Who is connected to whom:


A very popular TV news media is funded by Gospels of Charity in Spain Supports Communism. Recently it has developed a soft corner towards Pakistan because Pakistan President has allowed only this channel to be aired in Pakistan. Indian CEO Prannoy Roy is co-brother of Prakash Karat, General Secretary of the Communist party of India. His wife and Brinda Karat are sisters.

Which used to be the only national weekly which supported BJP is now bought by NDTV!! Since then the tone has changed drastically and turned into Hindu bashing.

This is 100 percent funded by Southern Baptist Church with its branches in all over the world with HQ in US.. The Church annually allocates $800 million for promotion of its channel. Its Indian head is Rajdeep Sardesai and his wife Sagarika Ghosh.

Times Of India, Mid-Day, Nav-Bharth Times, Femina, Filmfare, Vijaya Karnataka, Times now (24- hour news channel) and many more...
Times Group is owned by Bennett & Coleman. 'World Christian Council does 80 percent of the Funding, and an Englishman and an Italian equally share balance 20 percent. The Italian Robertio Mindo is a close relative of Sonia Gandhi. 

Star TV
It is run by an Australian, who is supported by St. Peters Pontifical Church Melbourne.

Hindustan Times 
Owned by Birla Group, but hands have changed since Shobana Bhartiya took over. Presently it is working in Collaboration with Times Group.

The Hindu 
English daily, started over 125 years has been recently taken over by Joshua Society, Berne, Switzerland. N. Ram's wife is a Swiss national.

Indian Express
Divided into two groups. The Indian Express and the New Indian Express (southern edition) ACTS Christian Ministries have major stake in the Indian Express and latter is still with the Indian counterpart.

The Statesman
It is controlled by Communist Party of India.

Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle 
Is owned by a Saudi Arabian Company with its chief Editor M.J. Akbar. Gujarat riots which took place in 2002 where Hindus were burnt alive. Rajdeep Sardesai and Bharkha Dutt working for NDTV at that time got around 5 Million Dollars from Saudi Arabia to cover only Muslim victims, which they did very faithfully... Not a single Hindu family was interviewed or shown on TV whose near and dear ones had been burnt alive, it is reported.

Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka.com
Gets regular blank cheques from Arab countries to target BJP and Hindus only, it is said. The ownership explains the control of media in India by foreigners. The result is obvious.


Sensitive cables reveal views that portrayed Indian Dalit groups as threats to US

The Indian census does not ask respondents for caste status, making any figures an estimate at best: David Mulford (US ambassador to India January 2005 to February 2009).

Arpit Parashar 
New Delhi

Back in 2005, the United States recognised that the Dalits in India were subject to "human rights abuses, including rape, trafficking, and segregation" and that "widespread prejudice against Dalits in India will make quick progress difficult". However, it chose to ignore attempts by Dalit organisations and individuals to globalise support for Dalits and push for reservations in India's private sector.

An October 25, 2005 cable titled 'India's shame: Lingering bigotry afflicts 200 million Dalits', an extract of which was released by WikiLeaks on August 26 and cannot be independently verified, was sent by the then US ambassador to India David Mulford. It focused on the testimony of the founder of the All India Confederation of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribes Organisations Udit Raj before the US House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Global Human Rights chaired by Congressman Christopher Smith in Washington in September 2005.

It is an assessment which concludes that the status quo regarding US policy on reservations in India's private sector be maintained claiming that Dalit groups have vested interests and threaten agitations against US companies by conniving with Maoists groups. Strangely, Mulford also claimed that human rights abuses in the country were on the decline, and restricted only to rural areas.

This cable was sent in the backdrop of improving relations between India and the US and after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then US President George Bush signed an agreement to increase cooperation in economic, foreign investments and human rights fields.

Udit Raj's organisation and another organisation Dalit Solidarity Network were represented by him, Joseph D'Souza, Indira Athawale and Kancha Ilaiyah. They had tried to focus attention on job reservations in the private sector in their presentation which was titled 'India's Unfinished Agenda: Equality and Justice for the 200 Million Victims of the Caste System' and the failure of the Government of India to make sure Dalits are represented fairly in the Indian society.

