“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.

What do you think of this post?
  • You're an asshole (9)
  • Agree (7)
  • Don't Agree but Interesting (2)

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Comments

  1. Bharat Malhotra says:

    Nice post, Bhagwad. I feel the bias that the right wing faces by the media is because of the basic ideological difference. Journalism by itself is a profession that absolutely condemns anything extreme. It’s because organisations like BJP, RSS, VHP, etc. have been known to give extremist views(mind you, most of them are in national interest… I’ve attended shakhas myself) on most topics, that the media now sees them as anti-liberal… this is not the case. The media, instead of constantly showing these organisations in extremist/communal light, should be fair and show everybody in the same way.
    As it is, the media must only report(unless it’s a personal opinion) and not mix in their own views and try to create public opinion out of their own sensationalization.

    Reply

  2. Dear Bhagwad
    Sonia Gandhi is 4th Richest politician in world (as per business insider)
    not a single News channel had reported, even your friends TOI
    your comments, please dont reply “its not authenticated”,coz it will mean
    that whatever crap they keep reporting is “authendicated”
    Your kind comments

    Reply

  3. I strongly believe Bhagwad to be a stooge of Congress…

    Reply

    • In reply to Vijay

      Sure, you’re free to believe that. But I would suggest you use this moment to introspect on your mindset that seems to label anyone with different views as a “stooge for congress”. You then might have to confront the reality that other people can actually have a different opinion from the one you hold.

      Or you can just continue to believe them to be a “stooge of congress”. Whatever works for you.

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        When you mention ‘different mindsets’, you need to understand that ‘different mindsets’ should be considered in neutral environment only. Basing the ‘different mindsets’ aspect on already biased environment doesn’t hold good with natural justice. One can have different opinions, but these different opinions should not be utilized as a tool to assert incorrect facts, and rather this ‘different opinions’ freedom should be used ‘responsibly’. Even if you go through few news headlines like, ‘raul gandi listens to workers’, ‘raul gandhi talks tough’, ‘Priyanka Gandhi sounds confident’ etc. , these kinda material certainly doesn’t have any news value, but still it is imposed upn public. The updates/news on who leaked the Gen VK Singh’s letter to PM, the fate of Ruchika case, the clunical analysis on ‘let-off’ on Quatrochi are not being followed by our Intelligent media. Suddenly the news on corrupt cases on CWG, on Sheila Dixit are no more in news. I request you to meditate, and then form a well educated opinion and then broadcast it.

        Reply

  4. I meant ‘different views’ and not ‘different mindsets’ in my earlier message. The typing was done @ of thoughts without a review. Apologies for the grammar and spellos. I take liberty to assume you to be large hearted enough to forgive these nuances.

    Reply

  5. paratrup says:

    Bhagwat,

    Conversation with a media insider does not prove or disprove bias by itself. The reporting trends do. Remember Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat episode. Here was a Hindu on a mat for defying a Christian Minister (George Fernandes) over a Sikh and his successor Sushil Kumar (Christian) was appointed and yet what does the media (Hindu, ToI, Indian Express, NDTV et al) detect a Hindutva bias.

    Read Arun Shourie on History and its falsification by the academics. When NDA Government attempted remember the kind of “controversies” the English media generated.

    NDTV a few months back carried out a sympathetic coverage on muslims who were accused of carrying of falsely carrying out mecca masjid. It is welcome as long is justice is done. However, in there was no sympathetic coverage of other victims of injustice notably the ISRO spy case. Why? Is it becase they were just Hindus/

    Fast forward 2012, now that SIT report has given a “clean chit” to Modi. and yet media keeps harping on the now discredited Sanjiv Bhatt’s testimony (perhaps he is God to the secularists – he can be at two places at the same time), Banerjee Commission (stuck down by courts), Shree Kumar (disgruntled employee who was passed on for promotion) and yet cannot believe other Government employees.
    You can believe an activisit who coaches witness and you can believe activist (Arundhati Roy) in whose write-up non-existent daughters get raped in front of father (Ehsan Jafri case). You can believe a non-existent event like Kauser bi rape case and murder of fetus but yet need to exorcise Modi .

    There is a saying that you can wake up a sleeping man, but you cannot wake up some one who pretends to be asleep. If after all this, you believe English India is not anti-Hindu, I guesss you will believe anything.

    Reply

  6. Actually I feel the media is pro-government to a huge extent – and hence by default pro-Congress in recent times. And by Media I mean the television media mostly.

    Media might not take money from political parties directly but they surely run dodgy useless ads for customs depts, IT Department, rural health depts ( I wonder how many rural housholds have sattelite television channels and how many would watch English News channels) and several development type ads.

