Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Delhi Govt Tourism Agency in Liquor Business!

February 28, 2006

Did you know that the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC) is actively engaged in the liquor trade, with over half its employees working in said line of business? You don’t believe me? Go ahead and click on the link to the department’s home page. Right at the bottom of the home page is an “Application Form (Liquor Shops)” link in no small print! The header of the application form states that it is an “Application form for hiring of premises for IMFL/Beer/Country Liquor shop (free of Cost)“. (Bolded by Right Indian)

Yeah, my eyes popped out when I saw the “free of Cost” phrase I interpreted it to mean that the esteemed tourism department is serving free liquor to Delhi tourists at some special premises. Perusing the application form in more detail shed no additional light on what it means, although it did become clear that there is no free serving of liquor! But I digress.

This interesting fact was brought to my notice by the chapter on Department of Tourism in the Delhi Citizen Handbook 2003 published by the Centre for Civil Society (of India). From the chapter:

DTTDC runs 38 country liquor and 93 Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) vends in Delhi. Of the 1,035 employees in the Corporation, 550 work in these vends. In 2002-03, it made a profit of Rs 2.5 crore from country liquor sales (this amount was spent on building flyovers) and Rs 6 crore from IMFL sales.

Apparently, the latest (second) edition of the handbook has more of such interesting information. From a Rediff.com guest column by Sunil Jain:

Spending Rs 228,381 to hire a graduate!

February 27, 2006

Rs 228,381 a job?  No, that’s not the starting salary of a graduate these days, it’s the cost of placement for a graduate- over the last five years, the Delhi government spent Rs 20.6 crore (Rs 206 million) to get 902 people jobs out of a total of 539,734 registered at 20 employment exchanges across the capital, at Rs 2,28,381 a piece.

This, among a host of others, is a finding from Parth J Shah’s Centre for Civil Society’s second Delhi Citizen Handbook, a primer on various departments in the capital’s government, what they’re supposed to deliver and what they actually do.

The CCS, for those not familiar with it, is run on a shoestring budget out of a modest flat in Hauz Khas in south Delhi, and the studies are done by kids in, or just about out of, college – the team for the second handbook was primarily from the Rai Foundation’s College of Media and Communications in New Delhi.

The first Delhi handbook revealed facts that few Delhiites were familiar with, and this one does the same.

It would be a great idea to publish the book on the Internet. I went looking for the book on the Net, after reading the Rediff.com column, and came across the CCS’s website (very busy homepage with too much information, badly needs a redesign!) and the webpage of the Delhi Citizen Handbook 2003 (first edition). The site has the first edition’s table of contents, summary of chapters and a few full chapters. There is no mention of the new edition, that I could find easily. I wish I could see more up-to-date information and a better presentation.

As per the Rediff.com column, CCS has published a similar handbook on Jharkhand state. This is a great idea. I hope to see such publication on all states in India (with more and better web publishing, of course). This is an excellent example of responsible activism by independent citizens. Of course, this is something the journalistic media should be doing on a daily basis. But let us not expect too much from them!

Tailpiece: CCS has a frequently-updated blog called Spontaneous Order. It has a lot of interesting and relevant information about Indian current affairs. Worth a look! My only compaint about the blog is that it does not have a web feed I can subscribe to!

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Prophet Mohammad’s cartoons disappear in America media!

February 10, 2006

It is not just the BBC that is shaking in its boots and not showing any of the controversial cartoons of Prophet Mohammad. All over the world, most of the media companies have chosen not to reprint / display the cartoons. The media companies which have chosen to display the cartoons are a small minority.

Even in the US, the land of free speech and liberty, Prophet Mohammad’s cartoons have been conspicuously absent in popular media, although there is no dearth of newsbytes regarding the issue. Journalist-blogger Michelle Malkin writes about the Cowardly American Media, taking to task CNN and NBC, two of the biggest media houses in the US.

Meanwhile, The Politicker of the New York Observer writes that the entire editorial staff of the New York Press quit in protest when they were prevented from printing the cartoons of the Prophet:

The editorial staff of the alternative weekly New York Press walked out today, en masse, after the paper’s publishers backed down from printing the Danish cartoons that have become the center of a global free-speech fight.

