incensed. The hoi polloi could still stall their agenda — the nuclear bill, for example, which the United States and the Indian prime minister had made into a prestige issue. An interim arrangement was made to circumvent the ordeal. The Congress had used the ploy previously. It used it again.

In 1992, it had bribed a clutch of vulnerable tribal MPs to win a crucial trust vote. They were jailed but that is how then finance minister Manmohan Singh’s IMF-brokered policies survived the test of democracy. (Wolfowitz would perhaps not be interested.)

The BJP formed the next government equally immorally. It was aware that it did not have the majority in the Lok Sabha, and yet it used a mere 13 days in power to sign a scandalous deal with Enron.

What we are witnessing today is an unending bout of mud wrestling between the two teams parliament is split into.

MPs and ministers on both sides have been accused of colluding in shady corporate deals. Some have been dispatched to prison. Inter-corporate rivalry, fuelled by a sibling feud in India’s biggest business house had begun to reveal serious names.

The media took the credit though its own leading representatives were found complicit in the game of power peddling.

With parliament loaded against them on both sides of the fence, the people would normally take to the streets. Wolfowitz and his successors would have none of that. The fear was not misplaced. What if the people’s anger against unbridled corruption turned left? What if people go back to populism or worse? What if they begin to rally support for a structural change, which in India’s case would be nothing short of a revolution, the kind the people of Egypt had started to expect before they were reined in by the military?

Anna Hazare stepped in as a guarantor against the feared upheaval. He was shored by a combination of leftists, liberals and most prominently of all by the Hindu equivalent of Iranian mullahs, the more vocal being those supported by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Prashant Bhushan is a widely respected campaigner against corporate corruption. He and the various communist parties that lent support to Anna Hazare are all reminiscent of the liberals and the leftists who thought they would live in a clean corruption-free Iran after the Shah’s exit. They had failed to anticipate the conspiracy between Iran’s clergy and Ronald Reagan’s White House.

The movement we just witnessed in India was neatly timed to allow for unprecedented corporate-backed TV coverage.

Hazare’s first fast in Delhi started the day after India won the cricket World Cup. Nationalist adrenalin was in full cry. It ended a day before the high stakes IPL cricket series was to begin.

The latest round of his campaign happened at the end of a widely televised Test series against England, which Indians for some reason were hoping to win. The fast ended a few days before the beginnings of the shorter version of the game. Between the outings Hazare bowled his googly. Wolfowitz should have given a standing ovation.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.


Anna sets the tone for the media (Jyoti Punwani)

In Perspective on September 6, 2011 at 12:58 pm

From: The Hoot

Anna sets the tone for the media

Normally, anyone who questions the democratic credentials of the Indian State is made short shrift of by TV anchors It was refreshing to watch Arnab Goswami, who loves to brand a variety of human rights activists `terrorists’, harp on the need for the government to reach out to people, says JYOTI PUNWANI

Posted/Updated Tuesday, Sep 06 11:45:52, 2011

here’s looking at us
Jyoti Punwani

The non-stop coverage of Anna Hazare’s fast by news channels had one positive fallout – for the first time, very basic questions were debated about the nature of the world’s largest democracy. Normally, anyone who questions the democratic credentials of the Indian State is made short shrift of by TV anchors, who have emerged in the past few years as the greatest defenders of the `System’. But the mass movement in support of Anna Hazare’s attempt to bring in the Jan Lokpal Bill, centred round people demanding explanations of their elected representatives, treating them as if they were accountable. TV channels had no option but to reflect this in their debates.
It was refreshing to watch Arnab Goswami, the man who loves to bait Maoists, Left-liberals and human rights activists as terrorists and anti-nationals, almost echo the ideas that these people believe in – that the people are supreme. “Governments have to reach out to the people,’’ said Arnab. When senior lawyer Harish Salve called the Jan Lokpal Bill `draconian’, Arnab reminded him that the people of the North East had been suffering for decades under the draconian AFSPA, and Irom Sharmila had been fasting against it for 12 years. Who would have thought that all the opponents of AFSPA – from Irom Sharmila to the Kashmiris to human rights wallahs to Arundhati Roy – would find an ally in the TV anchor who carries the burden of nationalism on his shoulders?
Lord Meghnad Desai’s inputs in various TV debates were also refreshing in what they revealed about our Parliamentarians. He pointed out their readiness to pass Bills at breakneck speed when it suited them (17 bills were passed in 12 minutes in September 2010) contrasted with their reluctance to pass the Jan Lokpal bill in a hurry. But more interesting was his view that Parliamentarians were not holy cows. In a debate on the derogatory references to MPs made by various speakers at Ram Lila Maidan, Lord Desai pointed out that in Britain, the kind of ridicule MPs were subjected to by the media could make one cry. He also punctured Parliament’s claim to have an exclusive monopoly over law-making: “Just being in Parliament doesn’t give so much legitimacy that you can ignore the people,’’ he said. He also described as “feudal’’ the notion that only MPs knew how to pass laws.