    For instance these ads were being played noticeably in higher numbers after the Commonwealth scandals, Jan Lok Pal Bill agitation last year and more.

    I am discounting the Bharat Nirman ads run during election season, which seems like just another version of India Shining campaign.

    So my view is maybe media is being bought and perhaps legally.

    Reply

  7. If i have to point a finger at TOI views, or the fact that they may say that the views belonged to someone else, the point is this statement which was made,” To save a country you can destroy a village”.
    This was
    a point made in regards to lot of people being wrongly accused of crimes which they did not commit, and the whole process of law punishing them through it’s process whether they deserved it or not. A judicial process cannot be a punishment in itself, and an exonerated person cannot have suffered an actual punishment during the trial period before he is exonerated or incriminated of the crime. To say that the liberty of a few innocent people can be overlooked is as a crass point as a dictator killing some people to set an example for the people. It is wrong, and totally undemocratic. However, such were the views. And thus for my lingering suspicion .

    Reply

  8. Except your facts on gujarat riots are completely wrong. Official numbers presented by Sriprakash Jaiswal to Parliament in official capacity as a minister show that 790 Muslims and 254 hindus died.

    The fake number of 2000 that your friend believes as a justification for biased coverage proves the point. The elite media has spread a lie.

    Reply

  9. Let me quote IBN7 Editor Ashutosh Srivastava here: There are few people in the media who are trying to believe they are spokesperson of the government and they are looking for post retirement benefit.

    You can see/hear it for yourself at: (youtube.com/watch?v=m1lEA3kV7XU&feature=related)

    Ashutosh is as much of an insider in Indian media as you could possibly be. After his candid confession, dont you think the entire premise of your post has been effectively demolished?

    Reply

    • In reply to Abhishek

      I believe you forgot to note the one word “few”.

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        “Few” but nevertheless “in significantly large numbers to be said to Karan Thapar’s face on national television by the managing editor of IBN7 with extreme frustration”. Also, notice that these “few” are sufficiently powerful so that the editor of IBN7 is too scared to name them. If IBN7 is so intimidated by these “few”, is there any reason to believe they will not skew their coverage to shield the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh…i.e. the most powerful people in the country? If IBN7 is so intimidated by a “few” journalists, is it not fair to conclude they would be intimidated by Kapil Sibal?

        Finally notice that Ashutosh didnt use the word “few” when talking about ideological bias. Instead he said : “There is a LOT of intellectual arrogance in the English language media…”. Did you hear that…not “FEW” but “A LOT”?

        The word “few” was used only in context of something even worse: journalists taking direct bribes…he gets really specific here…flats in Bengaluru.

        I hope you will be an honest man and admit your mistake.

        Reply

      • In reply to Abhishek

        Intellectual arrogance isn’t the same as corruption. Two different things.

        Also, if he hasn’t mentioned specific names, there’s no proof that all media organizations are corrupt.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Your post was on bias in the media, not corruption! Read the title of your own post if you dont believe me :)

        Intellectual arrogance leads directly to bias. Ashutosh said that there is a LOT of such intellectual arrogance in the media and a FEW actually receive direct bribes to write biased articles.

        And finally, let me remind you again, if a top journalist like Ashutosh is so scared to name these powerful people who take bribes to write biased articles, imagine how scared the typical journalist must be of Sonia and Rahul and MMS. It follows directly that the media must be biased in favor of INC….if Ashutosh is too scared to name even the pro-Congress biased journalists, imagine how scared the typical reporter is of the Congress itself!!!

        The words of Ashutosh pretty much sum up the sorry state of affairs. Indian media has been fully compromised by systematic bias, intimidation by the ruling party and finally there are a despicable bottom layer of paid journalists…

        You know I am right. Be honest and admit it.

        Reply

      • In reply to Abhishek

        Umm…the whole purpse was to refute the idea that the media was biased because they were getting paid to be biased. If that’s not corruption, please enlighten me as to what is.

        Also, have you seen the number of anti Congress news articles, editorials, and blog posts all over the place? There are hundreds. It doesn’t look to me as if anyone is scared. All it takes is one person to whistle blow and say “I was threatened by xyz person” and the Congress is screwed.

        Such a big operation/conspiracy cannot be kept secret. It’s either small, isolated and ultimately irrelevant, or non existent.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        My friend, why dont you read your own post? You summed up the 3 main allegations you deal with yourself :)

        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

        Suddenly you want to claim that your post was all about No. 3 :) Excellent!

