There has been a huge fracas over Tiranga TV and the plight of its employees. The channel was promoted by Congress leader Kapil Sibal and his wife. In a series of tweets, Barkha Dutt alleged that scribes working at Tiranga TV were abruptly sacked, without following the industry-wide practice of offering 6-months salary as compensation. She also alleged that she and other senior journalists haven’t been paid for over a year by the channel.
News emerged last night that bouncers had been sent to the offices of Tiranga TV as the employees were holding a silent protest in the premises.
As the Tiranga TV employees wailed and whined on Twitter, as a journalist currently working with a large television network, I should have sympathised with my brethren and offered my condolences for their careers that now lay in ruins. I should have perhaps reached out to the distressed scribes and offered to help them in whatever possible way that I can, after all, we do belong to the same fraternity.
In reality, though, what I felt was sheer disdain. Pure, unadulterated disgust.
I might sound incredibly harsh when I say this, but the fate of the Tiranga TV employees could have been no different and if they did not know that the moment they joined the ‘channel’, then they are not very good journalists to begin with.
Tiranga TV went live on 26th January 2019. It was promoted by Congress leader Kapil Sibal. Months before the 2019 general elections, one truly wonders what is it that the ones who allegedly ‘gave up on better offers’ according to Barkha Dutt, and joined Tiranga TV expect? It stands to reason that the channel was floated for political propaganda of the Congress party right before the nation decided their political fate.
What Kapil Sibal perhaps banked his faith on was the delusion that the Congress party would come back to power and the Congress would be able to create an NDTV part deux with the latter failing miserably. Once the Congress came back to power, the channel would be flush with funds, all-powerful with unlimited access and a rising star to spread any message that the Congress chose. Not much different from NDTV.
At the helm of it would be Barkha Dutt. Not too different from NDTV either, but also, a stark remembrance of what the Radia tapes exposed to the public about the frail integrity of journalists.
As Barkha herself had admitted, the interviews were held by none other than Kapil Sibal and his wife. Are we to believe that Kapil Sibal sat there and told the young journalists how Tiranga TV would be about bi-partisan reporting? About ethics and integrity? Are we to believe the hint of Congress coming back to power was never given? There was no conversation about the future of a channel that was backed by a Congress leader months before general elections?
And if that conversation did come up, how did it really go? How did these ‘journalists’ who gave up on better opportunities join a channel that was clearly about furthering a particular political narrative?
When Barkha says that these journalists gave up better opportunities for a two-year lock-in period, are we to believe that was the only lure? The only reason why young journalists would choose to join a channel promoted by the Sibals?
And if all of this makes sense, why should journalists who actually embark on a quest for truth feel sorry for these sell-outs who sold their soul to a politician, including Barkha Dutt?
The journalists who joined Tiranga TV knew exactly what they were getting into. A political propaganda channel that was about to get seriously rich if Congress came back to power. It is their fate that Congress did not come back to power and the entire motivation of Kapil Sibal to keep a channel afloat was blown to smithereens by the people of India.
In the end, the journalists who joined this channel made a conscious decision to be a part of that machinery. The ones who joined Tiranga did so with their eyes wide open, and now, when they have twisted their ankle in the very ditch that they entered willingly, I for one don’t feel obligated to sympathise with their sheer stupidity.
The pits of the situation is such, that even the failing of a propaganda channel was blamed on Prime Minister Modi by the rest of the media. There were stories planted that slyly implied that Tiranga had failed because the big, bad Modi had refused to give Tiranga TV any ads. This is the same as expecting Kapil Sibal to ensure that NaMo TV stays afloat, had they been elected to power.
Even while their star Barkha Dutt and the rodents who had followed Pied Piper fell into the ditch, the media was busy shielding Kapil Sibal from any responsibility. While the failing of Tiranga exposed the true nature of Sibal, it also exposed how the elite media won’t shy away from cannibalising each other when push comes to shove.
As far as Barkha Dutt is concerned, the sympathy thins even further. Nobody knows what Congress is made of better than the Radia girl herself. Did she not know what Kapil Sibal is? Did she not know what her fate would be had Congress not come to power in 2019? Or did she assume that all the sins perpetrated by Kapil Sibal and the Congress would be limited to ideological opponents and that she would never be the recipient of the famed Sibal treatment? And if that is what she believed, how is she any better than a Congress worker? And if she isn’t, why should anyone sympathise with her as a journalist who is now being chided?
The truth is, the journalists who joined Tiranga TV led by the mob leader Barkha Dutt never joined as journalists. They joined as party karyakartas. And they should be treated as such.
As a journalist, the ones who sold their imaan deserve no sympathy and they will certainly not get any from me.
Editor’s note: The author is a journalist with a major national television channel, however, has exercised his right to stay anonymous as he fears for his own career and the backlash he might face from the powerful Lutyens’ cabal and Congress after this article.