Case study of how Indian TV awards reward channels for fake news

Recently, many media anchors jumped on to social media to proudly declare that they had been awarded for their fantastic work in the sphere of news coverage. The likes of NDTV, Aaj Take and other media houses basked in the glory of these awards. While the jury members of such award committees are themselves suspect, let us examine some of the awards in detail.

Let us first observe Aaj Tak. In the recently concluded exchange4media News Broadcasting Awards (ENBA) awards, Aaj Tak won eight awards, two of which are as follows:

Best Anchor (Sweta Singh), Best News Coverage National (Demonetisation)

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So do we know Sweta Singh? And have we seen her coverage of Demonetisation in 2016? Yes, we have. She was the anchor, who, in a viral video, in a huddle, had given the breaking news that the new Rs 2000 notes were fitted with some sort of nano GPS chips which made it easy for satellites to locate them. Does this image refresh your memory:

So the channel and anchor which helped spread one of the biggest lies on demonetisation, have now won the award for “best Hindi anchor” and “the best coverage of a national news i.e. demonetisation”.

Moving along, NDTV 24X7 secured News Channel of the year in English, in the same award show. This comes on the back of NDTV’s biggest ex-star, Barkha Dutt, exposing NDTV’s censorship. Another ex-senior reporter with the channel also exposed NDTV. NDTV’s own Sreenivasan Jain had voiced his concern on social media after NDTV deleted his story “for legal vetting” and never restored it. NDTV even published an entire interview where the person being asked the “questions”, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, seemed to be reading out answers from a paper. The channel’s current lead face, Nidhi Razdan also conducted an entire debate on fake news. Are these the achievements of NDTV for which it is being rewarded?

Moving to another set of media awards called the “Red Ink awards”, one sees a similar pattern. Veteran journalist Vinod Dua was last year given the “Lifetime Achievement Award”, soon after which we showed how via his video series, Dua has been spreading half-truths and whole lies: At least 15 major lies in around 50 videos.

In 2016, NDTV India’s Ravish Kumar won the “journalist of the year” award at the Red Ink awards. He was also awarded by the NT Awards as the best TV News Anchor. Within a few months, NDTV India was rewarded by the I&B Ministry with an unprecedented one day ban for jeopardising national security. NDTV India’s only defence was that it was “singled out”, thus not denying that they had erred.

More about Sreenivasan Jain: he won two ENBA 2015 awards for his show Truth vs Hype that year, along with the award for best anchor English. He also won the Red Ink award for “journalist of the year” in 2015. Also in 2015, Jain was caught maliciously editing Baba Ramdev’s interview. He presented Ramdev’s answer for one question as an answer to another question, thus completely misquoting him. How can someone who was exposed with video proof, win so many awards?

Political biases aside, the above examples prove without a doubt, that there is something seriously wrong with most Indian TV News awards. When media houses and journalists who have routinely flouted basic journalistic norms, how can they then be awarded? Why is then not a surprise that many on social media mocked these awards when they were announced.


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