Ranjona Banerji: So who really broke the Agusta Westland story?

15 Feb,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

If you are tired of the “I’ll be the judge, I’ll be the jury, pronounce you guilty and chop off your head” trials held in TV studios every night, try reading The Indian Express to get a deeper and wider understanding of the Agusta Westland helicopter deal and the Italian investigations into Finmeccanica. Although Times Now has been taking credit for this story, it does appear as if Indian Express has done (and had been doing) the bulk of the work.

 

TV news channels seem now incapable of acting like journalists and have become trapped in their own images as it were. The details of this deal and its wrongdoings are still being revealed – the Italians have not named any Indians apart from former air chief marshal SP Tyagi and his cousins. Therefore, Indian journalists might consider some further investigations. The TV approach of calling sundry politicians who know nothing about the details of the deal and then cross-examining them maybe a good ego massage but it serves very little journalistic purpose. At least, we need not have the incredible sight of political gadfly Subramaniam Swamy directing CNNIBN editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai on how to conduct this investigation.

 

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An intriguing piece of news was hidden somewhere on the inside pages of the Times of India’s Mumbai edition. The Information and Broadcasting ministry is considering cancelling the licences of newspapers/journals who are involved in “paid news”. This comes after the Election Commission has taken action against politicians involved in bribing newspapers, journals and news channels (is there a more polite way of saying this?) to get favourable pre-election coverage. However, even at that time, questions were raised about why the media houses were allowed to get away with it.

 

What will media houses make of this? Can the loss of the right to conduct business deter owners and managements from further perverting their “products”? Is the fear of government action the only way to force the press to follow its own ethical code? Or will we now see a spate of stories targeting the I&B ministry and the very amusing spectacle of various CEOs of media houses attempting to justify their dubious practices in long-winded and badly written edit page articles?

 

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Is it just me or was this Valentine’s Day one of the least silly we’ve had in recent times? There was the usual quota of love-no love stories, but nothing seemed extraordinarily over-the-top. A little more humour and fun might have been interesting. Judging from the number of jokes made by Indians on twitter, the traditional newspaper idea that no one reads humour columns in India is ready to be challenged. Rohan Joshi for one does a very good job at making us laugh in Mid-Day on Saturdays and The Week That Wasn’t has tickled ye old funny bone for eight years on CNNIBN now. Bring it on, I say!

 

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This is a slight departure from the serious and grey-haired subject of the woes of journalism. But can we have better sub-titles and less censoring of English programmes on TV? The number of words which are bleeped out have crossed all bounds of sense and are worthy of a separate programme on Comedy Central – which by the way is the worst culprit. For the morally clean-minded: vulgarity alert. You cannot hear the words “penis” or “vagina”. That is one thing. But you cannot even hear the word “booby-trap” which has nothing to do about “boobs” or breasts. I shudder to think what goes through their minds when they come across a character named “Dick” or someone feels a “prick” from a rose bush… More seriously, what happens when characters discuss breast or testicular cancer?

 

With that happy thought, I leave you for the week.

 

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