Friday, 26 August 2011

The Indian People Support Anna. Does the Indian Media?

Written by Dr. Seshadri Kumar, August 21, 2011

Well, for the most part, they don't.  Times Now is the only channel I have seen on Indian TV that actually supports Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement.  After yesterday's electric news conference at Ramlila (the first after Anna set up camp there), Arnab Goswami, chief editor, in his evening program, Newshour, simply said, "The Government will have to pass this bill."

But the rest?  Oh no, they are dead set against Anna.  When you think of the major cable news channels in India, you think of NDTV (Prannoy Roy's channel), Times Now, and CNN-IBN.  NDTV and CNN-IBN are both anti-Anna.  

Nothing illustrates this better than a comparison of two interviews on the program "Devil's Advocate," hosted by Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN.  On June 18, Karan interviewed Union Human Resource and Development Minister Kapil Sibal; on August 20, he interviewed Team Anna Hazare activists Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan.  I am posting links below to the two interviews.  Read them and judge for yourselves whether or not Thapar has a bias.

The Sibal Interview: Yes, Minister

The interview with Sibal seems just like a platform for Sibal to state what he wishes.  Karan sometimes asks questions in response to what Sibal says, but these are in the nature of clarifications, to help Sibal propagate his message better, not to challenge anything he says.  Often he simply repeats what Sibal just stated.  Just once does he interrupt Sibal, that too in a very minor way.  At one point, Sibal makes a starkly incorrect statement suggesting that the President of the US or any other head of government has never been answerable to any ombudsman, when clearly everyone knows how Bill Clinton was investigated by Ken Starr leading to his impeachment - but Karan doesn't call him on that.

The Bhushan/Kejriwal Interview: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

In contrast, the interview with Kejriwal and Bhushan is sharp, accusatory, and confrontational.  Karan interrupts his guests almost every time they speak, asks questions in a manner suggesting that his mind is made up and no response from Kejriwal or Bhushan would satisfy him, and constantly badgers them.  He even goes to the extent of saying that even if the Jan Lokpal people had the support of 10-15 million people (which he says he's willing to grant them), it doesn't count. 

 This is bordering on the utterly ridiculous.  On the one hand, you have surveys that are based on 1000-2000 people at the most that make up people's and news channels' minds on what the wishes of people are.  Most people are actually not aware that most life-critical medication they take are based on surveys involving less than 200 people.  And here are people who are able to show the support of much larger groups of people, and this anchor glibly dismisses them as irrelevant!


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