“If corporate media becomes impartial and stops serving its political masters, it will command respect of the people, instead of demanding it.”
(Disclaimer:- This disclaimer is for NDTV who unleash lawyers for stamping out free speech as in the case of Chaitanya Kunte. I am neither an admirer of NDTV, nor of Ms. Dutt. My image gallery is proof of that. This article does not explicitly imply or state that NDTV uses fake tweets to distort public debate. I have stated my opinion as a disturbed viewer, and it is based on publicly available information on the net. If it is found to be incorrect, I will gladly retract without hesitation.)
This NDTV show was supposed to be a discussion about the situation of Mr. Shanti Bhushan (Former Law Minister) and Mr. Prashant Bhushan who are being accused without conclusive evidence. A television channel is expected to be neutral, but this show appeared to be part of a media trial of Bhushans.
So I did a little experiment with this episode available online at ndtv.com website.
Show – “The Buck Stops Here” on NDTV anchored by Ms. Barkha Dutt. Episode title – “Bhushans: Smear Campaign or Fair Game?”
Date – 20th April, 2011
Methodology – I switched off the sound and made a note of visuals presented during the show.
(Note: I switched on sound briefly only once to listen to Agnivesh’s famous comment at 40th minute, as pointed out by folks on Twitter. This comment has been preserved at Mutiny along with a contest. Thanks to Jayant Gajria for the tip.)
|Visuals in the show had 2 categories of graphics:
Both these are labeled in the screenshot.
Visual Category 1 – CAPTIONS
Please note the subtle but aggressive build-up in captions rotated throughout the show:
- Anti-Corruption Drive
- Hit by Controversies
- Lokpal Panel Co-chair in CD row
- Bhushan & Sons
- Bhushans embroiled in CD Row
- CD: Chat between Bhushan, Mulayam
- CD: Phone Chat about fixing a judge
- Conflict of Interest?
- Smear Campaign?
- After CD, Land Row
- Bhushans in Land Row
- The ‘Plot’ Thickens
- Serious Improprities?
- Should Bhushans Quit?
My conclusion – There is a clear negative spin in captions to defame the Bhushans in a show where they are not present to defend their position. This is also known as a Media Trial
Visual Category 2 – TWITTER BUZZ
Out of all the tweets presented in this visual, I found these most interesting.
Irrespective of the fact whether the Bhushans are corrupt or not they should quit. We can’t give them preferential treatment.….@Forever_Tarun (Tarun Arora)
How can a few unelected, ‘self-declared honest pple’ hijack d democratic process&claim 2 represent 120 crore ppl? #annahazare….@neutralviews (neutral)
caesars wife has to be above suspicion. But having said that there wud b no1 left in civil society since v r all suspect 2sum extent….@iamrana (Rana)
A glance at twitter time-line of these worthies revealed that they belong to the Barkha Dutt Fan Club. Their tweets conveniently supported the agenda she was pushing in this episode.
It reminds me of those suspicious “viewer telephone calls” and “audience questions” which anchors often use in their shows.
The following tweet is more interesting:
Now Mr. Abhishek Jain is interesting because his account @abhijain03 has only 2 tweets so far!
The first tweet was on 19th March and second just happened to be on the day of Barkha’s show.
|The non-communicative Mr. Jain has 16 followers out of which 10 are females. Actually, only 9, because 1 girl “Anshu Daga” likes him so much that she follows him through 2 identical accounts!|
The status of these 9 mysterious followers (on 21 April) -
|Name||Twitter Account||Date of First Tweet||Total Tweets|
|Anshu Daga||anshudaga5||17 March||20|
|Anshu Daga||anshudaga6||23 March||21|
|Malina Maloo||MalinaMaloo5||21 March||20|
|Hansika Goenka||HansikaGoenka6||21 March||20|
|Jayanti Dugar||JayantiDugar7||20 March||19|
|Deveshi Baid||DeveshiBaid5||20 March||20|
|Hemaksh Jhajharia||HemakshiJ97||16 March||20|
|Aashritha Bangad||aashrithab141||15 March||20|
|Ishta Dalmia||IshtaDalmia4||8 March||21|
|Jigyasa Gadia||JigyasaGadia3||23 Feb||10|
List of Coincidences
- All accounts set up in the last one month (except JigyasaGadia3)
- None of the accounts has a bio
- In each account, tweets are made in batches of 10 on 2 days only. This gives us 2 x 10 = 20 tweets
- They do not appear to be bot accounts because tweets are not uniform and there is no spam
- All are accounts have female names (mostly Marwari names)
- All have photographs of attractive females with similar numerical filenames
- None of these accounts has tweeted to ANYONE
- These 9 females (2 are same) follow Abhishek Jain even though he has tweeted only twice (it was once, before 10th). So they must be his friends… right? But then, he is not following ANY OF THEM.
This means they are not friends. In that case, who are they?
- All accounts have collected 120-220 genuine followers by following 500-800 people
- These accounts are not bots
- Someone is creating a number of such accounts
- Someone maintains these accounts by posting 10 tweets, once every 2 weeks
- Accounts like anshudaga3, anshudaga5, anshudaga6 and anshudaga7 are created at different times and kept active simultaneously
- 10 out of 16 such accounts are followers of a similar account which was quoted in a TV show with a tweet that conveniently supported the show’s agenda
Note: The following section has been updated. Confusion was caused by the address @ShaliniSharma displayed on TV.
Ms. Shalini Sharma has made an excellent point. The screenshot of her tweet is presented below:
|I thank everyone for this correction and sincerely hope that NDTV is more careful in the future.|
Now that the issue of the second suspicious tweet has been resolved peacefully, this post stands corrected.
My opinion that NDTV shows are not impartial still holds because their anchors (English and Hindi) continue being predictable by following the same strategy:
- Dominate and browbeat guests who disagree, or belong to NDA. The way Nidhi Razdan ill-treated Rajiv Pratap Rudy of BJP in a March 2011 show, is a perfectly good example.
- Politely allow excessive time to guests who are saying “the right thing”. Usually, Congressmen and Communists get sufficient time to blow their trumpet.
- Selectively edit sound bytes from the person they target. This ALWAYS happens when NDTV is forced to show Narendra Modi (as in the case of Anna Hazare praising him recently)
To this list I can now add:
- Shameless, blatant manipulation of social media such as Twitter to support their viewpoint by padding their shows with favourable tweets
- Misleading viewers into thinking that selective social media extracts telecast on NDTV are a truthful representation of public opinion
All of this is my personal opinion, and it is possible I may be wrong.
Therefore, I request readers to verify facts from links provided and draw their own conclusions.
(All screenshots on this page were taken on April 21 and 22, 2011)
(Author’s Note: I was asked to clarify if I have a hidden agenda behind this post. My answer is yes, I have an agenda. I respected and admired Dr. Roy and his team when NDTV was young. But I lost respect for ALL news channels due to the intrusive and selfish coverage of the Kargil war. Subsequent events strengthened my belief that media was being corrupted. Compulsions of corporate competition destroyed political impartiality and journalistic objectivity. My agenda as a concerned viewer, is that I want all channels – not just NDTV – to regain their objectivity and report honestly without spreading propaganda. Viewers are aware that media functions in a broken system where political pressures are tremendous, but we are not fools. We are watching. We will speak.)
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