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Media Watch

Media Watch
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Perils of the Press

One more name has been added to the list of journalists the BJP loves to hate—Aatish Taseer.  The provocation is his cover story for Time magazine on Narendra Modi headlined “India’s Divider in Chief”. Taseer is an internationally known writer with a number of critically acclaimed books to his name but he does have a peculiar problem—his mother is Indian, columnist Tavleen Singh, who is an avowed Modi fan, while his father, Salman Taseer, who never acknowledged Aatish’s existence, was a Pakistani politician and businessman assassinated by his bodyguard in 2011.

The BJP trolls were quick to jump on the story, labelling Taseer a Pakistani and then claiming he had worked for the Congress party. Taseer is a British citizen and has been strictly impartial when it comes to his articles for foreign publications on India and Pakistan. In fact, in a statement after the Time cover story came out, he said that Modi was the best thing that happened to Pakistan, referring to the revival of the two-nation theory.

BJP hackers ignored Tavleen’s hosannas to Modi, and instead manipulated her son’s Wikipedia page. It was edited on May 10, the day after Time was published, when the phrase about Taseer being “the PR manger for the Congress” was added to the “Career” section of the page. Wikipedia allows those who use its service regularly to make changes and edit existing material. Wikipedia has now declared Taseer’s page as “Protected” which means no changes can be made.

Writing on the Wall

Despite the so-called sweetheart deal on Rafale, Anil Ambani seems to be hedging his bets as far as his so-called political godfather is concerned. He had recently bought over the Delhi-based Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), forcing a lot of independent journalists to quit and bringing in his own favourites. However, here’s the twist.

Defying the Election Commission’s model code of conduct, IANS ran an exit poll last week which, surprisingly, gave the BJP-led NDA a mere 234 seats while predicting that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) would get 169 while “others” would win 140. The others include 48 seats to the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal combine of Uttar Pradesh and 31 seats to the Trinamool Congress.

The exit poll was uploaded on the Twitter handle of IANS on May 13. It took the small-time agency two days to  delete the tweet, after receiving a notice from the EC. Surprisingly, the two other media outlets which also published exit polls in violation of the code of conduct included the leading pink paper, The Economic Times. The Times Group may also be hedging its bets—its TV news channel, Times Now, is embarrassingly pro-Modi.

The Numbers Game

It is well known that the Total Readership (TR) of newspapers is higher than their Average Issue Readership (AIR). While publishing circulation figures in their ads, newspapers insist on using TR instead of AIR even though advertisers pick publications based on AIR and not TR. In the 2019 readership survey, which all newspapers have been tom-tomming, they basically mention TR. In IRS 2019, for some papers, the TR is as high as four times their AIR. For The Times of India, their AIR is a little over 56 lakh, while the TR is 1.52 crore! The Hindu has an AIR of a little more than 16 lakh, while its TR is 62 lakh. The problem is that you can fool the public but advertisers have their own access to TR and AIR figures.

Going Global

The Arnab Goswami-led Republic TV is now gearing for its next big jump—making its global presence felt. The channel has been already launched in New Zealand and plans are afoot to launch it in South Africa later this year. For the global expansion, which also includes entering the OTT space, Republic is setting up a team that is looking exclusively at expansion plans outside India. The next target, after South Africa, will be the UK followed by the US. It’s a route many of the big Indian TV news channels have taken, including NDTV and ZEE, and with Goswami’s USP being a rabid defender of Modi, if the results on May 23 do not go the BJP way, his global ambitions could face some problems.

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