While the cable said absolutely nothing of the other members who represented the Dalits, it highlighted Udit Raj's background as a member of the Students Federation of India (SFI) in the 1980s and portrayed him as a "corrupt, communist politician". It called him "an outspoken opponent of US foreign police" who "regularly participates in anti-American demonstrations", "and has used his advocacy of Dalit causes to cultivate a high-level media profile and strengthen his CPI (M) credentials". It also quoted Poor Christian Liberation Movement leader RL Francis's claim that "Udit Raj does not distribute the funds he raises abroad to the larger Dalit community".

Mulford commented in the section titled "Tread Carefully" that "the human rights arguments of Udit Raj and other Dalit activists are compelling and likely to receive a receptive hearing in the US" and that "Dalits are certainly the victims of abuse and discrimination" but that "India is undergoing dramatic social change, which is eating away at untouchability" and that "most atrocities now take place in rural areas". He did not quote any media or government report to support this assessment though.

Udit Raj challenges this assessment by Mulford. "Mulford understood our issue through the understanding of those intellectuals who have played down the caste oppression since Independence. When there is open admission of caste in the matrimonial columns of newspapers everyday, how can it be concluded that caste discrimination has gone down?" he questioned. "Also, I have never received any funds from abroad. It is a baseless allegation," he said.

Mulford, without naming anyone, claimed that "Some Dalit leaders have a vested interest in perpetuating GOI paternalism and the reservation system as they are personally benefiting from the status quo", concluding that "the most useful action the US can take is to praise and provide assistance to efforts by India's private and public sectors to address Dalit discrimination. This would be more effective than attempting to shame the GOI into action by repeatedly emphasizing the negative aspects of India's social structure", essentially ignoring the arguments by the Dalit groups that the Indian private sector too is dominated and run by the upper castes.

The cable called the issue of reservations a politicised one, which benefited a select few, questioning even the exact percentage of Dalits in the country. It also advocated that the caste system needs to be eradicated to get rid of untouchability instead of having caste-based reservations.

It said the UPA government "has been responsive regarding the untouchability issue and is debating what to do about it". It drew from the Article 17 of the Indian Constitution which "outlawed untouchability in 1950" and said that successive governments "continued to rely on caste reservations in public sector employment and education" which "benefited a creamy layer of Dalits who were able to take advantage of reservations" but "did nothing to discourage Indians from embracing a caste identity".

"The reservations issue became politicised in the late 1980s, when the GOI began extending reservations to more and more groups, causing a heated backlash among groups that were left out, who feared they were being deprived of desirable government jobs and slots in educational institutions. Today more there are more than 50 percent reservations in some areas, causing deep resentment among higher-caste Hindus, including the occasional public suicide by frustrated job-seekers," the cable said.

Mulford further quoted the NDA government appointed head of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes Suraj Bhan's comments to the press that "the reservation system is not functional as it gives legal sanction to untouchability and bogus claims by higher caste members claiming to be Dalits have been on the rise and reserved seats are not being filled on the plea that there aren't enough suitable candidates", also quoting his arguments that "untouchability will not disappear until the caste system is eradicated".

This, Udit Raj counters, shows a dwarfed understanding of the caste system. "They look at it from the prism of racism and religious conflicts. Their feedback is after all from the upper caste employees at their missions," he said.

Mulford dismissed the fact that Dalits constitute 21-25 percent of the country's population. "While social scientists generally agree that approximately 21-25% of the Indian population are Dalits, it is difficult to determine with great accuracy how many Indians fall within this category. Dalits are themselves divided into upper and lower castes, and many in the upper echelons claim they are not Dalits at all. The Indian census does not ask respondents for caste status, making any figures an estimate at best," the cable said. Mulford pointed out, ironically, that of "six Embassy FSN (Foreign Service Nationals) political staff, three are Brahmins, one Kayasth, one Rajput and one Sikh" and that "No political FSN has taken a stance on Dalit issues".

