“Bias” in Indian Media – an Insider’s view

One very common allegation I’ve heard these days is that the Indian media isn’t honest. There are those who try and sensibly analyze the issue, and those whose vitriolic comments are quite honestly an embarrassment to sensible bloggers in India. But to sum up, here are the main allegations:

  1. The Indian media is anti Hindu
  2. Big media houses are “pro minority”
  3. Political parties (especially the Congress) fund the media for favorable coverage

Now my personal opinion is that these are false. Of course, since I don’t have all the information, it may not count for much. But my reasons for disbelieving them are:

  1. It will have to be a massive conspiracy on an impressive scale covering all the big media houses
  2. It has to be so well concealed that no one gets any proof whatsoever
  3. I find it impossible to believe that other well funded parties like the BJP would not have exposed such a conspiracy by now if there was any truth in it
  4. It means that all editors, associated bloggers and correspondents are involved. Meaning that every single reporter and writer is dishonest
Is the Indian Media Biased?

Is the Indian Media Biased?

Such considerations to my mind, are too great a barrier to overcome. However, I could always be wrong and so I withheld my opinions on this until I was able to grab some reliable information instead of shooting off my mouth and making an idiot of myself.

One of my college mates from Stephen’s has been working for the TOI for quite a while now. Like all corporate employees, he has a good deal of disillusionment with work life in general and with his own company specifically. Without intending to flatter him, he’s one of the most well informed guys I know. Unlike many others in our college who studied day and night for the IAS mugging up facts from books, this guy seemed to know everything without even trying. Combine this with his somewhat impressive academic achievements, and we have a dude who’s opinion I trust – especially when he’s in a position to know the facts.

So I decided to ask him about the perceived media biases.I reproduce the chat I had with him verbatim:

Bhagwad Park 14:20
Oh MM - now that you’re here let me ask you something I can’t ask anyone else

MM 14:21
sure..

Bhagwad Park 14:22
See – there’s a lot of debate on whether the India media is biased against the BJP, sympathetic to muslims, the congress party and the Gandhi-Nehru family specifically

MM 14:22
media like everything else is divided

MM 14:22
There are even more who speculate that major national media like the TOI even receive funding
from these sources 14:22

MM 14:22
haha
categorically, no 14:22
for toi i can tell yu 14:22
and u know i have problems with this place, so i aint singing for my supper 14:23
no organisational tilt at all 14:23
its a liberal paper 14:23
will tilt a bit here and there based on issues 14:23

others r different 14:24
rediff.com for eg., clearly goes right 14:24
online 14:24

in print HT is a congress aligned paper, its owner is a Cong MP 14:24
but no it dont get any money from Cong either 14:25

Hindu is a liberal paper too, but its current editor is a commie 14:25
but the paper remains fairly liberal and left of centre, nothing more 14:25

Indian Express doesnt matter to readers, its liberal too 14:25
but will be anti-gov of any party in power 14:26

DNA is also similar – largely liberal but its ed and owners are a little righty 14:26

so thats where the right -wing in india has a prob 14:26
they see the english media as biased 14:27
i see it as sensible 14:27

language media is a whole diff ballgame 14:27
diff alignments and biases 14:27
vary by region 14:27
and also have issues of parties funding some of the smaller outfits – but thats a big ‘maybe’ 14:28
but those alignments r very clear 14:28
for people in the know 14:28
so not much of a problem 14:28

big media houses like Times dont need money from parties 14:28
and would in fact run away from any such offers 14:28
for the strings that would come attached 14:28

english Tv media is also largely liberal on the communal front 14:29
can be left-right/soft-hard on other issues 14:29

Bhagwad Park 14:29
This also goes for television houses like NDTV etc?

MM 14:29
thats abt it
yes 14:29

Bhagwad Park 14:29
Ok…but people present statistics showing that Hindu deaths for example go unreported and that Muslim deaths are presented in all fanfare

Bhagwad Park 14:30
Coincidence, incompetence
or what? 14:30

MM 14:30
rubbish

MM 14:30
communal deaths are communal
besides india is founded on a very clear ideal 14:30
u must remember that 14:30
and was split very painfully on an opposing ideal 14:31
one major reason for the ‘majority’ to be accomodative of the ‘minorities’ 14:31

Bhagwad Park 14:31
See this one small quote from a blogger for example:

Bhagwad Park 14:32
“The Indian media needs to project riots between Hindus and some other community to be selective persecution of the ‘minority’. This impression can again be only created by largely omitting the violence committed against the Hindus. This, I believe, is the reason that the deaths of around 200 Hindus that had occurred in post-Godhra riots in Gujarat are hardly given any coverage. ”
Now I don’t know the details 14:32

Bhagwad Park 14:32
So what response would you give to something like that?

