Why are Prannoy Roy, Aroon Poorie, Shobhana Bhartia, Vineet Jain, Raghav Behl silent? The key questions and issues which need their answers now

By Girish Nikam

What are the issues and questions which bother all of us the most, from what has emanated from the Radia Tapes? For the last two weeks since the whole issue blew up with the publishing of the Radia Tapes, debate has centred largely around the well known journalists like Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi and to a lesser extent on Prabhu Chawla. However there is more to it than just these three, and it is time to get an overall perspective on different aspects of these explosive revealations, which exposes the insidious relations between the corporates, media, politics. This is the first of a series, which will look at the various issues raised and questions which need to be answered concerning the Journalists specifically and the media groups involved in it. It is unfortunate that though it is two weeks now since the expose’, none of the owners of these media groups, be it Dr.Prannoy Roy of NDTV, Shobhna Bhartia of Hindustan Times, Aroon Poorie of India Today group, Sameer or Vineet Jain or the amorphous management of the Times Group, or CNBC TV 18 Managing Director, Raghav Behl, have come out with any statement on the issues concerning their media houses, which has been thrown up by these tapes.

As media organisations and professionals, in newspapers and TV channels, who never lets an opportunity go to pull up the politicians, bureaucrats and even the judiciary, is it not their duty as part of the fourth estate, to follow the dictum of accountability to their readers and viewers. Should they not come out with what they have to say to the charges and allegations against their employees, and how they intend to curb such unprofessional behavior in their organisations? Are they not as accountable as Sonia Gandhi or Dr.Manmohan Singh is, whom we are now asking why the 2G scam took place, or why A. Raja was not being removed, or a Nitin Gadkari who has to answer why he is allowing B.S.Yeddyurappa to continue?

After sifting through the dozens of hours of conversation, the following analysis of all the tapes which are now out in the public domain, about 140 of them, have raised the following key issues and questions, which need answers from the media persons as well as their employers.There can be no let up in keeping up the pressure to find these answers, if the Indian media has to cleanse itself.

1.The silence of the media houses and its owners, about their employees, Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, Prabhu Chawla, M.K.Venu, Ganapathy Subramaniam and Shankar Aiyar, who have all been found offering themselves to broker on behalf of corporate houses and be a go-between the corporates and political parties and judiciary even, apart from tilting their articles and their newspapers towards one corporate or the other.

2. When Niira Radia calls up Rajdeep Sardesai, Editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN on July 7,2009, and wants to meet him along with Manoj Modi, the right hand man of Mukesh Ambani, to apparently discuss the gas pricing issue, why does he ask her to meet the Joint Managing Director of his TV channel, Samir Manchanda? “—- but I want Manoj(Modi) to meet Samir Manchanda(Joint Managing Director of TV 18) , because Samir and Manoj had a long chat between on several things. So I will make sure that he —– so I will make sure”( http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268439). Is Manchanda a journalist who should be briefed on the gas pricing issue? Is there more to this suggestion? What is that Rajdeep want Manchanda and Modi to discuss?

3. What does the Economic Times management have to say, about what M.K.Venu, then senior editor of ET, tells Niira Radia that ET wants to host a global brainstorming meet, and says, “ET does not want to spend money on such things, it is always looking for sponsorships”? (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268403). Also is Venu within his journalistic limits when he says, “ I told(RIL People) much before you(Radia) took over RIL account—why do you expose him(Mukesh Ambani to the media) so much—he is too big he should not be seeking the media—- they said, anil(ambani) kar raha hai, I said, you should do the opposite, — it’s a great strategy—theeek hai—newspaper fellows will be upset—but you cant please all the time”. What does the management of Economic Times, his former employer and Shekhar Gupta, his present employer (Venu is presently the Managing Editor of Financial Express) have to say on such obvious breach of journalistic ethics? How can the readers of Financial Express now have faith in what is published in that paper now?

