Scandalous Stories

>> November 30, 2010

It has been a great year for scandals in India. Over the past year, the Commonwealth Games, the Adarsh and 3G Spectrum scams have shown us that we have voted in a Government for a second innings which has repeatedly demonstrated its increasing propensity to emerge battered and bruised out of inquiries and probes; with the same being glamorously splashed everywhere in the media to sit judgment upon. It is, perhaps, then poetic justice that the latest scandal deal involves none other than those who had been hitherto hailed as the brightest stars in Indian journalism.
The Nira Radia tapes, released amidst much aplomb and fanfare by Open and Outlook, seemed to be the sort of issue that the media would have a field day with. Interestingly, and in retrospect, not surprisingly, with the sole exception of The Hindu – not a single large media house has come out with a focussed critique and analysis of the tapes and the issues it necessarily suggests. Of course, they must be wary to comment on the journalistic behaviour of some of their own, especially when they must know themselves having indulged in comparable conduct in the past.
Objectively, and without conjecture, the tapes with Barkha’s conversation demonstrate nothing but the fact that she worked as a conduit for the Congress, and that her reporting on some issues was, to a considerable extent, dictated by what Radiia believed was favourable to her clients. It must, however, logically follow that she has been doing this for some time, and has used her public status and post to actively endorse the opinions of these lobbies.
It is only an incredulous public that can believe that information we are barraged with under the label of news is entirely true and reported with integrity. While the facts that we are led to believe may be true to an extent, news channels and the written media always find it necessary to follow bare news up with analysis and consideration pronouncing a final judgment upon the same. To believe that this analysis is free of political and financial considerations, and even personal biases is, in my opinion, ridiculous. A historiography course taught me that there is no such thing as true history, as every historian’s thought process is necessarily coloured by who he is. To believe that either Barkha Dutt or Vir Sanghvi are free of this necessarily human foible would be to place our faith and formulate our decisions entirely on the basis of what the media finds it appropriate to feed us. Media houses, and particularly large media houses, have in their very content and style repeatedly endorsed certain political inclinations and corporate policies.
The Radia tapes, then, are not demonstrating anything that we didn’t already know.

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