MM 14:32
over 2000 muslimes died

MM 14:32
in a near-genocide
where they were targeted 14:32
so thats the answer 14:33
200 vs 2000 14:33

Bhagwad Park 14:33
Hmm

MM 14:33
provocation was limted
and result was a planned pogrom 14:33
where everyone co-operated 14:33
its was like nazi germany 14:33

MM 14:33
the police watched
on orders to do so 14:33

MM 14:34
CM presided over the carnage
so now, you tell me, whats scarier? 14:34

MM 14:34
in streets where some muslims had houses and shops
only those were targeted – based on electoral rolls supplied by the admin – this has been proven in courts 14:34
so thats no riot. 14:35
A riot is spontaneous and uncontrolled, total chaos 14:35
this is targeted slaughter 14:35
I agree radical islam is a problem 14:35
many muslims do not ‘integrate’ into the larger mainstream across the world 14:35
even in India 14:36
and India must be considered a secular nation of clearly hindu-majority character 14:36
just as say Europe or the US are secular but shaped by their christian ethos and history 14:37
…but thats no reason for the majority not to safeguard its minorities

MM 14:38
thats the compact we made at independence
to prove to a country like Paksitan, thats we’re NOT them 14:38
we’re not founded on an exclusivist principle 14:38
we’re inclusive and open to all 14:38

MM 14:39
hindu fundamentalists are idiots who dont realise that want they want is a Hindu version of Pakistan

Bhagwad Park 14:39
Yes, I know the ideals
Odd MM - I didnt’ know you had the “Mera bharat mahan” spirit :D 14:39

Bhagwad Park 14:39
Nice going.

MM 14:39
the idea of india is a beautiful one , my friend

Bhagwad Park 14:39
True

MM 14:40
considering where it came from and how it came into being too
quite extraordinary 14:40
any historian will tell you that 14:40
India is still like Europe 14:40
but happens to be one nation 14:40
some sort of miracle really 14:40
only part of kashmir and the NE today question the conept of indianess 14:41
no one else does 14:41

MM 14:41
thats a remarkable achievement in nation building

Bhagwad Park 14:41
Tis tis
Thanks for the feedback 14:41

MM 14:42
ok, thats it for today
true blood and sleep beckon 14:42

Bhagwad Park 14:42
I’ll send you a link…
14:42
ciao 14

I had to do a little bit of cut and paste to compensate for the synchronization problems usually found on Internet chat, but it’s otherwise “as is.” Since his views on the Godhra violence weren’t directly related to the question on media bias, I thought of leaving them out but decided to keep them in the end cause he brought out some good points.

We have to know which sources to trust. Those alleging a national media bias don’t have any evidence. Of course, this doesn’t automatically mean they’re wrong. But when I do have opinions from people I trust who are in a position to know, I choose to believe them.

Update: I had missed this great link which gives the official position of the Times of India on its role in the political spectrum. It terms itself as a classically liberal newspaper and illustrates how it handles various issues including the right to freedom of expression.

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Comments

  1. sandeep mishra says:

    Dear Mr. Bhagwad,

    Please don not try to make other’s see from your lenses.Come to Ground Zero and see the facts U will find many friends instead of one who will give you the correct and Authentic information.

    Thanks!!
    Sandy

  2. b thakur says:

    I am amused. Your presumptions are fallacious. I read this article few weeks back. When I tumbled upon this article again, I had some time to reflect on your article.
    1. The Indian media is anti Hindu. – In fact, I feel most of Indian media, barring a few like NDTV/Indian Express/Hindu, are pro-majority. See the bias in favour of Modi, and Hindu right wing parties. Count the number of panelist with such bias every night on prime time, they always outnumber neutral or people with opposite bias.
    2. Political parties (especially the Congress) fund the media for favorable coverage. – Laughable when most will agree that the ruling party has got very negative media coverage. Modi and Anna will be sufficient examples to highlight this fact.
    Are your presumptions deliberately biased?

