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 televisionpoint.com. 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.