Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: CNN-IBN

Death of Lal Bahadur Shastri

Many people believe India’s Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died of poisoning on 11/1/1966 and not of heart attack as officially mentioned. They think T. N. Kaul, then India’s ambassador to USSR, poisoned Lal Bahadur Shastri so that Indira Gandhi can become prime minister.

On 2/10/2012 Karan Razdan raised to topic about Shastri’s death in The Last Word on CNN-IBN. Inder Malhotra, Kuldip Nayar and Anil Shastri were panelists. Kuldip Nayar mentioned reasons for suspicion. Questions were raised in Lok Sabha. T. N. Kaul phoned up to Kuldip Nayar and asked him to deny there was poisoning. Shastri’s thermos went missing. There was a commission to inquire about the death. Shastri’s doctor died in an accident the day before he was to depose before the commission. Shastri’s personal assistant died a similar death. The implication is that they were murdered.

Inder Malhotra in his column Rear View in The Indian Express dt. 17/9/2012 has written that in 1965, relations between Shastri and Indira Gandhi became strained almost to the point of breaking. She had upstaged him during language riots by going to Madras. She had said “Do you think this government can survive if I resign today. I am telling you it won’t. Yes, I have jumped over the prime minister’s head and I would do it again whenever the need arises.” On 31/12/1965 Finance Minister T. T. Krishnamachari came to Indira Gandhi’s house to say he has resigned in sheer disgust. Indira Gandhi said “I will be the next to be thrown out. It is not a cabinet worth staying in.”

Shastri was cremated. If he had been buried, his body could have been exhumed and tested for poisoning. T. N. Kaul and Indira Gandhi are dead. It is 46 years since the death. It is difficult to find out about poisoning but not impossible. People in Tashkent or Moscow can shed light on the case. There are detectives who deal with cold cases who can find out some clues and solve the case.

NDTV and TRPs

NDTV has filed a suit in New York against The Nielsen of USA and Kantar Media Research, owned by WPP Plc of UK for two billion dollars for TRPs by TAM Media Research Pvt. Ltd., a joint venture company owned by Nielsen and Kantar. TAM stands for television audience measurement. TRP figures by TAM decide ad revenue. Broadcasters and advertisers buy data from TAM.

NDTV 24×7 once dominated English news. It now has competition from CNN-IBN and Times Now. NDTV Profit has competition from CNBC TV18 and ET Now. NDTV India does not have much viewership. NDTV’s film and entertainment channels failed. If NDTV TRPs have gone down there is nothing strange in it.

TAM uses 8,160 peoplemeters. NDTV wanted them to use 30,000 peoplemeters. NDTV claims they had written to TAM about aberrations in its measurement methodology and they have evidence of fiddling of peoplemeters by TAM field staff at the behest of a rival.

NDTV did not sack Barkha Dutt when her connection to a lobbyist was known. N. Ram said BBC, Financial Times or New York Times would not have tolerated such a thing. Vir Sanghvi and Prabhu Chawla lost their jobs for lobbyist connection.

NDTV’s evidence may be like the cheap sting operation they conducted when they hired a private detective agency to keep an eye on Barkha Dutt and tap her phone. NDTV’s rival can claim NDTV bribed TAM field staff to fiddle with peoplemeters.

TV channels do not question TAM when they get favourable TRPs. When TRPs are low they question the methodology and other things. It is like political parties who accept favourable opinion polls and exit polls but do not believe them when they show them as losers.

NDTV should maintain standard of programmes. It is not good when during discussion you have Breaking News and panelists are ignored. It is disgusting to telecast the interview of a woman who gatecrashed London Olympics march past and walked along Indian contingent.

Cheat the Nation

Once I found Manish Tewari and Ajit Singh on CNN-IBN and Times Now at the same time on what were supposed to be live discussions. I wondered how it could be. I had heard or read about the saints having the gift of bilocation but it was more than that. It was bilocation plus bilocution. Not only people were present on two different places at the same time they were also saying different words at the same time.

Sometimes I found panelists on three channels at the same time. Finding on two channels had become common. It was obvious someone had recorded with some people before and using the footage. No channel disclosed someone was interviewed before the programme except once when Amitabh Revi on NDTV 24×7 said Kiran Bedi was interviewed before.

On 9/11/2011 on Face the Nation there were four panelists: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Arun Bhatia and two others. It was about Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s anti-corruption yatra in Uttar Pradesh. The question was whether spiritual gurus should participate in the fight against corruption. Arun Bhatia criticized Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and said he had trivialized corruption. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was unruffled at the criticism. He did not respond.

Next day came the shocker. At the end of Face the Nation Sagarika Ghose apologized to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. She admitted it was recorded a couple of hours earlier. Face the Nation is telecast at 10 p.m., so couple of hours earlier means at 8 p.m. The recording was around 3 p.m., seven hours earlier and not a couple of hours earlier.

Face the Nation exposed itself to be Cheat the Nation. How many times it had used pre-recorded material we do not know. It is probable that some had protested but that had not become public. Sometimes for factual errors anchors apologise as one there was an apology for putting Bangalore in Andhra Pradesh. It is rare for an anchor to apologize for misleading the viewers. It means not apologizing to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar was not an option.

There has to be action against news TV channels that mislead viewers. There has to be punishment for claiming an interview to be exclusive when it is not. If pre-recorded footage is used there has to be disclosure. Use of phrases like Breaking News or Just In should be restricted. Separate cameras should not be used for people sitting in the studio. For a start every channel that claimed it had exclusive interview of Anna Hazare some weeks back can apologise saying “We claimed we had exclusive interview of Anna Hazare. We were wrong. We were one of the 17 channels that had interviewed Anna Hazare. We apologise to our viewers for misleading.”

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