This is getting boring now. Every week or so, Indian Express which proclaims to be following “Journalism of Courage”, comes up with a completely fictional story and presents it as news. Outrage ensues for some time, till the myth is busted and whatever little reputation it has remaining, is mangled and destroyed. This week, Indian Express imagined not only a whole Doordarshan TV serial, but also its Mahurat shot and many fine details.
In this piece of fiction (report has now been updated by Indian Express), Indian Express claimed Doordarshan is telecasting a serial called Diye Jalte Hain, which was on “on PM Narendra Modi’s community”. It further said the serial will narrate the history of the Ghanchi-Teli community by weaving biographies of its famous members like emperors Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka. It said that Doordarshan had cleared this serial and given a first sanction of 128 episodes. The Producer, it said, claimed that this serial would go on for 10 years.
Of course this led to huge outrage on Social Media, on how Modi is using Doordarshan for promoting himself and his community. The usual suspects claimed that this was part of his Narcissistic tendencies, and a desperate attempt to rebuild his image. This news was later curated by many portals like Firstpost, who not only reported this story, but Sandipan Sharma (who had earlier prematurely ejaculated on a fake Baba Ramdev site), even wrote an op-ed on this issue. But, as usual, Indian Express was way off.
On the day this story broke, just from reading the post, I had put up some of my concerns regarding the veracity of this story:
1. It said “In 1st phase, 128 episodes were sanctioned & the series was likely to run for 10yrs”. Does any media channel give “first phase” sanctions for 128 episodes? That too over 10 years?
2. It said the serial is about leaders of Ghanchi community and will also feature Chandragupta and Ashoka. Are these kings of the Ghanchi community?
3. 128 episodes over 10 years, would mean 1 episode per month. In the era of daily soaps, can such a serial survive?
Many people asked Chairman of Prasar Bharti Mr A Surya Prakash, to confirm this news and his response on 6th May evening was this:
@FakeJourno Checking this out but 1st response: 128episodes, ten years! Atrocious! Laughable! No one who knows TV biz will write this.
— A. Surya Prakash (@mediasurya) May 6, 2015
//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsLater, CEO of Doordarshan Mr Jawhar Sircar set the record straight denying any such serial on Doordarshan:
— Jawhar Sircar (@jawharsircar) May 6, 2015
Now, a serial on PM Narendra Modi’s community http://t.co/oMRG2uSj99 Checked with DD: no truth, mischievous. Express should punish guilty !
— Jawhar Sircar (@jawharsircar) May 6, 2015
From the above it is very clear that Doordarshan has no plans for such a serial. The “producer” whom Indian Express is quoting is lying or Indian Express is lying about the whole thing. Where one can certainly fault Indian Express is they did not bother confirming this news with anybody from Doordarshan before publishing this. Based on the claims of a “producer” they ran a story without even basic fact checking. Was this deliberate? Given Indian Express’s track record, it is highly possible.
Today on May 7th, they put up a a clarification where they quoted Doordarshan Additional Director General Deepa Chandra as saying “no such project is under consideration or has been approved by Doordarshan for any of its channel”. Chandra had the following harsh remarks to make on Indian Express’s reporting standards:
“You may please note that Doordarshan traditionally does not grant approval for 128 episodes at one go and that too for a period of ten years continuously. The reporter has also not cared to check whether any approval letter has been issued by Doordarshan to the Producer or Director. Being a public service broadcaster, Doordarshan is simply being taken for granted through this news story,”
Of course this clarification was too little too late, because by now the lies had been read, discussed, outraged upon and op-ed had also been written. This seems to be a well planned scheme by Indian Express where they repeatedly flout basic tenets of journalism and keep printing lies. Here are some more of Indian Express’s attempts at spinning news: