Ranjona Banerji: Can’t rely on the cable or on media’s coverage of Reliance

02 Nov,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The cable blackout from the night of Halloween has affected me in a peculiar manner. Although I have had a set top box from the cablewallah for four years now, the shift to digitisation has led to the loss of some news and sports channels. Everything else is as it was.

 

I am told that normal service will soon be resumed. Interestingly though the biggest play on the impending cable shutdown was in the newspapers and not on television. Evidently, English news channels in India are not really bothered about losing viewers who have not yet subscribed to direct to home services. Or, they are so caught up in the antics of Kejriwal and Subramaniam Swamy and any new entrant in the publicity circus that they forget their main constituents – viewers.
Since the blackout, I have no idea what Times Now, CNNIBN and NDTV are up to. I do still have Headlines Today – which is how I know about Swamy – and I also have BBC World, CNN and Al Jazeera. The aftermath of Superstorm (according to CNN) Sandy and Hurricane (according to everyone else) Sandy is that non-stop coverage of the weather has receded and other matters like Syria, the Greek economy and the US presidential election are back on the top of the news list.

 

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After Arvind Kejriwal’s somewhat lacklustre press conference (enlivened only by a shoe that missed its target) about crony capitalism, there was much speculation that the story would not be carried by the media since Kejriwal and cronies had made allegations against the Holy Grail of Indian Industry – Reliance. However, as it turned out, everyone discussed the story, even those who are partly owned by Reliance.

 

In fact, nothing that Kejriwal said was that new and the fact that Reliance – along with other Indian companies – manipulates government policy is hardly a revelation.

 

However, it is interesting to see how far the media will take this story. It is also true that criticism of the Reliance group – especially the part owned by Mukesh Ambani – is very low key, which his brother Anil has often commented on. After the Radia tapes were made public over two years ago, Ratan Tata got a lot of flak for using the services of a PR consultant to lobby for a suitable Cabinet minister but Mukesh Ambani managed to escape attention in spite of the long and much-publicised conversation between Niira Radia and columnist Vir Sanghvi about how Sanghvi should steer his column towards Mukesh on the KG basin gas issue.

 

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In the days before Reliance became India’s most feared industrial group it was fair game for media scrutiny and The Indian Express carried out a series of investigations into the then Dhirubhai Ambani led company, at the behest apparently of Bombay Dyeing’s Nusli Wadia. There was even an assassination attempt on Wadia which made the news, amidst all kinds of speculation about who had prompted the unlikely candidate of wedding orchestra conductor Prince Babaria to take this step.
Since then, the media became more circumspect about Reliance and now we mainly read about Nita Ambani’s cricket team and life coaches.

 

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The other fallout of cable digitisation is that BBC Entertainment will stop broadcasting in India from the end of November. Delays in digitisation and unreasonable carriage fees are the reasons given by the company on its Facebook page.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are personal

 

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