Editor-in-Chief Harry Siegel emails, on behalf of the editorial staff:

New York Press, like so many other publications, has suborned its own professed principles. For all the talk of freedom of speech, only the New York Sun locally and two other papers nationally have mustered the minimal courage needed to print simple and not especially offensive editorial cartoons that have been used as a pretext for great and greatly menacing violence directed against journalists, cartoonists, humanitarian aid workers, diplomats and others who represent the basic values and obligations of Western civilization. Having been ordered at the 11th hour to pull the now-infamous Danish cartoons from an issue dedicated to them, the editorial group—consisting of myself, managing editor Tim Marchman, arts editorJonathan Leaf and one-man city hall bureau Azi Paybarah, chose instead to resign our positions.

We have no desire to be free speech martyrs, but it would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we’d criticized others for not running, cartoons that however absurdly have inspired arson, kidnapping and murder and forced cartoonists in at least two continents to go into hiding. Editors have already been forced to leave papers in Jordan and France for having run these cartoons. We have no illusions about the power of the Press (NY Press, we mean), but even on the far margins of the world-historical stage, we are not willing to side with the enemies of the values we hold dear, a free press not least among them.

This deserves high praise. This is a rare example of a principled stand by mediapersons in an era in which we are forced to wonder if even Google, “the organizer and presenter of the world’s information”, is censoring these cartoons!

 

BBC on 1980s Iran, 1998 India and UK today

February 4, 2006

Back in 1998, BBC News reported on the controversy surrounding M F Husain’s obscene portrayal of Hindu gods and goddesses. It had the following to say in it’s report Indian artist upsets sensibilities:

Ten years ago, Mr Husain’s paintings would probably have been ignored but “insulting” a Hindu god in modern India is now akin to blaspheming the prophet Mohammed in 1980s Iran.

A supposedly esteemed media company like the BBC compared the late ’90s India to the Iran of the ’80s. I wonder how much esteem the BBC deserves when it cannot differentiate between an India, where the blasphemer gets police protection, and an Iran where a blasphemer could be killed or maimed by the government.

Why am I talking about a 1998 article today, in 2006? Simply because of this BBC’s dilemma over cartoons (of Prophet Muhammad):

Many people have rung or called the BBC complaining that the cartoons are not being shown on television news or the website.

Reports have shown brief glimpses of the pictures in some of the European newspapers which have published them, but no close-ups.

Peter Horrocks, the editor of TV News, said it had been a difficult dilemma.

“Obviously the BBC does not want to give offence to anyone on either side of this debate, so if people – whichever side of the argument they fall within – have taken offence, I am obviously concerned and apologise for that,” he told NewsWatch.

“We’ve taken the view that still images that focus and linger on the offending cartoons would be excessively offensive so we haven’t used those in our television news pieces.

“We’ve used moving pictures of the newspapers where they’ve appeared to show people the context in which they’ve appeared and to give them some flavour of the type of imagery but without focusing closely on them.”

Forget the Iran of the ’80s. BBC is afraid to “blaspheme” against the Prophet Muhammad, being in the UK of 2006! Talk about irony! Just look at the way BBC shivers and pussyfoots around the issue as evident from its editor’s comments above. Further:

Other viewers said the BBC was being spineless, and Peter Arnold commented: “It appears that you are scared of the reaction from Muslims, while you were not concerned about offending Christians when you screened Jerry Springer – The Opera (hyperlinks by Right Indian). This is a case of double standards.”

Mr Horrocks said there wasn’t a direct comparison with the broadcasting of Jerry Springer – The Opera, which had prompted thousands of complaints from concerned Christians.

Censorship

“The BBC is not the primary publisher of these cartoons so to some extent it’s different from Jerry Springer where the BBC was responsible for commissioning that programme,” he explained.

Surprising that BBC which saw a comparison between the ’90s India and the ’80s Iran, cannot see the comparison in this case. Well, Mr Horrocks, here’s a direct comparison for you: BBC felt it okay to commission and broadcast a show offending thousands of Christians, but it won’t even display mere cartoons offending Muslims!

 

Al-Jazeera, the terrorist mouth-piece, targets India

February 4, 2006

Al-Jazeera, the Arabic television, based in Qatar is most popular for being the favorite mouth-piece of Islamic terrorists, such as Osama bin Laden. It shot into international limelight by broadcasting video and audio tapes made by the terrorists. The network is now hoping to gain a wider international audience, a large number of them in India and Pakistan. The Telegraph of UK reports in the article, Al-Jazeera woos India and Pakistan with Urdu service:

Al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite television network favoured by al-Qa’eda and hated by the Bush administration, is planning to launch services in Urdu, Turkish, French and Spanish.

