Democracy dying everywhere

India’s pro-government media aka GODI media

With the coming of the Clean Feed Policy, Nepal has heaved a sigh of relief. But there were many who would switch Indian news channels as prime-time enetertainment. But nobody knows the inside story.

Recently, National executive member of India’s ruling party and a BJP MP, Subramaniam Swamy made very serious allegations against the Modi government, but none of the mainstream media channels covered that. The key question is why?

Sample the seriousness of the allegation from India’s viewpoint:

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Subramanian Swamy,  said on Tuesday that people should not forget the “collapsing” economy and China “gobbling up at least 4000 sq km in Ladakh” in all the excitement of COVID-19 vaccine.

Here is a snapshot of the tweet:

In a country where the media seems to engage in loud debates on the most trivial of issues, why was such a revelation by a responsible MP and ruling party member glossed over? Why has the business of media now reduced to the business of controlling media?

Welcome to the world of Godi Media.

Variously called GODI (lapdog), bikau (venal/sale-able), dalal (commision agent) and bharkau (inflammatory):

These are some of the labels with which a major section of India’s mainstream electronic and print media is identified by a majority of Indians, especially Farmers, Opposition parties, Muslims and low-caste Hindus, as well as the remaining section of the national media. G also stands for the Government, and ODI is borrowed from MODI, whose love the journalists on these channels openly profess.

The largest section of the Indian mainstream media, which consists of nearly a dozen 24-hour national and regional TV news channels, is increasingly identified with biased reporting, paid news and fanning communal hatred in society.

In any and every situation, they have shown themselves to be resolutely aligned with the MODI government and against anybody and everybody who questions the present Indian government.

Nepal had a recent brush with the GODI Media when one of the prominent GODI channels ie Zee news crossed all limits of decency to attack PM Oli and the lady ambassador of a country that is hostile to India.

Not only do they always favour the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners in the government, as well as lionize their leaders but always favour a few chosen corporate houses and promote their interests.

KEY GODIANS

Prominent among these pro-BJP/RSS news outlets are English television channels Republic TV, Times Now, India Today and CNN-News18, and Hindi TV channels Zee News, ABP News, Aaj Tak, India TV, Sudershan News, News Nation etc. All the above-mentioned titles fit these channels for one reason or the other.

This humorous term “godi media” was coined for these channels by Ramon Magsaysay award winner journalist Ravish Kumar. 

While these channels can go after any and every social group or denomination that is not aligned with BJP, they hardly question the most heart-rending crimes committed by pro-BJP persons. While they were spurred into action by the spread of Corona by Tablighi Jamat members, they knowingly gloss over the ghastly rapes and murders committed by supporters of BJP across various BJP ruled states. At the same time, acting as important adjuncts to the government-controlled agencies like CBI, ED etc they are known to bash anyone and everyone whom the goverment wants to target.

These channels are well known for always questioning and lampooning the opposition while staying mum on any and every mistake of the government. Ever since the Modi government has come to power, over 40-50 editors have lost their jobs to suit the tastes of the government. The repeat win in the last general elections has further emboldened them.

WHY ARE SO UNASHAMEDLY BIASED?

Senior journalist SK Husain from Singapore, increasingly distraught by the way that the Indian media is targeting Muslims, wrote in a piece last year where he brought out the key reasons for this ridiculous pandering to its government by Indian media, in a detailed piece published online.

KEY REASONS:

Why these channels and their anchors so aggressively support the BJP, RSS and Modi, as well as the rich and powerful, are:

  1. Pattern of funding and advertising by major BJP aligned corporates like Patanjali, Ambani and silent stakes of many BJP leaders and businessmen.
  2. Absolute majority of the BJP-led NDA in Parliament and its government at the centre and in many states.
  3. Policy of religious appeasement of the BJP’s 100-million-plus primary members, and buildinga  cult-like following of ‘demi-god’ Modi.
  4. A high TRP achieved because of the majority Hindu viewership. (TRP, or target rating point, is a metric used in marketing and advertising to indicate the percentage of the target audience reached by a campaign or advertisement through a communication medium).
  5. Ownership or stakes of certain BJP and RSS leaders, MPs and supporters in some of these TV channels; Owners’ political connections or affiliations with the BJP and RSS.
  6. A huge revenue earned from government advertisements which these channels receive in return for their pro-BJP/RSS/government policies.
  7. Commercial interests of these channels as business entities rather than as social service non-governmental organisations.
  8. Government advisories/directives and restrictions on news presentation.
  9. Fear of being targeted by the government for failure to toe the line.

