Recently #EssarLeaks created a storm in cyberspace when it was revealed that the corporate world was showering favours on various journalists and politicians. The scary part is that it is not even the tip of the iceberg and has revealed just some routine and superficial.
What was the size of the bribe money in the Rs 1.76 lakh crore 2G scam? The Radia tapes show that the media was involved and it is difficult to think no money exchanged hands though it may prove to be impossible to be proved.
Here are some “facts” that should be alarming but are taken as routine…
1. Editors are great friends with politicians.
It is one thing to have a “source” and another thing to have a direct access to a top politician. However the truth is that top journalists are great friends with politicians and they wine and dine together.
Information is exchanged but so are favours and you can just check out the posts certain editors hold, whether they have a Lutyens bungalow or not, what posts their relatives have received and other government favours that in the end get converted into hard cash.
For example a journalist receives government help for businesses and gets government land at cheap rates and he may even end up making tens of crores of Rupees out of that.
2. Corporates have virtually taken over the media.
The concept of independent media is a total myth. After we got Independence maybe there were a few such media houses here and there. Not anymore. Just check the shareholding patterns of all the major media houses. The number of industrialists and business-politicians should alarm you.
And if you find a privately held media house then all you have to check is all the business tie-ups it has related to advertising, events, award and fashions shows and the likes. You will find that there’s hardly any media activity without a corporate footprint.
3. Journalists freely accept gifts, lunches and junkets.
Journalists freely attend press conferences where gifts are distributed and drinks, five star hotel lunches and dinners follow. All that has a huge cost and no corporate house will spend that kind of money unless it gets a ROI (which it is clearly getting).
And what of corporate junkets? Imagine being flown to a foreign country (sometimes business class) put up in a hotel there and shown the corporate establishment at their terms. Even if a journalist seems something disturbing there, will he ever be able to write about it?
Very few media houses have policies against gifts, five star lunches and junkets. Taking such “favours” is considered normal and “ethical”.
4. There is no such thing as conflict of interest in India.
Is it ethical for a politician to be a businessman and vice versa? Is it ethical for a politician to be a sports head and vice versa?
N Srinivasan has been trying to hold on to the management of India Cements, the management of Chennai Super Kings, the Chairmanship of the ICC and the Presidency of the BCCI. The truth is that he is the norm and not the exception.
So when politicians, businessmen and sports heads can all freely intermingle with each other, why will the editor be left behind, who has one of the best “accesses” to any industry in India?
That’s why you will find many journalists with businesses (which stay hidden thanks to their fantastic media management skills) and also holding certain government posts (which also may be passed on to their relatives).
Check out how many journalists are children, grandchildren, spouses, in-laws or nephews and nieces of top politicians and bureaucrats. You could write a fat book with the results.
In India politics, business and journalism are not three strong untouchable pillars but a big fat banyan tree that has been growing steadily since Independence giving shade to one and sundry.
That is why the corporate espionage scandal involving the central ministries is getting bigger and bigger and is actually not that surprising at all. Journalists are at the centre of deals that involve thousands of crores and the highest offices of the land.
In that context it is ironic that a few heads have finally rolled but not for all of the above, but just a few cab rides!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here