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Not Quite Cricket

The ongoing cricket World Cup in England has produced 140 Ashok Kumars. In Indian legal parlance, Ashok Kumar is the equivalent of John Doe in America and refers to anonymous persons accused of various crimes. In the current context, the fanatic Indian cricket fan has encouraged a huge number of radio stations and websites to illegally live stream World Cup matches. So blatant was the copyright infringement that the matter landed up in the Delhi High Court which has banned some 200 entities from audio commentary or live streaming of World Cup matches. There are 64 identifiable websites and four private radio stations but 140 are unknown operators—the Ashok Kumars.

The case was filed by Channel 2 Group Corporation which holds exclusive broadcasting rights of the World Cup following an agreement with agents of the International Cricket Council (ICC). In fact, the tournament is called the ICC Men’s World Cup, 2019, and Channel 2 was clearly losing out to the huge number of pirates, as the Court observed while passing its restraining order on Ashok Kumars.

First Past the Post

Network 18, the multi-media platform owned by Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, is constantly attempting to expand its already considerable reach. Apart from its visible television presence in news and entertainment, it also has a popular and credible news website, Firstpost. Three months ago, Network 18 decided to enter the print media with a weekly newspaper edition, also called Firstpost.

In the inaugural announcement, the editors of Firstpost had this to say: “Eight years after Firstpost came to life as a digital-only news portal, we’re also arriving at your doorstep as ink on paper. This is an evolution almost without precedent—a bet against conventional wisdom…in a polity transforming at light speed, there’s more need than ever for quality journalism.” The weekly was launched with much fanfare by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal.

The bet, it seems, fell flat. Last week, the Firstpost newspaper shut down. The group announced that “the brand has believed in constantly experimenting and
re-inventing itself, and Firstpost in print was one such experiment to provide a weekend reading experience to a different audience than online….logistical problems made the project unsustainable in print”.

What happens to the staff hired to bring out the weekly or to the subscriptions the weekly attracted, remained unclear. However, Network 18’s deep pockets mean that it can really do what it likes without being answerable to anyone.

India Misinformed

Among the handful of online platforms dedicated to exposing fake news, Alt News does a commendable job, es­pecially considering the fact that it is run by a small team of dedicated professionals. In fact, its efforts are commendable enough for a major publisher like HarperCollins to bring out a book, India Misinformed: The True Story, edited by Pratik Sinha (co-founder and editor of Alt News), Dr Sumaiya Shaikh (a neuroscientist and the science editor) and staff writer Arjun Siddharth. The book is a compilation of 82 of the over 1,000 articles written by the Alt News team since it was founded in 2017.

The value of the book lies in the way it is organised, each chapter focuses on a category of fake news prevalent in India, most strikingly on spreading communal discord. Other notable sections list fake news items aimed at building the Modi brand, maligning Nehru and targeting Rahul Gandhi.

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