THE GODI’s IN ACTION – DENIAL AND  INACTION AGAINST MODI GOVT

Their critical questions to the PM or BJP leaders are always pre-planned and well-rehearsed in advance. They are known for asking questions like:

What makes you so great Modiji?

How do you manage to look so young?

How are you so motivated to serve the country selflessly?

What is the secret of your success?

Do you like mangoes?

What is the secret of your energy?

What gives you the strength to smile despite the opposition’s endless lies?

They will always skirt away from hard facts or uncomfortable truths to offer an aura of invincibility and greatness to the BJP Supremo.

HIS MASTER’S NOISE: Republic TV’s Arnab Goswami interviews Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Credit: narendramodi.in

As mentioned by Husain – Launched in 2017, Republic TV was partly funded by, among others, Asianet News (ARG Outlier Asianet News Private Limited), which was primarily funded by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, then an independent member of Rajya Sabha with intricate links with the BJP and vice-chairman of the NDA in Kerala.

Son of an air force officer, Chandrasekhar, however, resigned from the Asianet board after he officially joined the BJP in April 2018 and was elected as a BJP MP.

Republic TV has been accused of propagating fake news and running several news items based on the defamatory tweets posted by certain BJP leaders. It has also been convicted of breaching telecommunication regulatory and news broadcasting rules, leading to censures and subject to a high-profile defamation case by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.

The channel is described by experts as a “noisy, chaotic place where coherent debate without shouting, screaming and name-calling is impossible”. Its shows have been dubbed a “battle of babble”, judgmental, brash and hawkish.

It has even been compared to North Korean media for its extreme pro-government affinity and muzzling of dissent, and America’s Fox News which practises biased reporting in favour of the Republican Party.

Prominent among these pro-BJP/RSS news outlets are English television channels Republic TV, Times Now, India Today and CNN-News18, and Hindi TV channels Zee News, ABP News, Aaj Tak, India TV, Sudershan News, News Nation and News24 (India). 

Times Now:  Anchor and managing editor Navika Kumar frets, froths, fouls-the-air and fumes each time someone is critical of the BJP, but loses her interrogating prowess whenever given the rare chance to interview Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah. Her docility in the overwhelming presence of these great leaders is cringeworthy.

Its conflict-of-interest is visible even to the blind as its chairperson, Indu Jain, was awarded Padma Bhushan by the Modi government in 2016.

India Today:

Top journalists associated with India Today TV channel are Rajdeep Sardesai and Rahul Kanwal. While Rajdeep is anti-BJP, Rahul tried to lean a lot to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Although India Today tried to be a “fence-sitter” channel, for many years it has clearly tilted towards the BJP.

Narendra Modi with Mukesh Ambani at the convocation of Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University in 2013 when the former was chief minister of Gujarat (Photo – Website of Narendra Modi)

CNN News 18 is owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, considered close to PM Modi. The channel was originally owned by Network18 Group, which was taken over by Reliance Industries in 2014. The group owns as many as 65 channels

CNN-News18: This channel is owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, hence no words are required to explain its bias against Muslims and the less privileged Hindus. This channel was originally owned by Network18 Group, which was founded by businessman and investor Raghav Bahl in 2011 but was taken over by Reliance Industries in 2014.

The group owns as many as 65 channels: one national English news channel, one national Hindi news channel and 14 regional language news channels; three national and one regional business news channels, three Hindi entertainment channels, two Hindi movie channels, two youth channels, four English and Hindi music channels, four kids English and Hindi entertainment channels, four factual entertainment channels, two shopping channels, 14 regional entertainment channels, and 10 upcoming regional news and other channels.
Hindi channels

Among the most biased pro-BJP/RSS Hindi TV news channels and their anchors are:

Zee News: This is one of the several Hindi, English and vernacular news channels owned by the Essel Group. The channel’s owner, Subhash Chandra, became a Rajya Sabha member with the BJP’s support. Hence, he definitely needs to give something back to the party by promoting its Hindutva agenda and launching an anti-Muslim tirade.

Sudhir Chaudhary is the channel’s editor-in-chief and the anchor of its prime time. He is the Hindi version of Republic TV’s Arnab as he openly supports the BJP, RSS and Modi. A few years ago, Sudhir was arrested for allegedly trying to extort one billion Indian rupees (approximately US$23 million) from the Jindal Group. Since then, some people call him Sudhir “Tihari” because he was lodged in Delhi’s maximum-security Tihar Jail in the extortion case.

