Friday December 15, 2017

From Debonair to Outlook: Frank and fearless editor Vinod Mehta leaves a legacy behind

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By Ishan Kukreti

Delhi woke up to a lazy, hazily lit Sunday morning, on 8th March,2015, unaware that a man who had driven the imagination of many, mentored many, would not be there for them anymore.

Vinod Mehta, one of the foremost journalists of the country, without whom, names like the Sunday Observer, Indian Post, The Independent, The Pioneer and the beloved Outlook would not be there, took a permanent retirement from the world. His presence is sure to be missed by many.

Vinod`s career was full of crests and troughs.  Starting with Debonair, his career took a leap from irrelevant to the relevant with the launch of Sunday Observer, 1981 and later the Outlook, 1995.

He is best known as the editor-in-chief of Outlook and his editorial decisions there shaped not just the image of the magazine as a forerunner of objective, truthful journalism but also his reputation as a no-nonsense seeker and portrayer of truth. His decision to run a story on the infamous Radia Tapes, though cost him his position at the magazine`s editorial department, exposed a fundamental rot in the information industry, that needed to be brought out in open and introspected about.

Vinod was a down to earth practical man, who knew his abilities and his place in the world. Everyone who ever worked with him would vouch for his openness to ideas and suggestions, his reputation as a lousy paymaster and a magnanimous human.

The reason India will miss Vinod Mehta is because he was the storyteller to an entire generation. Like a grandma to a kid, he whispered mysteries into the minds of people through his columns and they all will miss him very much.

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Digging Indian colonial roots: British newspaper to call Mumbai as Bombay

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New Delhi: In the latest move, The renowned British newspaper and online publication, The Independent, has decided to call India’s largest city, Mumbai with its previous colonial-era name of Bombay.

We give you heads up on what the issue is all about:

  • The newspaper’s India-born editor, Amol Rajan, stated the decision to be in direct response to what he argued were the Hindu nationalist connotations of the name Mumbai. “If you call it what Hindu nationalists want you to call it, you essentially do their work for them,” Rajan told BBC radio.
  • The decision has led to a debate both inside and outside India, sprouting many supporters as well as challengers of the new policy.
  • The city has been officially known as Mumbai since 1995 when it was renamed by the right wing regional party Shiv Sena who advocates the use of the Marathi language, dominant in the state of Maharashtra. Marathi speakers have long referred to the city as Mumbai, after the Hindu goddess Mumbadevi, the city’s patron deity.
  • It was argued by Shiv Sena that the previous name Bombay is an Anglicized version of the city’s name and was an unwanted relic, reminding of the British colonial rule in India. The interchangeable use of both names among locals can be witnessed during their casual conversation now.
  • After consulting with senior staff members, Rajan attributes his decision to the general feeling of growing intolerance in India. “I do believe that a spirit of intolerance is spreading through India, with very alarming news about censorship every day,” Rajan added. “That strengthens the case for making this move, in my view, to defend the tradition of a country whose commitment to openness, tolerance and pluralism is both ancient and endangered.”
  • Hoping to not have instigated a fierce backlash back home, Rajan believes that the publication’s standing would not be affected in India. However, no immediate comment could be acquired from the Mumbai city officials.
  • “I don’t know what the reaction will be in India, and wouldn’t want to guess,” he said. “I hope India’s grand tradition of free expression is strong enough for it not to impede our reporting – and believe it will be.”
  • While the involvement of Shiv Sena in renaming Bombay makes it a unique case, there are several other cities apart from Mumbai, which have been renamed in a bid to shake off their colonial links.
  • The city previously known as Madras was renamed to Chennai in 1996. Rajan’s own birthplace of Calcutta is now officially called Kolkata.
  • Rajan hinted towards the newspaper examining other such cases inside or outside India, in the near future. “I am not committing to it yet, but there may well be a case for dropping Myanmar for Burma – the former being the junta’s favored option,” he said. “I wouldn’t call Sri Lanka ‘Ceylon,’ and other cases such as Beijing/Peking don’t warrant a change for now.” (Inputs from Agencies)

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Paid News: BBC, CNN, CNBC flouting journalistic standards

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

International broadcasters including the giant BBC repeatedly broke the Ofcom code by screening programmes funded by foreign governments, charities and NGOs, an investigation has revealed recently. Ofcom has uncovered nearly 50 breaches of its code by CNN, CNBC and the BBC after a four-year inquiry into the global news  channels, The Independent reported.

As a mater of fact, the Ofcom codes on due impartiality states that news, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality. Also, the funded broadcasting as per Ofcom codes leads to “inherent risk to independence and editorial integrity”.

The media regulator discovered a series of infringements of its impartiality guidelines and found that hundreds of nominal-fee programmes had been paid for by bodies ranging from United Nations departments to the Indonesian ministry of trade and a Cambodian casino firm.

It said the practice carried “inherent risk to independence and editorial integrity” and it has ordered an “industry-wide” meeting of news networks to address the matter.

The Ofcom probe, the biggest it has undertaken into television content, began after an investigation in 2011 by The Independent, which revealed that a London-based media company that had received millions of pounds from the Malaysian government for public relations work was making documentaries for the BBC on the subject of Malaysia.