Udit Raj, the cable claimed, had told embassy officials that Brahmins are the natural enemies of Dalits and use their dominant position to perpetuate the caste system. "Claiming that Brahmin FSNs predominate in the Embassy Political Section, he accused them of keeping the real story of Dalit oppression from Political Officers," the cable said. He is also quoted as having said that Brahmins run the Indian Embassy in Washington, dominate the GOI and sweep the Dalit cause under the rug. "Raj opined that upper caste Indians are not embarrassed by the lingering racism and do not want the system exposed and reformed, as they would lose their slaves," the cable said.

Mulford, however, rejected the Brahmin dominance of Indian politics and government structure as factually incorrect; pointing out instead that South India has been making "great strides" in reducing the importance of caste in politics for many years. It talked of the "success of the Dravidian parties" in Tamil Nadu and the establishment of Dalit-based politics in North India "as epitomized by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati" which is "recruiting Brahmins", also pointing out the emergence of fringe parties with mostly upper caste MLAs like the Lok Janashakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan and of OBC leader Uma Bharati in the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Mulford though indicted the Indian media for giving insufficient coverage to crimes against Dalits, pointing out that despite initial reporting on incidents, the press moves on to other stories quickly when it comes to cases of crimes perpetuated against Dalits. The cable also quoted Raj's assertion that the Indian media portrayed him and the others who testified before the US Congress representatives as "beggars who were unpatriotic to go to a foreign government to discuss the plight of Dalits."

Udit Raj says he and other representatives had argued that globalisation was diluting job opportunities for Dalits and it was important to mobilise global economic players to do something beneficial for the community.

Pointing out that there are no Dalits as CEOs in any private company in India, they had argued that funds for promoting education and health flowing from America must empower Dalits also with English knowledge and equal education. They had also met representatives of the World Bank (WB) and told them that their projects sponsored for drinking water, housing, roads, and other basic amenities must provide for reservation to Dalits and also requested the US House Committee to plead for reservations in the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and USAID aided projects, arguing that Indians managing the US enterprises are also from the upper castes and hence those enterprises too are not free from discrimination in hiring Dalit manpower.

Mulford, on the other hand, wrote that while Dalit groups are finding it difficult to internationalise the issue of oppression of Dalits because upper caste Hindus refuse to support them, they are actually threatening the US companies of agitations against them if they do not tow their line.

"They hope to involve international lending institutions such as the World Bank, and plan to urge them to address the plight of Dalits in all their Indian programs, or face Dalit agitations calling for their withdrawal from India," the cable said.

The cable also claims that Udit Raj was unconvincing in his argument that "without American intervention to compel the GOI to take action, many within India's lower castes would abandon conventional politics and embrace Maoist revolution." He claimed that Udit Raj's arguments were "overwhelmingly negative" and that he, "in a veiled threat, pointed out that a major shift in Dalit support towards the Naxalites could negatively affect Indo-US relations by drying-up US investment in much of India, as no US Company would build a plant in an unstable area."

But Udit Raj says these were things he said before the Indian media and not before the US representatives. "I spoke of a possible shift in Dalit support towards Naxalites due to oppression much later in India based on my assessments. These were not part of our presentation there (in the US) or part of discussions with US officials," he said.

Arpit Parashar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.com. 


 The 'Merit' and 'Quality' Argument: Not Simply Valid in the Present Controversy Over Affirmative Action for OBCs | Main | Questions and Answers: Caste Discrimination »

MAY 28, 2006

The Caste Bias in the Indian Media

I have written earlier that the caste bias in most sections of the India-based English language media became very obvious during the debates on reservation or affirmative action benefits for OBC students. Many a Dalit leader has told me in recent years that a major part of the problem in Indian media is that Dalits have no voice. The lower castes have no voice as most of the media in India – both print and electronic –is owned and run by the upper caste fraternity. Most of them have grown up in the privileges accorded to them by the Brahmanical caste system that gave them all the privileges (in fact affirmative action!) through the discriminatory system.