4. What does Raghav Behl, the Managing Director of TV 18(CNBC TV 18 and its sister companies including CNN-IBN), have to say about Manoj Modi(right hand man of Mukesh Ambani) claiming (on June 10,2009) in his conversation with Niira Radia that he told(threatened) him(Raghav) “your organisation is corrupt…. Even factual stories you don’t print about ADAG and you will work for us. I want to know who is the source, Mukesh(Ambani) ko personally attack karega toh main manoj modi hoon, chodega nahin kisiko.——-Raghav said in order to put pressure on me(Raghav himself)— send me(raghav) a legal notice”( http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268368) . Did Raghav Behl protest against such obviously strong-arm tactics? Is what Modi claiming true? Did Raghav Behl ask Modi to send him a legal notice? If not true, did Raghav Behl get a letter from Modi, making such threats, as Modi claims in this tape and repeatedly asks Niira Radia not to disclose about it to anyone?

5. In one of the conversations(on June 13,2009) between Niira Radia and Srinath(his status not known) where they discuss a story on CNBC TV 18 which is obviously not in their(Mukesh Ambani group) favour, Niira Radia remarks that “Sebi investigations is on against Siddharth(Zarabi, Economic Policy Editor, CNBC TV 18), Udayan(mukherjee, anchor and Managing Director CNBC TV 18) and Sajjid whose identity could not be established) — they are getting their wives involved in the (stock) market), and the SEBI investigation is on”. She also goes on to say that Udayan Mukherjee “files the highest tax returns among journalists…… he pays Rs.6 crore as income tax, and he doesn’t even earn that much”( http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268373). Now what has Raghav Behl and his colleagues named here done about these obviously serious charges? Is what she is saying true? If not what action are they contemplating or have taken?

6. What does the management of Economic Times have to say to the conversation Rahul Joshi( Executive Editor of Economic Times) , had with Niira Radia on June 16,2009, in which he tells Radia about the coverage in his paper (Economic Times) of the Bombay High court judgement about the Gas pricing issue, a day before, which was obviously in favour of Anil Ambani and against Mukesh Ambani. He says, “ I didn’t want to say ‘setback for Mukesh’— you will appreciate I haven’t done it”, and then goes on to say, that as Mukesh Ambani has made it clear, “— this long standing thing of (Mukesh) Ambani, don’t put us(Anil and Mukesh) together.—– So we kept the tone neutral”. He later goes on to promise Radia that in future too, “we will be sensitive(to Mukesh Ambani’s needs), we will not go over the top”. (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268388) Now does the management of Economic Times subscribe to the stand of its Executive Editor to play down the stories against Mukesh Ambani? Is this part of their overall editorial policy? If not is Rahul Joshi playing into the hands of Niira Radia and her charms?

7. What does the management of India Today group has to say about what Prabhu Chawla tells Niira Radia in his conversations with her on June 20,2009, when he tells her, “— convey to Mukesh that the way he is going about the supreme court, is not the right thing”. And then he goes on to say, The way he(Mukesh Ambani) is going to the SC, I wont tell you more than that. The people he is using are not the kind of people who can be trusted for keeping it to themselves. Bol dete hain, ab London mein baithke kuch bhi bolo. Achcha nahin lagta na, it gets back. London is not so far, it’s just a phone call away. Political system….People may be projecting he is close to Sonia, he is close to Rahul. Mukesh has got access, but he can’t influence anybody. Collective jyada ho gaya na,. Kamalnath can decide one thing but he can be overruled by Pranab Mukherjee. So ye saara loose ends ko tighten karna hain na?”( http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268406). Don’t they think that he is trying to offer himself to Mukesh Ambani to help him “fix the Supreme court as well as the Government ”? If not will the management of India Today come out and tell their readers and viewers that they have given a clean chit to Prabhu Chawla?

8. Can the management of NDTV explain a conversation between M.K.Venu and Niira Radia on July 9, 2009, “Venu to Radia—-Is Manoj(Modi) in town today? Radia to Venu— Yeah he is here, he will leave this evening. We are meeting Prannoy(roy of NDTV) today. You know we need to support Prannoy” (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268457) . An explanation is necessary especially in the context of what Barkha Dutt tells Manoj Modi during a conversation the same evening “Manoj to Barkha— no, no,no, you know I never come to Delhi, but I came only for this(?) last night, only for this purpose I have come. Barkha to Manoj—- It was very helpful Manoj, it was really very helpful. But then maybe main aapke saath—-( gets disconnected)” (http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268460).It is important for the millions of viewers of NDTV to know, if and how, Manoj Modi offered help to NDTV and why does Barkha tell Manoj Modi,it was very helpful. Will Prannoy Roy break his silence?