        You dont need some massive, sinister conspiracy or physical threats to make the media biased. Its simple conformity where the juniors take instructions from seniors to write/speak in a certain way. Take the American channels Fox News or MSNBC. Does Fox have a bias? Does MSNBC have a bias?Yet there exists no majorly publicized incident of intimidation within these channels.

        Just because a media house publishes a minimal amount of criticism of the INC in order to maintain minimal intellectual credibility doesnt mean its unbiased. Even Swapan Dasgupta will criticize the BJP once in a while. Is he unbiased too? So what if there are hundreds of news articles that criticize INC? Indian media is MASSIVE…even a small fraction of it will result in hundreds of articles. The question is to compare the critical coverage of BJP vs coverage of the INC.

        Toy example: Remember the nationwide earthquake when 2 BJP MLAs watched porn in the Karnataka Assembly? Every TV watcher in India remembers this incident. The media went so far as to label it porngate….think about that for a second; in the eyes of the media, this scandal merits comparison with Watergate!!!!! Ask yourself how many people know that just a few weeks back haryana Congress spokesperson Dharamvir goyat said that 90% of rape victims deliberately try to get raped? (Did you know of this 2nd incident yourself?) Why wasnt this incident declared rapegate by same media?

        Reply

      • In reply to Abhishek

        There’s nothing wrong with a newspaper having strong politically opinions of their own accord. In fact, the TOI has openly admitted that they are a liberal paper in the statement of policy: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2008-01-15/edit-page/27771628_1_editorial-newspaper-views

        So obviously the TOI will favor more liberal parties in their coverage. That’s not because they’re being paid, but because that’s their mindset. That is perfectly fine and everyone is allowed to have an opinion.

        If I run a newspaper, I will certainly criticize parties that oppose gay marriage, suppress women’s rights, suppress Freedom of Expression etc. like I do on my blog.

        And I’m sorry, but the number of articles I’ve read recently criticizing the Congress for its handling of freedom of expression, articles lampooning Sibal etc have been as great as those criticizing the BJP.

        Your last example is easily explained. Behavior in parliament is conducted using public funds. It deserves more coverage. And yes – the media covered the 90% rape remark quite well indeed: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-10-12/india/34411625_1_haryana-government-om-parkash-chautala-cases

        You suggest that unless we do a full count of articles we can’t be sure. Certainly. But no such count has ever been conducted. In which case in the absence of data we can’t draw any conclusions either way.

        With regard to the point of my post, I think I know better what I was trying to convey. If you read the entirely of the post as well as the conversation with my friend, it’s obvious I was referring to the actual transfer of money that is the real problem. Other intellectual bias is completely fine with me. After all, it’s a free country. Everyone is allowed to have their opinions.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Bhagwad, have you heard Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt-Radia tapes? What is it if not corruption? Another example was given just a few days ago by Barkha in NY. I also watched a news clip from NDTV recently. The journo interviewed three girls after Modi speech and tried to put words in their mouth against Modi. None of the girls spoke against Modi and In fact all three priased hi. Guess what was Journos conclusion…”So here we have some MIXED reactions about Modi’s speech from women!! Seriously, either the guy is dumb or is biased if he can’t distinguish between positive comments and megative comments. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAkoIGg1J4Q

        What biased media ignores now is that informaton is available faster and in detail with advent of internet. Another thing which media houses like NDTV/HT/TOI mistakenly or deliebrately think is that Indian people cant think for themselves and will fooslishly believe them .Those dys when news on chennales and Newpaper was TRUTH are gone. JOurnos like Dutt/sardesai/Gowswami make me sick now.

        Reply

      • In reply to Desi NY

        I think it’s amazing that social media has risen to fill the gap left by traditional media houses. Any accusations of bias can be easily worked around now.

        Reply

  10. Hello, Your piece seems to be based on too little information on facts and ground reality and hence, lacks a sound perspective. Like it or leave it; we Indians have yet to emerge out of our salvish mentality, and think straight. That’s why you see all sorts of antics, and attitude to ingratiate themselves to public or power [aka JUGAD], using whatever means they deem fit. Indian Media is one such spinless biased tool that can be bought by power hungry apirants of all colours or hues and Media responds with equal frenzy. Uncalled for controversies and futile discussions are yet another Indian traits that can be witnessed daily through Main Stream Media. And the most disturbing fact is: all of it is managed and presented very crudely under the guise of so-called Intelligent – analysis or commenting. Therefore, I honestly believe that such discussions or comments are absolutely fultile, since the Truth lies somewhere between the two Anti & For extremes, because we dare not countenance Truth…let alone speak it. Regards – K R Vaishampayan

    Reply

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