The Western media ignorantly buys everything served up by the upper caste media in India and is thereby also guilty of misrepresenting the caste divide in India. The majority millions are conveniently forgotten.

The question must be asked: ''Where on earth do we find that a majority as big as 70% of the population is unable to express their own viewpoint and find their own voice?''

Are the power brokers in society and the media barons in the world listening?

Please read the enclosed story from Shivam Vij in Lucknow, representative of the struggle of the majority voiceless to find a legitimate voice and place in the system.

Caste in the Newsroom?

By Shivam Vij


Caste discrimination in the newsroom? Rubbish, say most upper caste journalists in Uttar Pradesh. It's all over, say backward caste journalists.

How many journalists in the Lucknow office of Dainik Jagran , India's largest selling newspaper, belong to the Schedule Castes or the 'Other Backward Castes'?

"I have never counted and I will never count. Caste is not an issue in this organisation," says Dilip Awasthi, a senior editor with Dainik Jagran. But a backward caste journalist says that Dainik Jagran in Lucknow in particular has been run as a "Brahminical paper".

Unlike Awasthi, backward caste journalists can count their numbers on the fingertips. Ask them and they start listing names — an exercise which some upper-caste scribes are also able to undertake. There are not even half a dozen Dalit journalists in Lucknow, most of whom do not handle the political beat, and no Dalit journalist works for an English paper. As for OBC's, you will find at the most one in every paper.

Why are the numbers so few?

"They don't go to schools!" says Awasthi.

And the ones who do? Has he never met a single SC/OBC journalist who's talented enough for a job?

"Never. They can't write a single sentence properly."

Is there deliberate discrimination against lower caste candidates who apply for employment?

"I refuse employment to 15 people every day, and 14 of them are upper caste Hindus. All that matters is talent. Go to media schools in the city and ask them how many Dalits or OBC's are enrolled with them. The caste situation in the media is no different from what it is in society."

Off the record, a Dalit journalist alleges: "I was denied employment by a paper because the editor said I wrote like the spokesperson of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which is not true. That their reporters write like spokespersons of [the upper-caste dominated] Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a non-issue for the paper."

Interestingly, no one has ever heard of employment discrimination against Muslims in the Lucknow press. In fact it is said that every political bureau has at least one Muslim in it because it is felt that only a Muslim can get stories from inside Muslim society. (Since there has never been a Hindu-Muslim riot in Lucknow, communal relations here are much better than riot-affected cities.)

"Naturally," says Awasthi of Jagran, "I would like to have a Muslim to cover Muslims and a woman to cover women's issues."

And a Dalit to cover Dalits?

"But where are they?" he exclaims.

"How is it possible," questions political reporter Kamal Jayant of Aaj, "that in a country with a huge unemployment problem no Dalit comes to them for a reporter's job?"

"The root of the problem is ownership. When the media is owned by the upper caste, it has to be dominated by the upper caste," says Kashi Prasad of Eenadu TV Uttar Pradesh, who does not write his surname, Yadav, in his visiting card. Journalists belonging to castes that figure at the lower end of the caste system often hide or change their surnames lest they invite prejudice.

JP Shukla, Lucknow correspondent of The Hindu, very emphatically says there is no question of any kind of employment discrimination, because: "An educated Dalit prefers his reserved job in a government office rather than a hard life as an underpaid stringer with a Hindi daily. And English dailies take the convent educated lot." Amit Sharma, Lucknow correspondent of The Indian Express denies that there is employment discrimination, and if the backward caste journalist feels it, "it could be because of his inner feelings [read: complex] that he belongs to a lower caste."