Zee News has been involved in broadcasting fabricated news stories on multiple occasions. Most recently, it aired an unverified and false report on the coronavirus and linked it to Tablighi Jamaat, and later expressed regrets for running the false report.

India TV: This channel was launched by Rajat Sharma and his wife Ritu Dhawan in 2004 from a studio in FilmCity in Noida, near Delhi. Sharma is the chairman and editor-in-chief of India TV, a subsidiary of Independent News Service which was co-founded by the couple in 1997. During his college days, Sharma was a member of ABVP. He and the late finance minister Arun Jaitley of BJP were very close friends.

India TV is biased, too. It conceals plenty of news that would make headlines. It doesn’t show fake news but is selective in its presentation of news according to its political impact. When Sharma was asked a question about his channel’s integrity in the United States in view of his friendship with Jaitley, he got infuriated.

According to tech analyst Amol Raj Pandey, when Sharma “was ousted from his FilmCity office by Century Comm, his new office was completely funded by the BJP. India TV kept on working as BJP propaganda unit after that.” As a reward— he received Padma Bhushan for literature, although he never wrote a single literary piece. However, he wrote fiction for the BJP during its election campaign.

In 2015, Sharma was awarded Padma Bhushan by the BJP government for his contribution in the field of journalism. Last month, he was conferred with an honorary doctorate in of literature by the Nainital-based Kumaun University.

AajTak: Owned by Arun Purie’s India Today Group, AajTak has some of the most poisonous anchors — Anjana Om Kashyap, Rohit Sardana and Sweta Singh — known for their vitriolic attacks against anyone-questioning-Modi and spreading communal hatred. The trio routinely indulge in Muslim-bashing, while demonstrating a ­deferential surrender to anything the BJP does.

A former Zee News and News24 journalist, Anjana has been engaged in aggressively propagating Hindutva-centred ideologies and biased reporting in favour of the BJP across a variety of situations. She has spread fake news via her news shows on multiple occasions. A favourite of Modi, she was one of the few reporters who were allowed an interview by Modi in the run-up to the 2019 general election. Rohit Sardana tops the list of the worst journalists sponsored by the right-wing.

ABP News: Owned by Bengali journalist Aveek Sarkar of the pro-BJP ABP Group, this channel is the reincarnation of Star News. Earlier, ABP News used to be neutral, but it turned pro-BJP a couple of years ago. This came after the Modi government objected to criticism of the BJP by some ABP News journalists including Punya Prasoon Vajpayee and Abhisar Sharma in their Master Stroke show. After the channel took action against these journalists, Rubika Liyaquat became the commander-in-chief of its news anchors. A former Zee New anchor, Rubika joined ABP News in 2018. A Muslim, she is disliked by many for her angry rhetoric against Muslim leaders called by the channel for debates on TV.

Sudarshan News: This channel disseminates anti-Muslim content and manufactures fake news with communal overtones, earning it tiltles such as “bigot” and “dangerous”.
Its chairman, Suresh Chavhanke, was a long-term RSS volunteer and associated with ABVP. He asserts practicing ideology-driven journalism and prefers that the news programmes over his channel be viewed as opinionated campaigns.

In April 2017, he was arrested for inciting communal hatred through multiple episodes of a flagship programme. Recently, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren ordered state police to take action against Chavhanke for his communal hate speeches.

News Nation: Owned by News Nation Network Pvt Ltd, this channel’s consulting editor Deepak Chaurasia has an inclination towards the BJP and is known as a puppet of Modi. Portuguese politician and political scientist Bruno Macaes compared Chaurasia’s journalism to Fox News, which has often been criticised for being extremely vocal in its support of the Republicans and President Donald Trump.

India 24 (India): Owned by B.A.G. Films and Media Limited, this channel is promoted by Anuradha Prasad, sister of BJP minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, along with her husband, Congress politician Rajeev Shukla. Its anchor Amish Devgan has modelled himself on Republic TV’s Arnab and routinely indulges in Muslim-bashing.

All the above channels are pro-BJP because they need government advertisements for revenue to operate. And most of their anchors and journalists are enamoured by Modi’s “superman image ” created by his online fans. As they aren’t bold enough to go against this fan club fearing trolling and reprisals, they find it easy to ride with the wind while passing a lot of their own. We can only hope and pray that the canker of self-interest does not infect media in Nepal if we want to protect our democracy.

 

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