Prannoy Roy should stop sermonizing about tabloidization of news and look within NDTV

Dr Prannoy Roy was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Mumbai Press Club last week. In his acceptance speech, he talked about NDTV and the state of Indian journalism. Though my fascination with Prannoy was only during his anchoring of The World This Week on Doordarshan during 90s, I was interested to hear his views nevertheless. I will  try to explain why his speech was all hot air.

Firstly, he lamented about the tabloidization of news. Even a novice would understand that he was directly targeting Arnab Goswami and TimesNow with this barbs. (Recent spate of attacks on Arnab and TimesNow is nothing less than a campaign.) Surprisingly, he exonerates media from this slide and blames the advertisers.

Importantly, here are examples, where NDTV itself has indulged in tabloidization of news:

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When US Secretary of State John Kerry visited India, the first question Prannoy asked him was about Hillary becoming President. Guess, Prannoy had not heard of politics stopping at water’s edge (watch from 0:30 to 0:45). Cringeworthy!

When NDTV stealthily deletes a para from Prashant Bhushan’s open letter to Kejriwal, without disclosure . Ethics?  We discussed it here.

When Sreenivasan Jain talks about “Chota mota blast” to further his agenda. Journalism?

One can point to plenty more – including the “Blow to Modi”, “Sonia is sad”, etc campaigns that have come to define NDTV.

As far as blaming advertisers goes, I was not surprised by this view at all. With its communist leaning, obviously NDTV does not believe in market forces determining the price. Hence, he blames the advertisers for not having advanced modeling to identify audience. I am surprised how someone managed to convince this bunch to list on NSE/BSE. (Well, at least market knows the value of NDTV exactly – In 2010, ticker was at approx. 120 and today, ticker is at approx. 130. Sorry folks, no dividend here too). After listening to this speech, if I was still an NDTV investor, I would be looking at monetizing my holdings.

I had a wholehearted laugh when Prannoy talked about his second point. Apparently, journalists are NOT supposed to be “insiders”and they are NOT supposed to be on first name terms with politicians. Well…

Hope you are having a good laugh too. Or was this Prannoy’s barb on Barkha Dutt, who is considered the ultimate insider in Lutyens journalism – a parting shot before she severs all her ties with NDTV?

NDTV was at it yesterday too, when they reported that NDRF had been asked by Nepal to leave, when in fact NDTV itself had reported the correct news just 24 hours earlier, that all rescue missions were asked to leave Nepal. So what if logic and facts say something, it’s always better to say something sensational and attribute it to “sources”. And trust Barkha to take this dumbassery to the next level. She managed to link a Twitter hash-tag, liberal hate for Indian armed forces and Nepal’s decision to send back all rescue missions:

Yup. Our leading journalist did not realise that closing search and rescue missions 8-10 days after an incident is standard practice since by then the chances of recovering someone alive are minimal.

Prannoy himself cannot be pardoned for his proximity to the Left comrades. Family relationships aside, not once in any of his shows, did he mention that his frequent guest N Ram (of The Hindu) is a card holding communist. Fair journalistic principles requires mentioning all affiliations to allow viewers to make informed decision. When Swapan Dasgupta writes his opinions on ndtv, he is declared as someone with “right-wing inclinations”, where as Kumar Ketkar is a “senior journalist, political commentator, globe trotter and author” and Rana Ayyub an “award-winning investigative journalist and political writer”. If anyone considers Ketkar anything other than “a designated Congress bootlicker” and Ayyub anything other than “a pathological Modi hater”, he/she must be admitted for mental care.

Finally, Prannoy talked about accountability in media. The fact that Prannoy did not fire Barkha after the Radia tape controversy and instead, gave her a platform to create a staged interview with other journalists and then exonerate herself is a slap on the face of anyone who stands for fair journalistic values. When Prannoy had a case to punish Barkha and set an example, he chickened out. Now, he has no moral right to give gyaan to others.

He, apparently, also has problem regarding journalists not checking their facts. Well, fellow comrades at NDTV did not get the memo. Please read Opindia’s reports on media lies, where NDTV features prominently – here and here.

By the way, who is Prannoy trying to fool with his lectures? Or is his speech a severe bout of Adarsh Liberalism? I would have called it a mutual admiration club. Since Prannoy himself mentioned during his speech about an editor leaving the hall, I will give the journalist community the benefit of doubt – that at least one editor could not take any more of such moral balderdash from Dr Prannoy Roy.

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