9. As far as Hindustan Times is concerned, In more than one conversations which Niira Radia has with different people, including N.K.Singh, Ganapathy Subramaniam(of ET Now),( http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268420) she keeps mentioning that the Editor of Hindustan Times, Sanjoy Narayan is an Anil Ambani man, and he keeps pushing his(Anil Ambani) angle in the newspaper and she even claims she has complained to the Chairman of the HT group Shobhana Bhartia, about it, and that Ms.Bhartia had even warned Narayan about it, and wanted him to take Mukesh Ambani’s side on the gas pricing issue and so on. She also complains to N.K.Singh(http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?268459) about Sanjoy Narayan, and he even promises her that he will talk to her. Does Ms.Bhartia endorse what Niira Radia claims about Sanjoy Narayan? If not will she break her silence and give a clean chit to her editor? Is it not her duty towards the lakhs of readers of her newspaper that she clarifies her stand on the entire issue, as her top most editor is involved?

10. Finally, Vir Sanghvi has claimed that he has “voluntarily” stopped his column, “Counterpoint” in Hindustan Times and taken a break. Will Ms. Bhartia clarify if what he claims is true? If true, does it mean that Ms.Bhartia has no objection to Vir Sanghvi’s conversations with Niira Radia nor him continuing to write his columns, if he wishes to? Don’t the readers of Hindustan Times deserve her response on the entire issue?

The answers to these questions and issues raised have to be found, sooner than later.

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23 Responses to “Why are Prannoy Roy, Aroon Poorie, Shobhana Bhartia, Vineet Jain, Raghav Behl silent? The key questions and issues which need their answers now”

  1. Satya says:

    Dear Girish

    Very well put. The owners of media houses who all the time claim special privileges as the ‘guardians’ of democracy will have to answer to the Indian public about how they can allow their journalists to become brokers for Indian corporations. Is it because this is what the owners themselves want them to do? If that is the case all special status granted to these media businesses by the government should be immediately withdrawn- whether it is subsidised land or newsprint or advertisements. Unfortunately for the future of democracy in this country I think the government itself has manipulated the Indian media far too often for it to have the moral authority to take on the corporations. In that case we the people of India will have to take matters into our own hands. It is time to nationalise the media and hand them over to citizen’s committees and stop this pernicious trend of making public information a matter of private profits.

  2. shreesha says:

    Very pertinent queries are raised in your article. But, it would be naive to believe that today’s journalism is devoid of bias/favouritism. Most possibly these are common issues in today’s Political/ Business/Press world. Technology is available for capture and hence so much is being said on the same. Unfortunately, in our country only self regulation will work-because we have many solutions to circumvent the Systems in place. To that degree, it is Good that soem section of media themselves are raising these issues.
    Media credibity has long been under question and maybe this episode will reining in an un- controlled/unsupervised mass communication.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nikhil Narayanan, onionuttapam. onionuttapam said: #ff @girish58 asks – Why are Prannoy Roy, Aroon Poorie, Shobhana Bhartia, Vineet Jain, Raghav Behl silent? http://bit.ly/f1LoTF [...]

  4. Arun sharma says:

    gud one sir……but problem ye hai ki ye sabhi journalist public ke liye journalism nahi karte….inki accountability to sirf inke owners ko lekar hi hai….jo kam ye nira radia ke liye karte hain…wahi apne owners ke liye bhi karte hain….aaj press club of india me jab Rajdeep ko is pure scandal par justification dete dekha to tabhi samajh me aa gaya ki dal puri kali ho chuki hai…thanks

  5. ajay says:

    IN point 4, you have misunderstood what Raghav Behl has said when he pleads with Radia that pls ask Manoj Modi to send a legal notice to Forbes (India). Raghav is pleading because he he wants to use this notice to warn/pressurize the reporter Inderjeet who has written the snippet about Mukesh that he better fall in line and apologise and make the reporter realize what damage he has caused the magazine by taking on the omnipotent Mukesh.