Caste here may get inter-twined with class. An upper caste journalist privately admits that he may unconsciously discriminate on class basis, but for backward caste aspirants this discrimination is received as casteist. It is his caste because of which he lacks 'class'. Amidst all this generalisation, backward caste journalists are not short of examples. AP Dewan, a Doordarshan reporter who is Dalit by caste, knows two cases off hand. He remembers one Yogendra Singh who committed suicide because no paper would give him a job, and how Doordarshan would not even take one Dharmendra Singh as a free apprentice. The latter, an alumus of IIMC (Indian Institute of Mass Communications, Delhi), had to forgo the electronic media and work with Rashtriya Sahara in Noida. At the same time, Dewan claims as President of the now defunct Doordarshan India Journalists Association, that jobs reserved for backward castes in Doordarshan have not been filled for years.

Some backward caste journalists, very wary of being quoted, recall how they personally faced hardships in initially getting employment, as compared to upper-caste colleagues.

"A Muslim friend called me the other day to arrange a newspaper internship for her daughter. But I don't recall any backward caste person approaching me for help in employment," says Ratan Mani Lal, Director of the Jaipuria Institute of Mass Communications.

"Employment in the private sector is often given on the basis of connections, and upper caste individuals tend to have connections amongst upper castes." says Vivek Kumar, who left his job with The Pioneer in Lucknow in 2000 to become an academic. He now teaches at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems at JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) in Delhi.

The Dalit and the OBC suffer from stereotypes of talent. "It is presumed that a candidate won't be talented because he is Dalit," says Dewan.

About this tricky issue of talent, Kumar of JNU says: "This is exactly the same as in reserved jobs for backward castes. First it was 'candidate not available' and now it is 'candidate not suitable'. And who decides a candidate's suitability? The upper-caste editor." So would he support reservation in the private media? "Why not? Reservation is nothing but equality of opportunity."

The new Congress-led government at the centre has promised to look into the area of caste-based reservation in the private sector. If and when that happens, it will affect the media as well, and you may begin to see the bylines of a greater variety of castes.

That was about employment, but those who do manage to get a job, do they face discrimination at the work place? Once again upper caste journalists say an emphatic no and backward caste journalists say an emphatic yes.

"Between 1996 an '99 I was with Hindustan," remembers Kashi Prasad of E-TV, "I was posted in Sultanpur when the paper established its office there. As a Yadav I was the only journalist there belonging to a backward caste. I would sit in the same room as my junior upper caste colleagues, and local leaders would come and touch their feet and ignore me. So I asked them to shift to another room." These seemingly petty problems become very humiliating when an individual goes through them.

Discrimination manifests itself in the form of marginalisation. Backward caste journalists say they are marginalised not only in places like the Press Club but also inside the newsroom, where upper caste journalists may form a closely knit community.

Dewan of Doordarshan claims that in office he is not given basic facilities like a stenographer or a computer or air-conditioning, which have been given to journalists junior to him. Is he sure this is because of his caste? "Absolutely because of that!" he says, "But this is nothing. In the media in UP Dalits and OBC's face much worse. They are forced to be submissive and have to quietly endure everything."

Amit Sharma, Lucknow correspondent of The Indian Express, confirmed that backward caste journalists in UP face prejudice amongst their fraternity. "Whatever they say is taken lightly and often ridiculed," he says, "and this sometimes makes them irritable and affects their self-esteem." Sharma, however, denies discrimination in employment.

Kashi Prasad of E-TV says, "Not only is there greater discrimination in districts and small towns, a lot many journalists in Lucknow come from small town or rural backgrounds. They carry a greater burden of caste than one would ordinarily perceive in Lucknow."

However, JP Shukla of The Hindu, who says he is himself from a rural background, denies that there is any such thing as caste bias amongst journalists. Shukla, a Brahmin by caste, says that the primary caste equation in UP is that of a clash between Dalits and OBC's, and the upper-castes have no role in it. (During an earlier interview for a story on The Hoot, Shukla had read excerpts from a book of memoirs that he was writing, in Hindi, which exalted the caste system.) Secondly, says Shukla, that Maywati and the BSP are such a powerful political tool in UP that nobdu dares discriminitae against a Dalit.

