Friday, 30 January 2009

IIJNM Beats - Magic Box or Tragic Box...

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As part of our coursework at the Indian Institute of Journalism & Media, we are required to shoot, edit and produce stories on our own,for the in-house bulletins.

This particular beat story is about the Magic boxes which are coming up in Bangalore. Experst and motorists alike feel that they don't really serve a purpose. They say that it is just a waste of money, as it is too narrow and hence beats the purpose.

It's Not Perfect but...

A little less conversation, a little more action please

Dilraz Kunnummal

The Indian media faced a lot of criticism following the broadcasts of the 26/11 Mumbai terror Attacks. The question now is how it can be regulated. And if the government steps in to regulate the Indian media, will we be giving in to censorship. Other instances where the media has behaved irresponsibly include the Arushi murder case and the Gujjar agitation.

During the Mumbai attacks, every channel had an exclusive of how the NSG was working to solve the crisis. It even gave away hideouts of hostages and the terrorists were able to wait at the exit points and kill them. Every move taken by Indian commandoes were telecast live. It was called ‘TV terror’. The channels seemed to be in a constant struggle for TRPs and were aggressive, to the point of making factual errors and being melodramatic.

"One of the ill effects of unrestrained coverage is that of provoking anger amongst the masses," said K.G. Balakrishnan, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of India, during a conference on terrorism in New Delhi.

In her defense, Barkha Dutt defended herself and other channels by saying that they were not neither prepared for such an attack nor were there any directives given by the government. She also said that media would welcome a framework for coverage of sensitive events.

In June 2007, police of four states, Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh filed affidavits in an effort to appease the Supreme Court, blaming media for repeated telecast of certain clippings which worsened the Gujjar-Meena quota reservation agitation and led to more violence. Rajasthan DGP AS Gill said that the television media could have helped spread the violence to far-flung areas. The Deccan Herald quoted him as saying, “The manner of telecast by the 24X7 news channels was also perhaps a contributing factor to the spread of violence to places beyond those where blockade calls were given”. Gill also asked the court to ask the Indian government to “issue direction to the government to rein in the audio-visual media in the better interest of society”. According to him, the telecasts did not help in anyway to bring about peace or harmony.

This also brings about the question of what should be telecast. Are gory images acceptable during prime time news, when children can be watching? Or should warnings be given in case the images are gruesome.

There should also be some regulations to decide what’s breaking news. It should be made unacceptable if a channel broadcasts a fight between bollywood starlets as breaking news. Similarly, in this age of fight for TRPs, every channel makes every issue an ‘Exclusive’. This needs to be checked.

The News Broadcasting Authority set up a News Broadcasting Standards [Disputes Redressal] Authority to act as an independent regulator. It will be chaired by former chief justice, JS Verma and has started operating since October 2, 2008. Other members include eminent personalities like Kiran Karnik [former NASSCOM president], Nitin Desai [economist], Dipanker Gupta [Sociologist] and Ramachandra Guha [Historian]. It will also include prominent editors like Vinod Kapri of India TV, B. V. Rao of Zee News, Milind Khandekar of Star News and Arnab Goswami of Times Now. They revealed a new set of rules and guidelines for broadcasting channels. The guidelines ban broadcasting of footage that could reveal security operations and live contact with hostages or attackers.

This is more acceptable to the channels as peers are doing the review and also because impact the credibility of a channel. According to Annie Joseh, NBA’s Secretary, the government cannot be allowed to censor what is being telecast as most include lapses of the government. She also added that any interference from the government would "imperil not just independent journalism, but the very process of investigation itself.” So, it is imperative that the guidelines are set down by the members of the media and that they themselves are the watchdogs.

Government cannot be allowed to interfere in the fourth estate, but there definitely is a need for some sort of regulators for the Indian broadcast industry, especially in a country like this one where illiteracy rides high.

