Cobrapost, an investigative news website first reported nearly two months ago on how some Indian media groups are reportedly ready to put their journalism ethics on sale by striking a deal to promote Hindutva agenda and assist in polarising the electorate for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Released yesterday, in the second part of the expose – codenamed as Operation 136 – it has been observed that a total of 25 media groups allegedly agreed to undertake a campaign that has the “the potential to cause communal disharmony among citizens” in exchange of money.
The investigation has put the reliability of Indian media in question and has provided a glimpse of the deceptive relationship between the media and politicians.
Mainstream Media Running After Money
The Times Group owner and managing director, Vineet Jain was undoubtedly among the biggest names that have been exposed in the investigation. In exchange of promoting the Hindutva agenda and thrashing political rivals through advertorials and events, Jain and Group’s executive president, Sanjeev Shah reportedly agreed to accept an amount of Rs 500 crore.
Held to be one of the biggest and most reliable media conglomerates of the country, The Times Group looks after administration of 14 newspapers across India, eight news media stations, four radio stations, among others. Signifying the foothold of the group in the media industry, The Times of India, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, is the largest selling English news daily in the world.
The videotaped conversations, released in the public domain, have shown Jain and Shah, representing the top management of the group agreeing to “transactional kind of relationship.”
Boasting about the “USP of Times”, which is that it reaches “65 million to 70 million people everyday”, Shah agrees to the ultimate goal of propagating the Hindutva agenda, and give it a political advantage.
On the one hand, the duo emphasises the need for “appearing neutral” and on the other hand, actively considers the idea of bringing Hindutva agenda in Femina Miss India pageant, which is organised by the Times Group.
The managements of the big media groups have reduced the essence of news to a mere commodity, which could be use in creating a bubble filled with communal ideology around its colossal audience in exchange for money.
Another media house that was exposed by the investigation was India Today. Gaining popularity as a magazine in its initial days, the groups goes on to diversify both in print and in electronic. The group’s TV Today Network operates Aaj Tak, India Today Television, Tez and Delhi Aaj Tak.
Confessing his personal connection with the agenda, Chief Revenue Officer Rahul Kumar Shaw agrees to carry the campaign on every platform that their group has to offer – in both TV and print, but mentions the need to get the approval of India Today Group Vice Chairperson Kalli Purie.
The Wire reported India Today’s response to Cobrapost as saying: “The sting operation carried out by your undercover reporter, he had conversations with various sales employees of our Group for an advertising campaign. He did not meet anyone from our editorial team.”
Network 18, ABP News, Red FM, Star India are some among the 25 media houses that agreed to distort the world of news dissemination. Constituting most of the mainstream media which enjoys the privilege of living their imprints in public memory forever, these groups have chosen to regard themselves as more of a corporate entity which runs after money.
Journalism Being Reduced to a Service
During the conversations between the undercover reporter and the individuals representing senior managements of various media houses, it is interesting to note how these professionals brag about supporting and belonging to Hindutva ideology and as a result, do not shy in trading in journalistic ethics.
Such investigations reveal the entanglement of politics and media, which is fueled by the personal ideologies of the individuals representing senior management.
While India has dropped from rank 136 to rank 138 in the World Freedom Index, it becomes important, in the aftermath of Cobrapost investigation, to discuss the role of the management of these media platforms, which undermines the sanctity of journalism. The management with its practices of indulging into paid news has blemished the fourth pillar of democracy and has resulted in journalism being reduced to service used by the wealthy capitalists to propagate their agenda.