After the Mandal Commission report of 1991, says Kashi Prasad, "Society was polarised into those who were for caste-based reservation in government jobs and those who were against it. Upper caste journalists, seething in anger about reservations, have been prone to prejudice against backward caste individuals in the office." There is thus a great need for backward caste journalists to 'prove' their merit. The problem with this, for one, is that a backward caste journalist is seen first as belonging to a 'low' caste and then as an individual.

Pawan Kumar, a Dalit who works as a sub-editor with Aaj , says that a backward caste scribe has to work much harder to be accepted, whereas his upper caste colleagues would be regularly promoted even when they are not meritorious.

The claim is buttressed by Vivek Kumar of JNU with the example of a friend who would file his stories only in his first name. But the day he started adding his surname Shukla, he was surprised to find his byline on page one off and on. "Now his name bore the burden of his caste," he says. On the other hand, Kashi Prasad claims he was not given an independent beat in a newspaper for years, unlike his upper-caste colleagues.

How caste biases operate in the coverage of caste politics has been documented earlier by a couple of stories in The Hoot. But apart from elections, what about the coverage of caste on issues like caste discrimination in society, cases of caste-based violence, etc.? Are they given due space? If it's newsworthy, it finds a place in the paper, says, Jayant of Aaj. "Thanks to competition," he says "if one paper doesn't carry it, another does. But what angle such stories are given may be problematic in some cases." At the height of the Mandal Commission imbroglio in 1991, he says, stories of upper caste protests were exaggerated by the media with an activist intent. It is very obvious, therefore, that you never find a feature in a UP paper about caste discrimination in society, the sort that appear in Delhi editions of papers like The Indian Express and The Hindu. Vivek Kumar of JNU says that while at the Pioneer, he once interviewed the then UP Governor Suraj Bhan, a Dalit, and asked him questions on the position of Dalits in society 48 years after independence. What should have been a page-one eight-column interview, he says, was reduced to two columns on page four. Some days later the paper sent another correspondent to interview the Governor, this time without any 'Dalit angle', and it was right there: eight columns on page one.

Vijay Dubey of Eenadu TV points out a rift between Thakur and Brahmin journalists in Gorakhpur over some local issue recently, and other backward caste journalists readily provide specifics of how a journalist belonging to a certain caste would often be assigned the task of covering the leader of that caste. The logic is that caste affinity helps you get a scoop.

But this argument is turned on its head when backward caste journalists are said to use their caste to get close to politicians and benefit in getting scoops and other necessities of life. "This is unfortunate branding," says Dewan of Doordarshan, "Before I helped save Mayawati's life in the 1995 "guest-house" attack on her, no one knew what community I belonged to. But after that the world around me changed completely. Upper-caste journalists labelled me a Mayawati stooge and in 1998, got chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to get me transferred out of UP. Later when Mayawati again became CM, some upper-caste journalists instigated her against me and as a result, she hasn't spoken to me for 18 months."

Journalists in the English papers may be a little more progressive, but Kumar of JNU complains that the upper-caste individual can choose to be anything in the garb of progressiveness. A source in The Times of India says, "Caste is always implicit. You are always aware of what is the caste of which person and what that means in caste hierarchy."

While local English papers remain urban-centric, Hindi papers do cover grassroots level activities, socio-religious affairs and some amount of rural reporting also finds space. But in all this, it is an upper-caste ("Brahminical") culture that is reflected; the lives and customs of a segregated, backward caste society are unimportant.

There is no dialogue over this issue; nobody seems to see the need to give so much as a patient hearing to the grievances of journalists belonging to depressed castes. The arrogance with which senior journalists like Awasthi of Jagran dismiss the issue, suggests that a Dalit journalist is persona non grata for them.

Says Vivek Kumar of JNU, "When you live life in your own group you never think you are excluding anyone. The only time you think there is discrimination is when Mayawati dismisses you as Manuwaadi."


Where are the dalit journalists?

By Chandra Bhan Prasad

Why is it that from a population of over 205 million Dalits, roughly equivalent to the combined population of France, UK, and Germany, there is not a single Dalit with a press card in the main stream media?