    • bhagwad says:

      I agree. The Congress receives tremendous flak from the media for all kinds of stuff. It’s absurd to claim that they’re paid by them.

    • Abhishek says:

      The bias in favor of Modi?

      Please tell me you are joking! Few days back on Eid, some private mall in Ahmedabad charged a Rs 20 entry fee to Muslims and the whole media blamed “Narendra Modi’s Gujarat”! Yes, if a private mall owner in Ahmedabad hates Muslims, Narendra Modi is personally accountable!

      Within hours, it emerged that the so called incident didn’t even take place. The mall in question was charging Rs 20 to EVERYONE. Photos were taken showing huge banners put up outside the mall declaring the Rs 20 entry fee…. obviously for everyone.

      In short, Narendra Modi was PERSONALLY held accountable because some media person IMAGINED that a PRIVATE mall owner was discriminatory to Muslims! Bias in favor of Modi…really? really?

  3. SUMAN SHAH says:

    I totally aggree that Indian national media is totally biased. Times of India is sold to Congress. There is no single news item on the Samaikyandhra agitation going on in AP.

    • bhagwad says:

      We must not be reading the same newspaper. From what I’ve seen the news media including the TOI has been extremely critical of various aspects of the UPA, the Congress and even the PM.

      • Pranjal Sharma says:

        @bhagwad::: Came back to your blog after about a year just to laugh at some people (in comments) ranting about the media, being the easiest target. Why are you even trying to put rationality in people who want to see what they think !!!!! Ya, I mean ok, anchors have biases, even some channels may be, but so does every individual, and you cant expect pure neutrality anywhere….

        The problem is the BJP and right wing supporters cant handle criticism when it comes to them (often resort to verbal abuse) and turn their rumor mills as soon as it is against their opponents !!!!!

        JUST GIVE IT A REST !!!!

      • bhagwad says:

        Sometimes people need their unchallenged positions questioned. Who knows? They might be forced to come up with an answer!

  4. silentviewer says:

    TV anchors (supposed to be neutral) comes with a pre-defined agenda.. Hitting on modi, taking all the discussions towards 2002 riots,etc are their main agenda.. They can blame modi for 2002 but never blames or asking questions to congress spokespersons about 1984 riots.. When court has never given any verdict against Modi, how can they blame Modi for all that?? I am watching discussions on news channels very closely and I can bet on few of the media persons to be baised… Mr. Abhigyan Prakash, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, nidhi razdan, a lot can be named in this list.. mostly from english mediapersons of News channels… You agree or disagree but please analyse their shows… Few people also accepted on records about paid news.. Watch News laundry on youtube- Interview with Ravish kumar.. he accepts the current scenario of paid media.. For god sake, atleast work to stop all this instead of ignoring or denying it..

  5. himanshu says:

    TV news channels should clearly display the Political Party ‘s Symbol they are paid to favor along with their own on screen, this way there will be no confusion at all

    Apart from that i feel that it is a well organised Nexus ,and after all it is beneficial for either sides (for the channel & pol party)

    so it will go on ….

  6. Pradyumna says:

    The problem is that most of the Indian media is pro establishment. Congress has been the Establishment for more than 48 of the 60 odd years of our independence and hence irrespective of their political ideology leanings they appear to be favouring Congress. This was corroborated by Rajdeep Sirdesai while in a media conclave sometime in 2012 where he accepted that their was immense pressure on the media from Governmental agencies against them be independent and fair. The fact was supported by Chandan Mitra (The Pioneer) who claimed the the railway ministry stopped publishing tenders in his newspaper for 5 years as it carried some articles showing the railway ministry in bad light. The Governmental tenders form a big chunk of a moderate newspaper’s revenues and hence they are hesitant going anti-establishment. Not just that there is unseen pressure on the journalists as the ones who get the appellation of anti-establishment have to face reluctance from governmental agencies and its employees in getting news and political bytes. The latest in case was a boycott of Times Now by Uttar Pradesh Govt., and deportation of Hindu’s journo from Pakistan. It is difficult for small media houses to survive if they try to do anything that is anti-govt. It’s important that a newspaper be not judged by a single article or a coterie of articles, as it might not reflect its stand in the truest sense. Afterall the newspapers who want to go national and hit 6-7 digit circulation would have to stand by and criticize the popular opinion equally.

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