Saturday, April 4, 2009

Indian media ka boss kaun hai??

For the past couple of months, us mediawallas have been bombarded by emails that talk about the ownership patterns of all our gigantic media houses. The emails vary a little. But the motive remains the same - which is to destabilise readers and make them believe all our newspapers and tv channels are , in fact, foreign funded\owned. Unfortunately, most of the info is bogus. Yet, there are enough half- truths embedded in the mail to make it a pretty juicy, convincing story. On the 1st of April, another email did the rounds which emanated from a website called This one talked about Rupert Murdoch acquiring the mighty Times of India Group, lock, stock and barrel. An obvious April Fool joke?? Maybe. But I'm pretty sure enough people fell for it... believed the story. The problem is nobody bothers to cross- check facts anymore. You start a rumour.... and the greedy press guys gobble it up.About the earlier email (ownership of Indian media), one thing I can tell you with absolute authority : M.J. Akbar is NOT the editor of Asian Age. He runs his own magazine called 'Covert'. He was the editor of Asian Age, but that was ages ago. So much for accuracy . And that's just one of the many dud 'facts' in this email. I find it strange that unheard of church organisations across the world are named as the real owners!! Suggesting some sort of a global Christian conspiracy. 'India Today' has definitely NOT been acquired by ndtv. This makes zero sense. India Today has its own bouquet of successful tv channels, besides its mass- circulated magazines. Which makes me wonder who is behind these mysterious emails in the first place, and why are we even bothering with such obvious falsehoods? I have no lena-dena with anybody. If anything, India Today has been a hostile group as far as I am concerned, for more than 20 years.So, if I am setting the record straight, it is only to point out the sort of bunkum that is in circulation.
I receive anonymous letters on a regular basis. Typed. Unsigned. Posted from different mailing zones. There is a pattern to them. One regular is after Katrina Kaif's blood, for whatever reason. I ignore these missives since I have no time for cowards who hide behind anonymity. There is another sender, who guns for Sanjay Dutt and offers risque info on Maanyata ( her dodgy antecedents etc). It is easy identify the motivated sources of such mail - they are people who hope someone in media will fall for the story and run it.Since libel laws in India are a joke, there are countless unsubstantiated stories doing the rounds on a daily basis. Personal enmity is generally the reason why people pen these poison letters. I uniformly ignore them - they are promptly thrown into the trash can, where they belong.
Media ownership is a very serious issue given the times we live in, and the fact that we are going into what may turn out to be our bloodiest election ever. It is best to treat such mail with due scepticism. At a large and lavish dinner party last night, I overheard someone saying with great aplomb , " I can get any story you want published in the paper of your choice." Really???
Since most of our desi billionaires ( Forbes' list) were present and within earshot, I wanted to take the conversation forward with gusto. By then the braggart was gone. I sensibly concentrated on some delicious jackfruit curry and mushroom pulao... and sang 'God save the Queen." Talking of Lizzie, she obviously forgot about her decades' long 'touch me not' policy and happily put her arm around Michelle's waist for that super photo- op. Kill me for saying this, but I honestly don't think much of Michelle Obama's sartorial style. What was so stylish about that church choir outfit she sported at the G -20?? Besides ,there is a particularly apt, one word description for women like Michelle in marathi - 'Haidosi'. Sorry. It defies translation. Oh, I ran into Asha Bhonsale looking sprightly, bright and fresh ( at 75). After a quick gossip ( we have friends in common), she told me about a very special concert in Kolkata next month. Ashatai will be singing Rabindra Sangeet on Rabindranath Tagore's birthday. I'd give anything to be present on such a momentous occasion. Ashatai is a national treasure - we don't value her enough. You know why? Because she lives by her own rules and does not kow -tow to anyone. She has never needed to... not with that voice. And her indomitable spirit. Bless her.


Ankit said...

What are your views on India TV....lolz

krish said...

Dear De
Media owner ship if so hinted in those junk so as to sabotage the hindu majority........what utter rubbish..... but the times we live in this junk sells with most of the educated class.Sum whr as u suggested its all about using abusing the media for selfish reasons irrespetective of wht harm one causes in the long run.

And yes its true specialy the vernacular media falls prey to any story .............jsut for sum eyeballs......

Hmm lucky u pz try to be at the concert.....asha tai is a rock star

Howz yr hand doing.....hope the pc gives u sum respite.


Zlaek said...

The ownership thing is quite a mess, I see.