Some five years back, on November 16, 1996 to be precise, BN Uniyal published his "In Search Of a Dalit Journalist", in The Pioneer. Mr. Uniyal was confronted with a 'strange' query from a foreign correspondent who wanted to meet a Dalit journalist. The foreign journalist wanted to seek the opinion of a Dalit journalist over the reported dispute between Kansi Ram and few journalists. Mr. Uniyal wanted to help his foreign counterpart, and thus begun his hunt for a Dalit journalist.

He spoke to a number of editors, media personalities, social activists, but could not find one. He wrote, "Suddenly I realized that in all the 30 years I had worked as a journalist, I had never met a fellow journalist who was a Dalit; no, not one. And worse still, was the thought that during all those years it had never occurred to me that there was something so seriously amiss in the profession, something which I should have noticed as a journalist. In all these years I have traveled almost every district of the country in the company of numerous journalists and met hundreds of others in different in different cities and towns and yet do not remember having met any Dalit journalist".

His queries at Delhi's Press Club too turned futile, and finally he examined the Accreditation Index, 1996, of the Press Information Bureau. The Index contained 686 journalists, in which, 454 bore their Caste surnames, but of those none was a Dalit. Of the remaining 232 names, Mr. Uniyal checked out 47 names at random basis, and none of them turned out to be a Dalit.

I myself have studied in JNU, know a lot many people in Delhi, but barring one Dalit who worked for Observer of Business & Politics [now closed] I am yet to meet a Dalit who is a journalist in Delhi. But I believe there could still be one or two Dalit journalists in Delhi, who may have camouflaged their identities for the sake of survival.

I still remember that memorable day when The Pioneer had carried Mr. Uniyal's piece, and expected a heated debate in media. But nothing of that sort happened. In January last year, when The Pioneer had given its eight-page Millennium supplement to us bring out a special Dalit Millennium supplement, we approached Mr. Uniyal to write a piece. He requested us to repeat his November 16 article with following note: " The article reproduced above first appeared in The Pioneer in November 1996, but was totally ignored by our journalistic establishment. No editor, columnist or commentator, no professional association like The Editors Guild and no public organization like Press Council took any notice of it. None felt aghast or alarmed at the situation described in the article.

It did not provoke a debate. No one felt there was a need for making special efforts to draw qualified Dalits into the media".

The Pioneer's Dalit Millenium Supplement, which contained Uniyal's November 1996 article with his note, was published on January 30, 2001, but till date no editor, columnist, or any other non-Dalit public organization has reflected upon Uniyal's quest. We, as a small group of Dalit activists, took upon ourselves to draft a memorandum, where we quoted extensively the American experience of affirmative actions in media, and posted a copy to each major media establishment in Delhi. But, barring The Pioneer, no one responded.

The Pioneer has been the only newspaper to start the first weekly column on Dalits, authored by Dalits. The Dalit Diary begun on April 4, 1999, and since then, over 100 articles have appeared, but barring one or two instances, no one has taken any note of it.

However, it is all together a different question that within a year, word spread about the Dalit column in The Pioneer, and a number of Dalit organizations from all across the India are subscribing for The Sunday Pioneer. In fact, the Telugu daily Vaartha, [second largest circulated Telugu daily newspaper] reproduces the Pioneer Dalit Diary every Tuesday and the most popular Dalit web site [ambedkar.org] too flashes Dalit Diary every week. Needless to add, the Dalit Diary is being translated in several Indian languages.

The big question before us is: why from a population of over 20.59 Crore Dalits [roughly equivalent to the combined population of France, UK, Germany], there is not a single Dalit in main stream media with a Press-Card? This question needs some credible explanations, and the explanation has to come from editors/columnists/commentators of the mainstream media establishments. Further, why did, barring Uniyal, no regular columnist or editor ever took up this question for a nationwide discourse, particularly when we have been posing this question since 1996?