To hear all this on prime time TV was exhilarating. Normally, people protesting on the streets non-violently are barely acknowledged by TV news. Of course, there hasn’t been a movement as vast in numbers and in geographical spread as this one. These two factors made it impossible for the media to ignore it. However, there have been fairly large local movements in recent years of poor people – tribal rallies in Chhattisgarh (December 2010); workers congregating in Delhi against price rise and unemployment (February 2011); the Tarapur to Jaitapur anti nuclear march (April 2011); the anti-POSCO movement; the resistance to Jindal Steel & Power in Chhattisgarh; the adivasis’ march to Mumbai (March 2011); Medha Patkar’s fast protesting against illegalities in slum redevelopment andslumdemolitions (May 2011), are a few that come immediately to mind.
All of these have been ignored by TV, mainly because they haven’t involved people like us. This in spite of the fact that the concerns these localised campaigns have raised affect the entire country: Maoism, Salwa Judum, our model of development and the rights of tribals and local communities; the risks of nuclear power; the builder-government nexus and the right to shelter for all citizens. When the media does take note of these issues (normally when an agitation turns violent or is fired upon by the police), it may give time and space to one supporter of the agitation, but overall, it upholds the State view, or at least, doesn’t challenge it seriously.
But the unexpected response to Anna Hazare’s campaign by people like us, forced the media to take note of it. The fact that people like us were its most articulate supporters, was also a factor in media support.

There were thousands of peopl not like us at Ram Lila, Azad Maidan, and everywhere else, in fact, they constituted the majority. Unfortunately, they weren’t the ones dominating the TV screens. The long duration of Anna’s fast, and the continuous support for him through the 12 days, forced the media to discuss the issues raised by it threadbare. The legitimacy of fasts and street protests; the role of MPs in a Parliamentary democracy; what our politicians had reduced politics too, and what people expected of them – all this took centre stage. People like Prashant Bhushan, Medha Patkar, Arvind Kejriwal, Aruna Roy and Swami Agnivesh who don’t normally get time to air their views in depth were given generous amounts of time and space. These people have a radically different view of the State than that that held by the usual panelists invited on TV, not to mention the views held by our well-known TV anchors.

Just how different these views were from those held by the latter became obvious when Barkha Dutt reacted with alarm to a proposal by Medha Patkar that if the government didn’t accept Anna Hazare’s demand to discuss the three non-negotiable points: the citizens’ charter, state lokpals, and the lower bureaucracy being brought under the Lokpal Bill, the protesters would form a human chain around Parliament. “They are threatening a human chain around Parliament!’’ Barkha informed her panelists, in a tone implying that a human chain equalled a human bomb. A human chain is surely the most non-violent act of collective solidarity and protest there can be; such chains have been a regular feature of peace marches. There was no hint of the proposed human chain turning violent. Why then did the spectre of people encircling Parliament so alarm Barkha? Similarly, the gheraoing of MPs’ houses, and the PM’s house, by Anna’s supporters, was made out to be totally far-out by many news anchors.

Why? Our honourable MPs are put into the hallowed precincts of Parliament by the very hordes thronging Ram Lila. And they are sent there to represent “the voice of the people’’, as S Chandrashekhar, the Hyderabad convener of Anna’s movement, put it. What’s the harm if some of these hordes peacefully picket the homes of those they have elected and ask them some tough questions? Picketing, armed only with placards and full-throated slogans, has been a time-honoured form of protest by all kinds of groups. Obviously for our TV anchors, that was an action fraught with danger. The question arises – danger to whom?

Even Arnab, who was the most supportive of the campaign among all TV anchors, found the slogan `lao ya jao’ (given by Anna with referenceto the Bill) `a bit political’’. Is party politics the only politics there is? And what’s wrong in telling our government to go? Haven’t all protesters at some time raised such slogans?