"I can get any story you want published in the paper of your choice." was the funniest. Good, you chose to concentrate on the mushroom pulao. Yummy.

Falc said...

Hey Shobha,

So many rumours are circulated via emails. In fact if i had followed the advice given on these forwards i wdnt be drinking, eating, sleeping, driving or doing anything else for that matter considering the danger involved to my health, my planet, my family, pets, building watchman,and everything else.!! ha ha !! I remember one email with pictures of the Emirates Palace Hotel Abu Dhabi, mentioning it as the palace of the Ruler Of UAE, with pictures of various luxury cars parked outside mentioning them as his personal vehicles. I know for a fact that those cars were kept there as part of an exhibition of ultra luxury cars. So many people must have actually beleived it.

Asha Bhonsle rocks bigtime !!She has been a childhood favourite, and will always be one. Her compositions with RD have been fantabulous and i doubt any composer singer combo will ever reach that level of beautiful music.!!!

cmpershad said...

The worst thing to happen is disinformation which used to be spread only during war times. It appears now that every time is war time and such disinformation which is not rebutted by the concerned agencies leaves doubt in the mind of readers. Thanks for setting info right atleast for the right-thinking people.

Sameer said...

I completely agree with you about AshaTai. I for sure am BIG fan of her voice and what I like about her personality is she definitely lives life by her rules. It takes lot of guts and courage to do that especially considering the stereotypes of women in our hypocrite society. Her voice, her talks, her thoughts, her way of life definitely inspired me to believe in my self and stand for who I am. I am eternally grateful to her for that.

Anil Kumar said...

Hi Shobha,
Thanks for taking time to clarify some of the things about who owns our media since we all trust you.

Sidhusaaheb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sidhusaaheb said...

Who's spreading rumours about India-based media conglomerates being owned by foreigners? The usual suspects i.e. the BJP-led Hindutva brigade, one might think.

After all, the media have turned on the heat on them not only on account of Varun Gandhi's alleged hate speech against Muslims, but also the Church-breaking and Christian-killing that preceded it by a few months.

On the other hand, the Congress may have reason to do something like that too, since the alleged involvement of its workers and middle-level leadership in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots has also been highlighted by the media.

BTW, readers being 'destabilised'...the bogusness of information being unfortunate...What's up? Shoulder hurts a lot?


introspection said...

Though this post has your writing style, it lacks conviction. Frankly, I did'nt enjoy it as much as I usually do. As I said some of your views are unacceptable.

Untill next time..!!

Sanket Korgaonkar said...

Help me out here - but are journalists TRAINED to cross check and get at least 2 independent sources as a first requirement??? I mean what are our Journalism schools doing - and if the fault is not with the Journalism schools then what the hell is the media doing. Oh! BTW - I used to follow Times of India religiously - until the last 5 years when it started going increasingly tabloid.

Take this example - The recent shooting in NY was claimed by Pakistan!! NYTimes - who should have a much higher stake at reporting this shooting - has no such story!! So are we to assume - that anything can fly - so long as Pakistan is at fault??

Times of India is to the print media what Aaj Tak was to television. With absolutely false headlines as "12 BOMBS YET TO BE FOUND!!" institutions that lack the mettle to make profit on quality and instead have to rely on exploiting an uneducated people.

And the other channels that were decent enough are now falling into the same trap - with the excuse that they can't compete with inflammatory headlines.

At the end of it - its all about EDUCATION -

1) Why can't the media stay afloat on quality?? Cos people are not educated enough to understand that.

2) Why do we have sex - without realizing we are making our population unmanageable ?? - Lack of education.

3) Why do institutions like the Shiv Sena and VHP thrive - leaders like Narendra Modi survive?? Education in their caucus is minimal.

4) Why do people who do get education - get it as a degree - not as a tool to learn to live in a professional world?? Because our education is designed on rote-learning which is absolute BS.

5) Why can't the education system change - because the ones in charge are themselves not truly educated.

6) Why can't the bureaucracy realize corruption in the end hurts the nation and in turn hurts them - to lead Ajmal Kasab's shooting their kids and wives - and at the end of the day - all the money in the world can not bring them back from the dead - and it is all because people DID NOT do their jobs!! - Education.

And education is not a short term solution - given our size - its increase ratio - and the pace of changes - for people to become truly self reliant and informed - it might take hundreds of years - so let me just focus on teaching some kids a,b,c,d s and trigonometry from Buildings rather than 5 lines on a page - else give me a gun and let me shoot myself.

- Sanket

NAT said...