The Dalits' near total absence [read exclusion] from could owe to many factors. The non-Dalit commentator may say that there are no 'qualified' Dalits available! Then question arises as what kind of society we live in where from a particular social segment, which has been historically excluded from the formal notion of citizenship in the Chatur-Varna Order, there is not a single Dalit journalist? Is it due to a long legacy of hatred/exclusion against/of Dalits, or due to the failure read success] of the masters of society who have been unable to create a Social Order where inclusion of Dalits could not become a reality, or it is due Dalits' inability to sneak into the zealously guarded fortress of the media world, or a combination of all the above factors?

If India's intellectual 'class' has failed to include Dalits in the media world, or cannot come out with credible explanations over the question of Dalits' exclusion, what right do they have to speak from a high moral pedestal about unworthy politicians, or about practice of Untouchability in the countryside? To me, it seems the Indian media is still prisoner of the Chatur-Varna worldview, which we can establish if media hawks are prepared for an open debate?


FDI tightening its grip over Indian media space
Advertising through newspapers and television today is mostly by multinationals and big corporate houses

Fine Print | P.N. Vasanti

Traditionally, journalists, especially editors, were the gatekeepers in media. They used to have the final say in content. In today's market-driven media world, however, journalists no longer dictate priorities and direction. It is advertisers, market researchers and public relations people who dominate and determine the concerns and the content of mass media. It is these forces that have become the "new gatekeepers" of media — including the news media.

Given this context, the discussion on allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in news media here takes a new angle (see "Should India let more foreign investment into news media?" in Mint, 1 July). Both the pros and cons of increasing FDI in news media are now well known. Those in favour have been using the high growth argument and claim that restrictive policies are retrograde in the era of convergence. Others have quoted laws of different countries that have similar restrictions specially on news media and say these are necessary to protect national interests, local cultures and diverse character of the media. The missing angle in this ongoing discussion on allowing FDI in news media is that the new gatekeepers of our media are already owned and also managed by foreign organizations.

As summarized in the table, 100% FDI is already allowed in advertising, market research, public relations, printing plants and even non-news television channels and technical journals. Total advertising spends in the country today are at least Rs12,000 crore with around 75% of this, maybe more, going to newspapers, television, films and radio. Advertising through newspapers and television today is mostly by multinationals and big corporate houses. In fact, the top 15 advertisers account for three-fourths of advertising revenue of newspapers and television channels. Today, over 13,000 brands in all are being promoted through television, newspapers, radio and films. The top five advertising agencies, mostly controlled by foreign networks that sometimes own all the equity in these firms, account for well over half of advertising business in the country. Entry of foreign advertising agencies has been going on along with simultaneous entry of foreign brands and increase in the share of foreign companies in the total advertising in the country.

In India, where newspapers are heavily subsidized — for instance, some papers are sold for Rs2 when just the ink and paper costs Rs8 per copy — the ability of these advertisers to become more powerful gatekeepers is higher than in most other countries that claim to have a free press.

With media becoming complex and also specialized, two "new" mediating functionaries have also emerged. Both these functionaries, "media planning" and "corporate public relations", in a way, erode into core prerogatives of journalists and their "editorial control" as the function of corporate PR is to ensure coverage of a particular viewpoint. Market research agencies conduct "readership" surveys and "rating" of television viewership and, thus, directly influence advertising agencies as well as the news media as to their priorities. Most surveys being done in the country are mostly at the instance of advertisers or advertising agencies and the media operators themselves. Today, the top seven or eight market research agencies, accounting for at least 75% of research, are owned entirely or partly by foreign firms. With recent mergers and acquisitions, a certain monopolistic trend is already evident in this function with an annual turnover of well over Rs1,200 crore.

Together, advertising, market research and media planning set the scope for media. These functions are already in the hands of multinational firms.

While we still debate allowing foreign investment into our news media, "foreigners" have already entered our newsrooms through these new gates.

P.N. Vasanti is director of New Delhi-based multidisciplinary research organization, Centre for Media Studies. Your comments and feedback on this column, which runs every other Friday, are welcome at fineprint@livemint.com

Editor's note: Mint has a Code of Conduct that lays down firm rules on separating advertising and editorial content. This code, which governs our newsroom, can be viewed at www.livemint.com