Nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar recently took to Twitter to share that she has been approached by a media agency with an ‘offer’ to give her an award for being an inspiring woman. But there was a caveat to this magnanimity: a form to be filled and Rs 2.5 lakhs to be paid.
A media agency wants to give me an award for being an inspiring woman. All that i have to do is fill a form and pay 2.5 lakh.— Rujuta Diwekar (@RujutaDiwekar) August 4, 2021
The assertion made by Rujuta shocked many people on Twitter, with a large number of folks expressing disbelief at the audacity with which media agencies approach people and demand a hefty amount in return for conferring awards on them.
However, there were many who were not surprised by Rujuta’s tweet. Cyber Safety Expert Akancha Srivastava, founder of Akancha Against Harassment, one of the country’s largest social impact foundations against cyber harassment, said she, too, had received a similar offer a few days ago.
On 28 July 2021, Akancha had tweeted that a large media organization had offered her an award and favorable coverage in TV and Print for what she claimed to be a “nominal” fee.
Was offered an award + TV coverage + print for a *nominal* fee from a large media house. We are not even pretending anymore that merit matters?— Akancha Srivastava (@AkanchaS) July 28, 2021
Now that I know, watching out for the winners for this one… 😊#Media #NEWS
While the revelations made by Rujuta and Akancha have scandalized a host of people on the internet, not only because of the sheer brazenness of the media houses in accosting people and demanding money in lieu of awards but also because of their willingness to barter their integrity and honesty for money. However, as it turns, selling awards and recognition in exchange for money is not entirely a new phenomenon or a rare practice. And the responses to the tweet posted by Akancha only reaffirm the ubiquity of the sale of awards.
Several people responded that they had witnessed similar incidents of awards and recognition being put on sale by media organizations.
Being in B2B magazine industry myself for over 3-4 yrs!! This was very common practice!!— JeM!N Panchal (@jemin_p) July 28, 2021
Awards n coverage was forever linked with advertisement n sponsorship
Same here… Receive calls and mails…to acknowledge how great I am ….but I don’t like the package so others become great 🤷 .this has been happening for over 8 years with me ….they still have my number 😂😂😂— Dr. Reetu Sharma (@drreetusharma) July 29, 2021
The rampancy of using money and prejudiced jury to fix awards
The rigging of awards goes unabated even in the news media industry. Besides money, other means are also employed to ensure that recognition is accorded to only certain news organizations that adhere to a particular narrative. Parameters to declare a channel as a winner are also nebulously changed so as to arrive at a predetermined conclusion. Individual bias is also used to fix such awards.
For instance, NDTV won the best English News Channel award in 2018, but the jury members that bestowed the award on the channel included Raghav Chadha, National Treasurer, Aam Aadmi Party who likes to give defamatory statements in his free time, and Sanjay Jha, a Congress loyalist.
Then in August 2019, an unknown company named NDTV the most trusted company. The ‘award’ was signed by one Hemant Kaushik, Chairman and CEO of USA TV News Channel, and the award was given by one ‘International Brand Consulting Corporation, USA’. But the obscurity of the company was not lost on social media users, who were quick to point out that the organization might be as shady as NDTV’s tax dealings.
Mamata Banerjee and her fans pride on an appreciation letter issued by a dubious organisation
Not just news organizations, but even politicians have relied on fake awards and dubious recognition to burnish their credentials. In August 2020, months before the West Bengal assembly elections, chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her fans on social media shared a letter of appreciation by one ‘UN-linked NGO’ UNWPA for the state government’s COVID-19 work. OpIndia later found out that the organization which sang paeans to Mamata Banerjee was not related to the International Organisation in any way. The name of the organization had mentioned ‘United Nation’ and not the United Nations.
In addition to discrepancies in its name, even the logo used by the organization was different from the UN’s actual logo. The website of the organization did not have any link, registration number, affiliation number, or certification that may prove that it is associated with the United Nations.
The prevalence of rigged award shows in Bollywood
The corrosive practice of ‘awarding’ those who agree to pay a predetermined fee is also rampant in Bollywood, with award shows being nothing more than pageantries of nepotism, where popular actors and their children are awarded to reinforce their stardom or grant them legitimacy in the industry. In many cases, awards are granted to artists who are associated with the organisations that sponsor the shows.
An element of coercion also forms a part of tactics used to influence awards in Bollywood. There have been reports about Bollywood actors and musicians boycotting award shows just because they or their proteges were denied awards. Even prominent industry stalwarts, including Ajay Devgn and Aamir Khan, have admitted to award shows being rigged.