Shows how insecure people are, especially the ones who hide behind....Can't say under... as some may get offended.

Yes there is no one who can match the RD Burman and Asha Bhonsle pair.
Another senior singer who is still going strong is Usha Uthap.


Theyoginme said...

Well the more Murdoch gets into the media in India, the more unprofessional and tabloid it will become. Mr. Bachchan maybe finally forced to launch a jihad against the Indian press and launch a fatwa. I would support him in that effort.

Obamas are on the other hand the media darlings of the western press. They are untouchable - seriously, they can do nothing wrong - they are simply too perfect. They can show up in their J-crew PJs at an event and the press will go ga-ga over that new fashion statement. I am reminded of the satires on SNL on Obamamania. It lives on..while poor Hillary slogs at the atta-chakki...

kala said...

I agree that Asha is unique and universal. For that matter Lata is also unique in her own way. But I feel Rabindra sangeet will sound more like it when sung by a bengali like the late Hemantda.

flygye12 said...

oh no ! asha singing rabindra sangeet sounds cute! i have few such songs but she brings her own style to it. it sounds young and fresh...and the real reason for my comment...she's a Virgo like me...yay!!!

Anonymous said...

I always thought they are NGO but now it is clear they are business houses. Thanks !

*Aham* said...

We often blame the media for spreading roumours. But why not look around and verify details before we believe. TOI, MJ akbar.. all of these rumours are a result of irresponsible readers. The roumour mills will whistle, as long as we readers gobble it up and start a chain reaction. We love romours.


Anonymous letters asking you to write about issues that "they" feel strongly? why?| if they can write letters to you, they could publish the same on a blog too, and spread the word. Its all about taking responsibility. Most of us dont want to take up any responsibility but never shy from overloading and expecting media persons to write and speak about issues that "they" feel strongly about. And later, if it is not written the way they want it, they would not think twice before bashing up the media person verbally.

Shobhaa De: publicity stunt woman... a soft porn writer - Such an easy thing to say. But I am sure Shobhaa De could sit in her cozy bedroom listening to Elvis Presley rather than speaking about issues that matter to us all.

Abusing and Blaming the messenger is what we all love. To be one - ahhh... fuhhgettt it!


Ashatai.. O how much I love her. She is just fantabulous. Much aware of the many hate mails I would get after I write this. I feel lata Mangeshkar should retire. There is this thing in her voice NOW that is too irritating. And I Lata Mangeshkars old songs... before Maine Pyaar Kiya... yes, her old songs are just fantastic, and no one but she could sing them that well, the only competition would have been Asha Bhosle. But we all saw saaz na. And about the monopoly and politics in the singing world.
Asha Tai gets my vote. For her throat, her style, her candidness... and more over for her elegantly giving off her world-famous surname.

*Aham* said...

A typo as usual... i meant to say... "I love Lata Mangeshkars old songs."

Kad said...


Sorry to say you just tried your best to save face of media..
Ask a common man: What you think of media?
Ans: media wale paise ke liye kuch bhi karenge

Can you deny the fact that IBN is run jointly by CNN? American money controlling it.
If media is really "not" owned by foreigners then why don't they make their funds public? After all, they are media guys.. at least they are not expected to lie.

rajat said...

@ Sanket

Very well said. The media in this country has become tabloid and if the award winner journalists on NDTV, ZeeNews or starnews and others, don't do it with responsibility, I am sure one of these journalists will be lynched in public.

athi said...

Well... who cares who runs the media?!! Isn't throwing in useful news the whole point?

And I guess most of us are educated enough to know which news is reliable or biased.

Anonymous said...

Being from media we understand that his is crisis time. Crisis not due to financial recession but due to ' ethical recession'. Particularly in english electronic media' this is more pronounced.This media can be called 'congressised media'. In your earlier cloumn you have mentioned 'hate marketing' but isn't it 'hate politics being played out to discredit the community that forms majority in India.

Rejith kumar said...

Mrs Shobha,

The bogeying Indian Media itself is to be blamed for these kind of emails what you are getting.As one reader pointed out here it is because of "Ethical recession". People are getting frusturated of thier politial affiliations,biased reporting.Media ethics is a forgotten case these days in India.

Shalin said...

Dear Shobhaa,

its only this morning i happen to get a mail, i trust you and your this post was fresh in my i deleted the mail...but some how can we have privilege to know more about the true picture of all our Media Guru`s.

Hope u get time to post more about this topic.
Thanks & regards,

Shalin Saraf

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