Amateurish Sting Traps Gullible Media Managements
May 29, 2018
Is India’s media for sale? And ready to drive their publications into the arms of Hindutva propagators for a price? Really?
In terms of advertising packages, Rs 275 crore and Rs 500 crore are impressive sums which is probably why Kalli Purie, Vice Chairperson of India Today and Vineet Jain of Bennett Coleman and Co. respectively, are willing to let the money cloud their judgment. Because as you listen to these videos in the second edition of Cobrapost’s Operation 136 you can’t help wondering how seasoned business people can be taken in by a man who talks the way the Cobrapost reporter, masquerading as a Hindutva propagator, does. He sounds both amateurish and bizarre.
What is established, or sought to be established is that the business heads, or executives of number of media companies are willing to abandon their judgement when a man representing a Hindu organisation approaches them to carry Hindutva content for a price. Carry where exactly? The tapes on YouTube do not establish that. Purie for instance makes it clear that her understanding is that they are discussing advertisements, not editorial content. She stresses that.
In the conversation between this man, Vineet Jain and his executive Sanjeev Shah, again, where exactly this persuasive material will appear is not discussed. The only explicit request made is for do char sawal (two or more questions) to be asked in the Femina contest about Hindutva. The way references to Mother Teresa come up in these contests, he says. Jain demurs.
Cobrapost’s tweets on May 25 seek to implicate all of these media houses–TOI, India Today, HT, Zee News, Network 18, Star India, ABP News, Jagaran Group, Radio One, Suvarna News, Red FM, Lokmat, ABN Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Big FM, K News, India Voice, The New Indian Express, MVTV and Open magazine.
Some of them are willing to do business in cash. Vineet Jain and his deputy keep saying this is impossible for them, but don’t reject the deal, nevertheless. And the tweet put out about them says,
#MediaOnSale Vineet Jain, The MD of The Times Group knows very well that how to adjust black money in business.
Another tweet says,
#MediaOnSale :These media houses are also involved in propaganda journalism and are ready to polarise the situation at the time of the election
The conversations with Purie and Jain, the big fish in this story, don’t establish any such readiness. Jain says they have to be seen to be neutral and he is willing to carry programmes on Bhagwad Geeta and Lord Krishna at best. To Purie the reporter says “Scenario is galvanizing and elections are close by. We can do some nasty things. Infield activities.” Don’t do it, she says. “How does it sit with this?”
Elsewhere she says, “as far as advertising is concerned we are not concerned with content. This infield activities is very worrying for me.” Just the use of that term should have made her wonder where exactly her visitor was coming from.
Also implicated in this sting is Ajay Shekhar of Paytm who apparently revealed that they provided the data of their users to a political party, on the order of PMO. And the newspaper Dainik Bhaskar which obtained a court injunction against the part related to them being made public.
The wire.in reports that two newspapers in Kolkata declined the bait saying that their policy did not permit advertising of the kind being proposed.
As stings go, this is a far from sophisticated operation. And yet so many fell for it? That says a lot for the amorality that may have begun to pervade the media business.
First published in The Hoot.
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