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Budget 2011: corporate driven coverage

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  • Ajay
    *Budget 2011: corporate driven coverage* *With all their Live OB vans, not a single channel attempted to cut to a single one of the six lakh villages and speak
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2011
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      Budget 2011: corporate driven coverage

      With all their Live OB vans, not a single channel attempted to cut to a single one of the six lakh villages and speak to farmers in rain fed areas or landless agricultural labourers or even NREGA beneficiaries or non beneficiaries.  NUPUR BASU marvels at private television’s corporate obsession.

      If you thought the Indian media had learnt any lessons from the Radia affair, you can think again. It was a corporate driven coverage all the way once again on Indian private television channels following Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s presentation of the 2011 budget in Parliament on Monday.
      All star anchors were out in their gleaming studios with their gleaming guests all with a keen eye on the sensex and how it was reacting. Soon it became very clear that they were livid about two things - that there was no reduction in corporate taxation and no opening up of FDI in retail and insurance as had been desired by the corporate world. 
      An anchor on Headlines Today said : "FM is like Robin Hood- steals from the rich and gives the poor.." . At another point another anchor on the same channel said, “the UPA has never been friendly to the middle classes—here are reasons why the Great Indian Middle Class should be miffed with the FM…”
      Then, bizarrely, the  poor anganwadi worker who has been struggling for proper wages since the early eighties , became an object of envy because the FM hiked their long overdue wages! The most astounding comment came from very unexpected quarters -- industrialist Rahul Bajaj telling one channel  "I wish I were an anganwadi worker"!!
      Even as the FM’s speech ended the anchors took off on its tax implications. “Aaeeye ham chalte hai tax calculator ki taraf “, said Star News, and moving on from studio to studio it was the take off point for everyone. The income tax obsession continued through day. Why stop at Rs 1.8 lakhs? Why not hike exemption to Rs 2 lakhs? When a Doordarshan anchor raised the issue one of his panelists reminded him that there were just a little over 3 crore tax payers in a country of 120 crore people.
      Other champions  of the middle class and were heard screaming - what about the middle class...are they to make all the sacrifices?? Will all sops to the poor have to be on the backs of the Indian middle class ?? Should the middle class pay Rs 750 for their LPG connection ,said a visibly angry and well known woman anchor on Zee TV almost as if her kitchen were to close down from this instant.
      Arnab Goswami on Times Now decided to get agitated about high taxation and the fact that FDI has fallen to 31 per cent. One buzzword that spread like wildfire from studio to studio was the phrase “big ticket reform” ...with everyone discussing whether the glass was half full or half empty on this score.
      Mohan Das Pai of Infosys was having his own broadside at the government - "India is not a good place to do business anymore..there are problems on land , power etc etc". All these years when Infosys got all the land it wanted it was a great place to do business but suddenly the song had changed.
      With all the technology at their command and all their Live OB vans, not a single channel attempted to cut to a single one of the six lakh villages in India and speak to farmers in rain fed areas or landless agricultural labourers or even NREGA beneficiaries or non beneficiaries.
      They need not even have gone so far . One learns that 2000 middle and small farmers from Punjab had gathered in front of the Parliament in Delhi to highlight their demands on Budget Day. Television which is a beast always hungry for good visuals, on this occasion ,surprisingly, chose to ignore this rally and miss out on the amazing visuals they would have garnered if their cameras had rolled there. Not a single OB van or news cameras were there . The farmers spoke about growing suicides , indebtedness, growing input prices and interest rates. But their stories fell on deaf ears.
      The faces analysing the budget were the Cosy with Corporates Club that has begun to frankly dominate the Indian media and the like-minded guests they chose to bring into their studio. One anchor went to the extent of saying : “The true test will be how foreign countries react to our budget and whether they continue to invest here or not in the coming months.” Indian sovereignty be damned. Most channels subsumed with the budget coverage forgot even to report that the Supreme Court had passed a major directive on the Union Carbide case virtually doubling the compensation demand for the victims of the tragedy.
      But there were some surprise bouquets too. CNBC star anchor Shireen Bhan was beaming ecstatically saying the Finance Minister had indeed delivered and India Inc was very happy and the CII chief was saying he see no ‘negatives’ in the budget. Yet on the same channel Udayan Mukherjee, CNBC’s principle star anchor was clearly non ecstatic about the budget saying it was a Nifty 5300 budget..whatever that may mean to India’s poor farmer. Several anchors were mystified as to why the stock market was being decisively bullish as the day wore on.
      There were a few sensible voices who were asking why the government hadn’t talked about the Lok Pal Bill in the face of never ending scams and corruption and announced a firmer plan on recovery of ill gotten wealth in Swiss and other safe haven banks. What will these subsidies achieve in NREGA if there is no accountability clause and good governance set in motion ,they asked . Governance deficit and subsidies to the poor don’t go hand in hand stressed government-critic-at-large ,the inimitable Mani Shankar Aiyar.
      In fact it was channels like DD and Lok Sabha which actually had some very sober and balanced debates by some very fresh and new faces as anchors who elicited nuanced analyses of the budget from their non starry but well chosen guests without sounding like the lackeys of Indian Corporate world.
      But overall, the coverage on the private channels once again smacked of Morgan Stanleyisation and Reliance Digitisation of the Indian Media. And the Indian farmer living on the edge with his family and malnourished children was once again lost in the din.

      "Ours is a battle not for wealth or for power.
       It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of human personality."
      - Dr BR Ambedkar

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