Ranjona Banerji: How News TV (mis)treated Subramanium ire

27 Jun,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


Gopal Subramanium had his one-and-a-half days of extreme television fame when the former additional solicitor-general accused someone in the current government of stymieing his chances of becoming a Supreme Court judge. Even worse, Subramanium accused the media of being party to this campaign by carrying planted stories to target him. TV news, always on the search for instant excitement, decided that Subramanium was the news of the day.


All day, there he was on TV channels making his case. Being a lawyer, he refused to get bullied by star TV journalists and no matter what they asked him, he carried on with his version of his story. The result is that we know about his fitness regime (swimming), his religious proclivities (temples) and his schoolmates (Arun Jaitley).


The stories which he claims were planted were rather odd. One apparently said that he was too religious to be a judge because he went to temples. I for one was unaware that atheism was a prerequisite for judicial ascension and indeed, I genuinely wish it were true. Another hinted at some dark dealings because he swam at a Taj pool. He says he didn’t although an offer was made. All too intriguing.


The upshot was that he was amicus curae to the Supreme Court in the Shahabuddin fake encounter case which involves Amit Shah, the putative heir to BJP presidency. Obviously this makes him more like public enemy number one no matter who he went to school with. Also he once went to a temple and found that gold was being pilfered and instead of keeping quiet about it like a good devotee, he blabbed. Thus the case of the Padmanabha Swamy temple.


I watched Bhupendra Chaubey of CNN-IBN and Arnab Goswami of Times Now grill Subramanium and both seemed very concerned that he was not blaming the former UPA government. As we all know, that is the preferred course of finger-pointing in some parts of the world of TV news in India.


Subramanium much to their chagrin did not play ball. One TV channel (not a star anchor) on Thursday even had the newsreader allowing a reporter to read out from a bland government notice on Subramanium’s unsuitability (without giving any reasons for said unsuitability) without asking a single question.


I am still intrigued by the way TV journalism works. Does any one debrief reporters after they work on stories or are they allowed to wing it live? Are newsreaders and anchors informed by producers/editors about what reporters have found out or what they are about to say on air? Or does everyone just wing it and pray that no one notices?




Gossip remains rife about changes in the editorial structure at Network 18 and particularly at firstpost.com. Mint has done a few articles about the new structure and about the roles and departures of Rajdeep Sardesai and Raghav Bahl. The Hoot has also looked at the pro-Reliance social media tweets and posts by those senior journalists who are supposed to now run the show. Willy-nilly, Network 18 has become a media test case, our biggest current example of a media house run by the marriage of big money and er, big governance? In the past divorce has been the natural result of such a commingling which is why everyone is watching closely. In between, there will be big money to be made for some.




Rebekkah Brookes former editor of Sun and News of the World gets off scot free in the phone-hacking and bribery cases which shook Britain, its establishment, Rupert Murdoch and the media a few years ago. But Al Jazeera journalists will spend seven years in jail for doing their jobs. Go figure.


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