Choice between lion and jackal: Santosh Bhartiya

23 Sep,2011

Founder of Chauthi Duniya Mr Santosh Bhartiya is known for unabashed journalism, andhis radical approach to television, especially election coverage. He speaks to Akash Raha about politics, journalism and how the greed of media owners has led to the institutionalization of corruption.

 

Q: From being a Member of Parliament to being an eminent journalist, you have been on both sides of the picture. How does it feel now to write scathing commentaries on politics in India?

In politics, I have realized, no one can do anything positive in India. There is a lack of inspiration to do anything positive. Moreover, we have a “babu system” here in India, where the MP hardly even knows anything about the bill that is been drafted. I am back in journalism because I realized that most of the famous leaders we know today are nothing but middle-men. I think a journalist should stay in the field of journalism and write against corruption and the malpractices that we see in politics these days.

 

Q: Internet TV sounds like a very interesting concept. How is it doing and do you have plans for a full-fledged television channel soon?

Our internet TV has been very successful. The concept is one of a kind and the political subjects that we tackle are doing phenomenally well. Here, we have both live and recorded shows. If ratings are anything to go by, we will give quite a few news channels in India a run for their money. Definitely in the near future we will come out with our own television channel. The pressure from our internet TV viewers to start a 24-hour television channel is immense, as the comments on the site show. We are strictly against PR journalism and this is what our audiences like about us. However, the plan for a TV news channel is still at a budding stage.

 

Q: Why haven’t you tried to monetize your online space?

We are not here to do business, we are here only to earn credibility. We feel that when you have the treasure of credibility, money will come when the time is right. Our promoters are happy this way, and they fully support us in this thought process.

 

Q: What do you think of the phenomenon of paid news in the media and how do you think it should be dealt with?

In the current scheme of things and in our society, corruption is a way of life. And the people sitting in the highest echelons of power are responsible for making it so. When the topmost leaders of our country are corrupt and are sitting at Tihar jail today, what will the rest of the country do but follow suit? Journalism too is no stranger to corruption… Earlier, corruption in journalism used to be small, and there was only a minor case here and there of a journalist taking favours to write a particular story. But now TV owners and newspaper owners are committing corruption at a massive level and are charging huge commissions. I know at least one organization whose owner called a meeting in Delhi and spoke to his employees about ways of making money and to increase profits, obviously through malpractices. The greed of media owners has led to institutionalization of corruption. But like in the case of Anna Hazare, someday the public will stand against media too. Only then will “paid news” stop. Paid news can’t be stopped by seminars and discussion. Public opinion is building against media and it is time they do something about it. Journalism is at the lowest that I have ever seen in India… The concept of investigative journalism, which the 1980s were famous for, is over. This is the age of PR journalism.

 

Q: People often say that there is sensationalism in language media. What do you feel?

There is a difference between English and language publications here which one must understand. English journalism, by virtue of being the language of urban elites, caters to them. Language journalism, since it caters to even the poorest of poor, talks about grass-roots-level issues. What might appear sensational to the urban elite is not sensational in reality, but a part of the rural lifestyle. Rarely have I seen such stories on grass-roots issues in English media since the time of Ashwani Sareen when he did the story on Kamla. But such stories appear regularly in language publications.

 

Q: Do you think in this age, where business and economics in media houses are of prime importance, content is still the king?

Content is and always will remain the king, just as a lion will always be the king of the jungle. The question is whether you want to become the lion or you’re happy being a jackal. There is always a choice… Either you can earn money or earn satisfaction by hard work, doing stories that can’t be contradicted or challenged. Unfortunately today journalists only want to earn money and their stories lack veracity.

 

Q: Can you talk about an instance of activism through journalism that Chauthi Duniya has achieved?

One of the bright examples of this is our show Do Took (in Hindi) which is broadcasted on all Hindi language channels of ETV. We specially make this show for ETV and its idea is unique. There are many shows where there is an interview and the interviewer, but in this show, there is no interviewer and I directly address the audiences. We pick up intriguing and interesting political topics and do a complete show on this. The videos are available on our internet TV site too. There are several other examples of such journalism. I take pride in saying that Chauthi Duniya is known for its credibility and fearlessness in journalism. We aspire to recreate the golden era of journalism in India during the ’80s of which people like SP Singh, MJ Akbar and Pritish Nandy were a part.

 

Q: How are your various publications doing? Are there any new publications on the cards?

We are planning to launch an English weekly magazine soon. It might still take a couple of months before the magazine hits the stand. It will be a hard hitting political magazine with excellent content. We are on our way to building a strong team, after which we’ll launch. Like all other publications and offerings from our group, the English magazine too will become a personification of excellence in journalism. Apart from that, we are at the initial stages of planning for a full-fledged TV channel. Our Urdu weekly publication which was released approximately six months ago is doing well, too. The newspaper is available internationally as well, in countries like Canada, England and the Gulf. The total circulation of the weekly newspaper (both nationally and internationally) is about 45,000 copies. The website hits too are phenomenal.

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