By translating its Arabic broadcasts into Urdu, al-Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, is hoping to attract up to 110 million viewers in India and Pakistan.

Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, has described the network as “consistently lying” and “working in concert with terrorists”.

I cannot confirm or deny the veracity and authenticity of Al-Jazeera’s broadcasts. However, I can say for sure that the last thing India needs at this point of time is a television network which occasionally acts as a mouth-piece for terrorists. I can quite easily envision terrorists who target India using the good services of Al-Jazeera to broadcast their propaganda, post-terrorist-strike statements, ransom demands and other similar sweet nothings.

 However, that is not really my bigger concern. My bigger concern is the point of view of the network’s reporting and what effect that would have on the Muslim masses of India. Undoubtedly, Al-Jazeera’s reporting will present the Arab-centric view. I fear that such reporting will contribute to widening the rift between certain types of Muslims and the rest of India. This is cearly not good for India.

There is sufficient cause for concern that reporting by the big media houses in India – print and broadcast – have a predominantly Western and/or anti-nationalistic view of issues affecting India and her people. This is already bad for India. The last thing we want to add to the mix is a network carrying Arab-centric views.

This might appear to be an insecure and intolerant argument. In an ideal world, all citizens of the country would be mature, it would be perfectly okay for anybody and everybody to express whatever they feel and want to express, and life would still go on peacefully and progressively. Sadly, we don’t live in that ideal world. In this case, pragmatism takes precedence over idealism. Pragmatism says Al-Jazeera should not be allowed in India.

Attractive cable regime?!

January 28, 2006

The Hindu reports that the Chief Minister (of Tamilnadu) plans attractive new cable regime:

CHENNAI: Following the move to take over two major cable television multi-system operators, the Tamil Nadu Government is planning a new cable network regime that will lead to a substantial lowering of subscription charges for television viewers and more attractive terms for ordinary cable operators across the State. According to informed sources, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has worked out a detailed blueprint for the new regime and will unveil her ideas soon.

The new cable network regime in the State envisages that viewers in rural areas might have to pay only Rs. 50 a month to cable TV operators. In small towns, the monthly subscription might be between Rs. 60 and Rs. 70, and in big cities around Rs. 80.

What is so attractive about a “cable regime”? Just the lowered cost? But cost is not everything. What about the matter of the freedom and rights of private businesses? What about the freedom of the media companies?

I am not at all comfortable with the idea of governments controlling one whole media segment (cable television in this case) or the entire distribution of any media. How would you feel if the government tried taking over the distribution of all newspapers and magazines, and selling them only through governmental ration shops? What would you think about the government’s power to control and regulate what newspapers and magazines enjoy circulation and what don’t? What Jayalalitha’s govt is proposing to do with cable TV is very similar. Considering Jayalalitha’s obvious dictatorial tendencies, this is even more disturbing.

If Jayalalitha’s government really wanted to ensure that the cable TV service in Tamilnadu is fairly priced and the quality of service is good, there are other ways of doing that. The govt does not have to totally take over the cable TV services. It is obvious that Jayalalitha is trying to do this so that she can control what is broadcast and what is not broadcast over cable TV. This is a clear violation of freedom of the media and the people’s right to information.

Also, I am not entirely clear about the legality of the government simply “taking over” the business of private companies. What exactly does “take over” mean in this context? Is it like a corporate take over, where the government will pay a price and buy the cable TV businesses? Or is it like an autocracy, where the government will simply impose its management over the cable TV operators? It this not sheer robbery by the government? How would you feel if you were running a gorcery store, and the government took over your store and converted it into a government ration shop? Would you not consider that robbery?

I am surprised that a prominent publication like The Hindu and the rest of the Indian media in general, are not questioning this move by the Tamilnadu government, and discussing it in the light of freedom of information and freedom of private companies to legally run their businesses. Instead, they have labelled this as an “attractive” development! And they are busy covering the actions and reactions of Karunanidhi and his ilk, who are trying to protect their investments and controls in the cable TV business.

Granted that this development is just one more chapter in the bigger Chennai/Tamilnadu cable TV story involving the ill-fated Conditional Access System (CAS); and, this Tamilnadu cable TV story is itself just another volume in the DMK-vs-AIADMK saga! Nevertheless, the media would have done better to focus on the larger subject of freedom and legal aspects of this case, and less on the entertainment value of a DMK vs AIADMK tug.