The impression one got from the worried faces and tones of our TV anchors was that Parliament and those who comprise it, including our PM, exist in some rarefied pure atmosphere, way above all of us. Leave aside the many shameful episodes that have been witnessed in Parliament, the many undemocratic laws passed there, or the fact that 43.83 % of our MPs have criminal charges against them, 14 % of which are serious (Association for Democratic Reforms’ analysis of the 15th Lok Sabha). Even if the majority of our Parliamentarians were noble souls, they would still owe their position to us. How can the people we elect be so unassailable by us? Perhaps the fact that more than 50 % of them are very rich has made them appear so.(Also ADR figures)
Similarly, what was objectionable about Kiran Bedi’s ghunghat act? Every Indian knows that our MPs never keep their promises. Why should the media get all hot and bothered if a former IPS officer has no inhibitions about enacting their two-facedness in front of thousands of people?

Indeed, it was this former cop who hit the nail on the head when she said that the movement had shown that “we the elected’’ cannot ignore “we the people’’. Over the last two or three years, MPs have become closer to the media than they ever were. Perhaps this cosy relationship has blinded the media to what MPs are meant to be – servants of the people, getting paid by public money, and accountable to them. Fortunately, Anna Hazare and his supporters haven’t forgotten this. Thanks to them, all of us were reminded of this relationship,which is the basis of democracy.

Is the media’s job to support or to report? – Editorial EPW

In Commentary on September 5, 2011 at 7:02 pm

From: Economic & Political Weekly, September 3, 2011, vol xlvI no 36


Indian Media’s Anna Moment
Is the media’s job to support or to report?

The cameras have been switched off. The microphones have fallen silent. But the cacophony generated by the saturation media coverage accorded to the agitation led by Anna Hazare for a Jan Lokpal Bill continues to ricochet. Questions are being asked, as well they should, not just about the extent of media coverage, especially by the electronic media, but on the content of the coverage. Given the profuse expressions of appreciation by the Anna Hazare group at the end of the protests to the media for its “support”, a key question that the media needs to ask is whether its role in such a situation is to support or to report. By becoming participants in this particular campaign against corruption, has the electronic media forfeited any semblance of professionalism that had survived previous occasions where it had gone overboard? Or will it take the time to pause now and analyse why it decided that the saturation coverage of the campaign, at the cost of scores of other important news developments across India, was justified?

From the coverage of the April fast by Anna Hazare at Jantar Mantar, where television anchors were waxing eloquent about how this was India’s Tahrir Square, to August when a leading anchor announced that this was “an inflexion point” in India’s history, it was apparent that the electronic media had bought into the protest, setting aside scepticism or distance essential in the interests of accuracy and balance. The story had been reduced to good and evil – with “civil society” of the Anna brand as good and the government as evil. Even if one argues that some of the coverage was justified, particularly after Hazare’s arrest and the drama of his release that followed, when and how did the media decide to accord the protests non-stop uncritical coverage? One reason could be that the response in April to the fast had alerted news media that this was a story their largely middle class urban viewers would follow. Television revenue is based on viewership. Over the two weeks in August that all news channels, with the exception of Doordarshan, focused exclusively on Ramlila Maidan, news viewership increased while that of sports as well as Hindi movies dropped.

A second factor could be that the people who staff our media come from the same class as those leading the anti-corruption protests. The Anna Hazare group included journalists and technology savvy young people. They knew how to talk to journalists; journalists knew how to relate to them. Such a cosy relationship is not possible with adivasis fighting for their lands, dalits agitating against exclusion, north-easterners and Kashmiris demanding repeal of oppressive laws or anti-nuclear agitators who resist the imposition of a dangerous technology. On the other hand, corruption, particularly someone else’s corruption, is a comfortable cause to support along-side “people like us”. For the electronic media, this story was tailor- made – a fixed location, colourful crowds, a 74-year-old Gandhian-type figure on fast, and a campaign against something as generic as “corruption” that had universal appeal. “Team Anna” provided quotable quotes, considerable drama, and full access at all times. Plus, the protests were concentrated in Delhi and a few large cities, with rural India represented by Anna Hazare’s village, Ralegan Siddhi. So even in terms of logistics, this was an easy story to cover.

It is how the media converted a protest into a “movement”, a few cities and a village into “the nation” and a compromise into a “victory” that is even more worrying than the extent of the coverage. Almost from the start, the protests had been dubbed “a second freedom movement”, “August Kranti”, etc, placing them in a historical context with which they bore little resemblance. Second, the size of the gatherings at various places was vastly exaggerated by media treatment. Close camera shots hid the actual size of the crowds while reporters used terms like “sea of humanity” rather than approximate numbers. As a result, viewers were led to believe that the numbers had grown from thousands to tens of thousands to millions. Anchors were constantly telling viewers that “never before” had so many people gathered for a protest, a blatant inaccuracy that slipped by unquestioned.