    Manoj Modi and Radia ridicule the spinelessness of Behl later in the conversation by saying that look at this gutless bloke ,he cant even confront his own employee and reprimand him and has to use the crux of a legal notice (which he is begging Radia and Modi to send to his own magazine) to straighten him.

  6. ajay says:

    Point 5: Sajit is the head of market bureau for CNBC TV18. He heads the team of all research analysts/reporters. In one of the conversations Radia is heard telling Manoj Modi how baised Sajit is against Mukesh Ambani camp and that she suspects him to be on payrolls of Anil Ambani camp.

  7. ajay says:

    Point 7: When Barkha is conveying her gratitude to Manoj Modi after their meeting, it is to thank him profusely for the generous support/sponsership offered by Mukesh Ambani group to NDTV group. In one of the conversations Radia is telling someone (may be Manoj Modi) that NDTV ” bechare” like Indian Express arent flush with cash and flurishing but just about managing to keep their heads above water. Hence even govt. supports them as they basically are good natured, balanced, poor fellows. Essentially she is telling Manoj Modi that they need your help, are desperate for help so pls be generous and also that because of their “serious” image the powers that be believe in them than the johny-come-late Rajdeep/Samir Manchanda’s market savvy, flush-with-cash, chalu channel.

  8. ajay says:

    Sorry the previous was about point number 8.

    Point no 7: Padmashri Prabhu Chawla on his blog defending himself has shamelessly indulged in misrepresentation of some crucial words. If you hear the conversation he is telling Radia that despite 10-15 calls that he has made to Mukesh, he has not returned any of his calls. Chawla goes on add that he was so desparate to reach Mukesh because he wanted to FOREWARN him about the Bombay High Court Judgement going against Mukesh. The call happens on 20th of the month. THe judgement has come on 15th of the month. So he is telling Radia that before 15th he has made these 10-15 calls to Mukesh but because of his “arrogance”, Mukesh did not answer his calls and has thus lost out on the most vital information from Chawla about the adverse verdict of the Bombay High Court.

    Some one must file a PIL against Chawla and ask him to explain in court how he came to know in advance about the Bombay High Court verdict?

    He later on brags that he knows how to manage the matter as and when it would come for hearing in the Hon. Supreme Court. The PIL must also dwell on how he can manage to influence the Ho. Supreme Court.

    By his uterances he has certainly caused contempt of both the Bombay High Court and Hon. Supreme Court.

  9. ajay says:

    I think both Barkha and Vir would have not had to face this torrent of criticism had they openly accepted that they have sympathies towards the Congress party and as and when they do decide to plunge in politics they would consider Congress as their natural choice (may be because they like its ideology etc).

    Today hypothetically if a similar tape were to appear wherein say a Chandan Mitra or Swapan Dasgupta were found to be acting as couriers for BJP, no eyebrows would be raised as they are frank about their iddeological leanings.

    The problem with Vir and Barkha is that they want to run with hare (i.e. give an impression of being neutral in politics) and hunt with the hounds (i,e maintain cosy and incestuous relationship with the Congress) and enjoy all the privileges that come with this hidden association).

  10. Raj says:

    Good! But who would bell the cat?

  11. Debashish Bhattacharyya says:

    It is unfortunate that our press, which is supposed to be exposing the commissions and omissions is actually colluding with the wrongdoers, and actually propagating them. It is also unfortunate that the press is also filled with people who are so aware of their visibility and importance that they use it for their own petty benefits. These people are also extremely opinionated, and seldom listen to the opinions of others, or give importance to the other persons point of view, as has been evidenced by the interviews and the fara conducted by most of the people named.

    In a society where nobody participates, and every one is a consumer, the people who are controlling the destinies of the nation and its people will so bastardise the system to suit their own good; and the country may go to hell. These are people who are as irresponsible as they come – be it in the manner of their own professional and personal conduct; and so are we, who absolutely refuse to participate, in whatever small way, in the governance of the country.

    What we get is, ergo, what we deserve.

  12. Madan says:

    Hi’ it’s not great news that media barons hobnob with all types of vested interests for their own vested interest. Having worked in delhi almost five years and closely watched power games, i am aware of vulgar and cheap games played by all those who are connected or linked to one or the other power centers. Hope this so called expose will bring some shame and introspection

  13. Why are Prannoy Roy, Aroon Poorie, Shobhana Bhartia, Vineet Jain ……

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

  14. Dera Girishji, I never thought NDTV and its main anchorers wear ever neutral.They always allowed themselves to be bought, for money and for so called ideology. 05/12/10.