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The Independent also detailed how the company, FBC Media (UK), had close ties to the American networks CNN and CNBC. Ofcom reported that both broadcasters had broken its rules on due impartiality. The regulator said it would now draw up new “best-practice guidelines” for broadcasters so that “viewers can continue to be confident in the independence of factual programming”.

The broadcaster most criticised in the findings was CNN International, which was found to have broken the code 26 times, including breaches of both the impartiality and sponsorship rules.

John Defterios, one of CNN’s leading business presenters, was a director and president of FBC from 2007 until 2011. Defterios conducted interviews on CNN with the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, in 2010 and 2011 on the shows Marketplace Middle East and Quest Means Business. John Defterios, a CNN presenter, was a director of FBC Media, which took money from the Malaysian state.

Given that “the government of Malaysia had been a client of FBC”, Ofcom ruled that “FBC’s relationship with the government of Malaysia and Defterios’s relationship with FBC would have called into question the due impartiality of the interviews”. It identified a third breach of impartiality rules in an interview Defterios conducted with the governor of Malaysia’s central bank, also on Marketplace Middle East.

Ofcom also found CNN in breach of impartiality rules over a 2009 interview by Defterios with Gamal Mubarak, son of the then Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian government’s investment authority, Gafi, was another FBC client.

The regulator also found CNN had committed more than 20 breaches of its code on sponsorship by failing to properly declare content funding by organisations ranging from the Singapore Economic Development Board to Macedonia Tourism.

In a statement, CNN said: “We welcome Ofcom’s conclusion that the way our programmes were funded did not compromise CNN International’s editorial independence.” It added that “we … accept that a very small portion of our sponsored content fell under what Ofcom categorises as current affairs, which under UK regulations may not be sponsored”.

The BBC was found to have breached Ofcom’s code on sponsorship 20 times on its World News channel, where it featured programmes underwritten by funders ranging from the Aga Khan Foundation to the International Diabetes Foundation and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. BBC World News, the broadcaster’s 24-hour global news channel, handed Ofcom details of 186 programmes supplied to it for no cost or a nominal sum (typically £1).

The regulator asked the BBC to “explain in full its practice of accepting free or nominal-cost programming and broadcasting this without sponsorship credits”. The BBC replied that this practice dated back to 1991 when World News began.

The BBC defended itself by arguing that it invariably included a “thanks to” message to the funder in the credits for the programme. Ofcom said this was insufficient.

One programme, Architects on the Frontline, was paid for by the Aga Khan Foundation, a not-for-profit development organisation set up by one of the world’s wealthiest men, and featured the boast that the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was “widely recognised as the most prestigious in its field”. Ofcom said the fact that a programme’s “interests are humanitarian and highly laudable” did not mean it was exempt from rules on declaring sponsors.

Another BBC programme, Stealing the Past, covered the traffic in stolen antiquities and featured interviews with Irina Bokova, director general of Unesco, the UN body which funded the documentary.

Ofcom’s investigation into FBC’s programmes for the BBC was hampered by the fact that the company went into liquidation months after The Independent exposé. The regulator could not find evidence that FBC specifically spent money from the millions it received from the Malaysian government on programmes it made for the BBC about Malaysia “as opposed to non-television public relations and lobbying activity”.

The BBC had previously broadcasted an on-air apology for the scandal, which was the subject of “extensive internal investigation”, it told the regulator. “We know that FBC had a PR relationship with Malaysian clients and as such we fully accept that it was not an appropriate producer of the programmes it produced for BBC World News,” it admitted. “We acknowledge that a conflict of interest existed here, in breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines and that this relationship could have undermined our editorial independence.”

The BBC said last night that it had already strengthened its procedures to protect editorial integrity. “We are pleased that Ofcom welcomes the steps we continue to apply to prevent further issues and we look forward to working with Ofcom and the other broadcasters to develop best practice guidelines to help maintain compliance with the Code in this complex area.”

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Outlook founder, journalist Vinod Mehta passes away

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By Newsgram Staff Writer

Senior journalist Vinod Mehta, editorial chairman of Outlook, passed away today. He suffered multiple organ failure and succumbed to a prolonged illness at AIIMS, New Delhi The loss of the eminent editor is being mourned by all.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, condoled the loss by tweeting ‘Frank and direct in his opinions, Shri Vinod Mehta will be remembered as a fine journalist and writer. Condolences to his family on his demise,’

Rajdeep Sardesai tweeted, ‘An iconic editor and friend passes away. Brave and irreverent till the end. Vinod Mehta RIP.’ to express his grief and respect.

‘Mourning Vinod Mehta the last of an old guard of Bombay journos who made the shift to Delhi but lost none of his irreverence or decency.’ Vir Sanghvi tweeted soon after the sad news got out.

Minister of Science and Technology, Harsh Dr.Vardhan said, ‘My heartfelt condolences to the family members of Late Sh Vinod Mehta who left for Vinod was involved in successfully launching a lot of publications like the Sunday Observer, Indian Post, The Independent, The Pioneer (Delhi edition) and Outlook.’