The constant repetition of terms like “nation”, “freedom struggle”, “victory” by the media enhanced the size and significance of the protest. As a result, in popular imagination, the Anna-led agitation will be remembered as one consisting of “millions” of people across the “nation” fighting “a second freedom struggle” when in fact it was a popular, largely urban upsurge against corruption and for a law to curb it. None of this should matter if indeed the media helped push an insecure and indecisive government into moving on a law that was long overdue. The danger lies in the precedent it has set. It suggests that as long as a group, regardless of its agenda, knows how to handle the media, brings in viewership, and confines protests to logistically convenient locations, it can get coverage which, given the power of 24 × 7 news television, can be leveraged to negotiate with the government. In a democracy, where media should act as a check on all power – not just government power – such a scenario is worrying in the extreme.

The Topiwala Camera (Anil Dharker)

In Perspective on August 28, 2011 at 8:35 pm

From: Outlook Magazine, September 05, 2011

The Topiwala Camera
In covering Anna, TV seems to have shed its critical faculties

by Anil Dharker

“Corruption,” I remarked the other day on a television channel, “takes more than one form.” We were talking about—what else?—the latest incremental progression in the Anna Hazare saga. “Everyone talks of money corruption, but what about the other kind—‘Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’? And who has any kind of power now? Only two entities: Anna Hazare and television.”

That’s all I got a chance to say: the anchor swiftly changed the subject and everyone got talking of the usual arguments. A few channels do allow you to discuss the rigidity of Team Anna and its constitutional implications, but no one wants to talk about how the television medium itself is dictating what we think, what we say and when we say it.

Am I the only one disturbed at the supercharged atmosphere (almost amounting to mass hysteria) that surrounds us now on the issue of corruption? In this prevailing atmosphere, you better be for Anna Hazare completely, without any qualifications or reservations, or you will be deemed to be either for corruption or a lackey of the government. (“Your timing is terrible,” a ‘friend’ said to me after that particular television appearance, and then twisted the knife in with, “You sound like a Congress stooge.”) This mood has come about because of television’s blanket coverage of the Anna Hazare campaign, and the minuscule time given by it for the dissenting view.

No one is saying that Anna is a television creation. We have tolerated corruption at all levels for a very long time, but the multiplicity and size of recent scams, and the UPA government’s complete inability to control them so disgusted us all that we had reached bursting point. Anna was more or less the right man at the absolutely right time. He has led a campaign which has been brilliantly conceived and orchestrated by his backroom boys till now. But if his movement has now lit a fire that is seemingly out of control, the flames have been fanned by television’s hyperventilating channels.

Is it really old-fashioned to believe that the media should remain, under all circumstances, balanced and objective? In many cases, you may have to choose between good and evil. You obviously hope then that the media will be on the side of the angels. But even then, should its role continue to be of the news-gatherer, observer and analyst? Or should it be that of an activist? Everyone would want the media to be against corruption, so when a movement like Anna’s starts, you expect the media to be on that movement’s side. But do you expect it to act as the movement’s propagandist?

As far as I know, all channels, even the ones not averse to airing the occasional opposing viewpoint, joined Anna’s campaign directly. They flashed messages—and continue to do so—right through their telecasts asking viewers to support the campaign by tweeting, texting or phoning messages to designated addresses and phone numbers. In short, on the dais where Anna and his team sit, television channels are ensconced too, albeit invisibly.

This may make for exciting and—what’s the buzzword?—interactive television, but it does commit you firmly to one side of the equation, so much so that it becomes difficult to be even slightly critical. It goes without saying that Anna has started a social revolution that will change very many things for the better in the country; but it also goes—and this needs saying—that Anna and team have got so carried away with the momentum of what they started that they don’t know when (or how) to stop.

Television’s lack of objectivity has meant that really important questions are also not being discussed: like the dictatorial tendencies of Team Hazare, the flaws in the Jan Lokpal Bill, the monumental machinery required for the Lokpal agency and the difficultly in keeping it corruption-free. Television’s all-consuming obsession with the campaign has prevented it from looking at already established anti-corruption agencies and why they are not working—agencies like the CBI, CVC, ACB, the Lok Ayuktas set up in some states. No one on television is asking who will do the required investigations for the Lokpal organisation once it begins functioning. The police? Or an agency much like the police? Once you’ve said that, you’ve said it all.

But the channels won’t say it, or many of the other things that need to be said. If they did so, it just might weaken the movement, and that wouldn’t be good for trps, would it?

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