New Delhi June 29, 2015 11PM IST
- How objective has the media been in covering LalitGate?
- Since the scandal started, it has involved the who’s who of Indian politics and its richest sporting body, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)
- Has the coverage been even or have some personalities been shielded?
- Just moments ago, in a video chat with Boria Majumdar, Lalit Modi trained his guns on N Srinivasan, the ex BCCI chief, on the 3 Chennai Super Kings players in connection with a real estate transaction.
For objective readers, the Indian media coverage of LalitGate might be a bigger scandal than the alleged links of the of External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje with the former chief of the Indian Premier Cricket league, Lalit Modi.
The media coverage could be divided in three parts: Broadcast Media, Print Media, and Social Media. When the scandal first broke out on June 13, TV channels went into overdrive. Routine reactions from small-time politicians and spokespersons were telecast as breaking news, and anchors ranted and railed at whosoever they thought was fit to be roasted alive along with Sushma Swaraj for helping London-based Lalit Modi in July 2014 to obtain travel documents from the UK authorities to attend to his ailing wife in Lisbon.
Of course, there were saner voices too, who realized that gesticulating and screaming was not going to either arm-twist the government in sacking the minister, or persuade Lalit Modi to take the next flight to surrender before the authorities in India. But, for at least a week, the TV covered the LalitGate as if nothing else was happening on the globe, and every single man and woman, child or old man, was only interested in chewing, feasting on the same old morsel.
Then came the Raje saga and the financial dealings of her son, Dushyant Singh, a BJP Member of Parliament, with Lalit Modi. For TV channels, it was big news, and they bombarded the viewers 24×7 with “breaking news”. In between, Rajdeep Sardesai flew to Montenegro and did a “world exclusive” interview with Lalit Modi for India Today Channel. Many others rivals channels also flew their reporters for a chit chat with Lalit Modi. But he refused to entertain them, and so Rajdeep returned home laughing all the way.
At least one channel took it upon itself to deliver to the viewers resignation letters of Sushma Swaraj and Raje. And when they did not oblige, its celebrated news anchor and its investigating reporters engaged in high-decibel hyperbole and moralistic catechism to harangue BJP leaders and spokesmen to stop defending the scandalized duo.
Print Media was much more sober and refrained from naming or shaming “suspects” at the drop of the hat. But by and large, its coverage was objective and factual, except for some reports that sought to altogether give them a clean chit.
Social Media, on the other hand, saw bitter exchanges and blame games between the pro and anti-BJP camps. Interestingly, numbers of Lalit Modi followers saw a remarkable upswing since the scandal surfaced. Lalit Modi invited netizens to share info with him on corrupt Indian politicians @LalitKModi and is himself acting as an anti-corruption crusader though he is under scanner in 15 cases of economic offenses in India.
At this stage , when Lalit Modi started dropping “tweet” bombs every night on politicians cutting across party lines, corporates, journalists, real estate barons, cricket officials and players that the India media stood thoroughly exposed.
A channel which went overboard in seeking the scalps of Swaraj and Raje and preached lessons in morality round the clock did not have the courage to report Lalit Modi’s tweets objectively. Modi’s tweets were bowdlerized, bleeped and twisted, and in some cases, altogether ignored, mostly because many of these ”tweets” raised serious questions about a media mogul who owned that channel. Lalit Modi exposed how the media mogul asked for free passes and his organization sought hefty money for publishing Indian Premier League (IPL) parties.
But the worst was yet to come. Most news channels and newspapers altogether buried Lalit Modi’s tweets against Finance minister Arun Jaitley. Though social media widely covered those tweets, but no one back home had the guts to report that Jaitley’s daughter received a massive legal fee from Indian Hockey League. In a country where hockey players are an indigent lot, such profligacy on legal fees is shocking. Lalit Modi also hinted that Jaitley met him in a London hotel, but no one dared to report it. The double standard came into the open when the same media pounced on Lalit Modi’s tweets in which he claimed running into Priyanka Vadra, and husband Robert Vadra in a London restaurant. Even newspapers who had buried Lalit Modi’s previous tweets, chose to front page it.
If LalitGate has exposed how high and mighty enjoyed the fallen cricket Czar’s hospitality and curried favor with him when he presided over the Indian Premier League, it has also exposed the weak under body of the Indian media.