  15. shantanu says:

    what can they say? i think they have nothing to say. if vineet, arun, shobhna, and pronav say something to protect their media houses, that will give a sense that they were unaware about things which are going on in their media houses (it seems not possible).

  16. vijay says:

    Dear Girish, wonderful to see your passion for not letting this 2G thing die down like so many numerous scams earlier…..as an common man, let us know in what way can we help you in achieving your objective. It is vital and important that journalists who share your passion need to come together…..but be careful as these guys can go to any lengths to make sure truth does not come out in the open in the public domain.

  17. When newspapers are sold as products – this is what we get. What else can we expect? Journalism has become a commerce. as a profession, it has lost its pride.

  18. Charu says:

    They are all behaving like ostriches. It’s so sad that unlike in the days of old, ‘name and shame’ approach does not bring the requisite actions. Everybody is hand in glove. Have you had a look at the connection between Sunday Guardian story of NDTV and Radia? There is more to this mess than meets the eye. It’s a sad, sad day for Indian journalism. Keep writing. Best.

  19. Manish Chandak says:

    Keep up the good work!!!

  20. Hope Alive says:

    Sir, Its very well put in a nutshell.Those who have to act, have been ignoring to take action for reasons best known to them. Its like Vir claiming to come out clean as he was “stringing a source”, until outlook posted another tape in which Vir strings Niira Radia by telling her how he did the “dressing up” job of the column in counterpoint.

    Unless all tapes come out in public, there will be many questions unanswered and many “hollow” claims concealed. The way thing move, and the power of the powerful concealed in those tapes, it would not be surprising that both Niira Radia and Andimuthu Raja get a clean chit in 2-3 months and go back to their old ways.

    Then everything will be the same again, until another scam rocks the country.. perhaps bigger than the Rs 1.76 lakh crore spectrum scam.. And we Indians will read it in newspapers and soon forget it.

  21. george says:

    Absolutely briliaint analysis,,, must have taken lots of effort to write this
    Radia-gate is like Nazi holocast… never to be forgotten. I think every year we should commemorate the day when these tapes came out. Also, lets start a peoples movement on this issue… lets start an online internet petition on this.. lets have a minimum objective that some action be taken against Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dut, and also Mr. Prannoy Roy. On personal side, I have seen Mr, Roy sneering, jeering and ridiculing number of people while interviewing them on his channel, This time he got it back.

  22. Indian says:

    Sadly, India has in 6 decades become an oligarchy not a democracy. We need true journalists who can communicate the truth to the masses, side-stepping their bosses if needed.

    When a very few set of people (politicians, media, corporations, judiciary) collude, intermediate and look after the interests of a very small minority, the majority of population suffers worse than they would under a dictatorship. How many people in India are starving, being taken advantage of and living as “fractional humans”.

    Much like third-world dictatorial ruler or dynastic regimes, In India, 5 decades of Gandhi rule has also easily earned favor with media, corporations because of quid-pro-quo benefits. What is astounding is the ease with which the public at large, 99% of Indians, are hoodwinked and fooled by “compromised news” which becomes a propaganda by the ruling party.

    The onus of not falling for this propaganda and educating the masses (starting with our own house: workers, family, friends, neighbourhood etc.) lies on those of us who do understand this charade and in our own, individual manner, can alert the many we interact with to spread this in a peer-to-peer manner, so that the pressure gets built on the “institutions” to finally get their act together.

    I read a statement somewhere that “Congress is secularly corrupt”, and when the money of 99% Indians is looted like under Congress-led UPA, I find it amazing that they still have so many sympathizers across all TV/Print debates etc. The radia tapes tell us that the nexus is so very strong.

    Collectively, the media is trying to fool the larger population because they also have their own favors/benefits to loose. Prominent citizens like Kiran Bedi, and religious/spiritual leaders from all faiths in their activism against corruption were literally “blacked out” collectively by all major TV/Print media with just a trickle of information to defuse any pressure being built.

    Wake up India!

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