I left the Delhi newspaper industry years ago.
I was a desk jockey, so I never knew or met any politicians, bureaucrats or celebrities. But it was fun talking to the reporters who spoke to all the bigwigs on a regular basis.
Once a reporter tried to convince me that Rajya Sabha seats were up for sale.
I didn't believe him one bit. He eerily quoted the very same Rs 100-crore figure (that's being bandied in the media recently) at that time itself.
The conversation went something like this...
"Who would want to buy an RS seat?"
"An industrialist, of course!"
"What will he gain?"
"A diplomatic passport for one."
"How is that helpful?"
"Well, that's great for travelling all over the world for doing international business seamlessly. It's a great boon. You wouldn't understand."
"Well there's also the fact that you get to sit in the Rajya Sabha. Do you know that if a businessman tried to meet a Minister, he might never ever get an appointment? Here he meets all the Ministers every day. It's like an exclusive membership to the most powerful political club in India!"
He now seems to have a point. Today, even the Prime Minister is a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Imagine sitting and chatting with all the top politicians of the country on a regular basis. Now that would be really handy for business!
I'm still foxed about the Rs 100 crore figure, though. Has there been no inflation in over a decade? Or was it 40-50 crore at that time and he was exaggerating?
At another time, the whole of the media in India seemed to be playing up Priyanka Gandhi as the next Prime Minister of India.
We again asked the reporter when Priyanka would enter politics.
"Never," he replied smugly.
"So no dynasty then after Sonia?"
"Of course not, there's Rahul."
(It's difficult to understand today, but there was a time when most people didn't even think of Rahul at all while the total focus was on Priyanka.)
The reporter went on to say that when the time was right Rahul would jump into politics and if he had his way then Priyanka would never come.
"But then why do you all reporters keep promoting Priyanka?"
"That's what our readers want! They want Priyanka and we are giving them Priyanka! They don't want Rahul and so we won't mention him. But we all know that Rahul will come and not Priyanka."
At that the reporter laughed and went off.
Now this conversation took place around the time Sonia was staking her claim to be Congress President in 1998. I must say that after 15 years, he was spot on. Rahul entered the scene in 2004 and Priyanka is yet to do so.
At another time I was party to a reporter trying to convince a senior editor that match-fixing in cricket was a regular affair. The senior editor refused to believe him and was still in denial when the scandal finally made headlines!
There are also much more sensational claims that are floating around newspaper corridors. Just ask your media friends, if you have any.
The point I'm trying to make is that all our media owners, editors and news reporters together probably have all the information they need about what's wrong in this country. They all know how much Sonia knows about all the scams and what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh probably let pass when he signed all the papers related to 2G and Coalgate.
They have a rough idea of all the major players of all the major scams.
But they still choose to ignore what they don't want and play up what they want. Therein lies the tragedy.
The bias based on what the mainstream media covers is evident. But what about the bias that takes place behind the scenes thanks to all the juicy stories they refuse to cover?
Suppose you get a handful of leads against two political parties. What if you decided to ignore the leads against one party and go after only those against the other?
You can still push your personal political agenda while claiming to be neutral. You would be taking an atrociously biased stand because most of the action is taking place behind the scenes.
In Twitter, #PaidMedia is a very popular trend, but something like #HiddenMedia would be definitely more explosive if made public.
Former Indian President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan once said that freedom wasn't the choice between the right and wrong, but the choice of the right.
That way you could say that in reality, there is no freedom of press in India.
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