[This appeared in the in-house newspaper of the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, on January 22 2009. It came as a news-analysis piece on the opinion & editorial page]

Dirty Tricks


Is India turning into a banana republic? How could a former prime minister of India not know of constitutional propriety? Janata Dal (S) chief HD Deve Gowda sent private letters to the chief justice and other judges of the Karnataka High Court challenging an infrastructure project that he opposed while his party was in government. The case is being currently adjudicated so Deva Gowda’s action amounts to contempt of court, or a disregard for the due process of law.
From the time the project was sanctioned by his predecessor and arch-rival S M Krishna, Deve Gowda has been trying to scuttle it. His argument is that 2,289 acres of land sanctioned by the Congress government is in excess of that required for the Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor Project (BMICP). Deve Gowda authored a booklet, BMICP - A case study in fraud and collusion to defeat the ends of justice and defraud courts, copies of which he sent to the judges.
Deve Gowda has a legitimate argument that there are several defects in the BMICP project, but how could he have not known that it is a violation of judicial procedure to privately lobby judges on a matter under adjudication? Chief Justice P.D Dinakaran pointedly asked, “When the matter is pending before this Bench, how can he write such a letter?” He added that Deve Gowda should have come to the court or filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) if he was aggrieved.
The Supreme Court has, in principle, ruled in the favor of the BMICP and handed the case over to the Karnataka High Court. Although the High Court has converted Deve Gowda’s letter into a PIL, and the case will be heard on February 2, the court expressed shock at his naivete. It does not speak much for him that despite being a former prime minister and chief minister, Deve Gowda has such little understanding of the law of the land. The rough and tumble of Indian politics is fraying the Constitution at the edges. The Supreme Court has become increasingly wary of this. Perhaps the Karnataka High Court should not have been so lenient.
[This appeared in the in-house newspaper of the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media on January 15, 2009. It came as the leader on the opinion & editorial page. Picture courtesy - Google images]

Dance Me to the Moon


Salsa sweeps Bangalore and with it so much hypocrisy out the door

By Dilraz Kunnummal

For thousands of years, the temples of Khajuraho and Konarak have displayed the most sexually explicit sculpture in the world. Yet India is reknowned as the world capital of prudery and denial. The Bollywood formula is driven by lust, but not a kiss allowed.

So what is Salsa doing here? In typically contradictory fashion, the sensual Latin dance form is big if not getting bigger as the first annual Salsa festival hits Mysore, South India's citadel of conservatism.

The first World Salsa Championship Qualifiers in India were held in Bangalore between August 15 and18 this year, putting the country square on the world Salsa map. Bindhu Prasanna & Madan Kumar won the competition, and will represent India at the ESPN World Salsa Championship 2008 in Orlando, Florida in December.

Salsa, Spanish for 'sauce' is fun, flirty, lively and sexy, making it popular with couples, and it's also a good excuse to get dressed up in colourful traditional costumes. It's also a pretty decent workout.

Salsa is the latest fad to hit the dance studios of Bangalore, though it was first introduced on the subcontinent in the late nineties. Today, the dance has taken off, evinced by the numerous training centers popping up all over the country thanks to publicity generated by events like August's world qualifiers.

Aside from the many new studios in the city dedicated to Salsa, Bangalore's nightclubs have caught on to the trend with special Salsa nights, where debutantes can show their stuff after school lets out.

"Everyone seems to be joining Salsa classes these days," says Sonam, a 21 year old student, who has recently joined the fervor. "It's a fun form of dancing and is a nice place to meet new people and make new friends."

Lourd Vijays Dance Studio (LVDS) is one of the most popular dance studios in the city. Lourd Vijay, a dancer whose first performance was at age 3, opened the studio about ten years ago, when the dance was still largely unknown in India.

"I was fascinated by this unique Latin American dance form," he told The Hindu, a newspaper. "Initially, I used to practice it on my own. Later, while studying for an MBA in Vancouver, I enrolled for classes and enjoyed it a great deal."

Sneha Kapoor & Richard Tholoor are two well-known faces on the Indian Salsa circuit. They have been on a winning spree not just in India, but abroad as well. They won the Australian Salsa Classic 2007, the European Salsa Masters Championship in the UK, and were the first Indians to qualify for the world Salsa Championship 2007 held at Orlando.

For Sneha, Salsa started out as a hobby, but she soon began to take it more seriously, and has been dancing professionally for the past three years. She is also Vice President of Operations for Lourd Vijay's dance studio.

"The flavor of Salsa reflected my personality. I felt free and I could express myself freely while dancing it," she says. Aside from the dance itself, the opportunity affords her to travel for shows, meet new dancers form around the world and make new friends in the process.

Sneha says people now are more interested in doing something different from their 'regular routine' and many of the students come from the IT industry. She says there is no age limit for those wishing to get a taste of the fiery Latin groove, and LVDS teaches students as old as 65-70.

For those who are good enough, Salsa can lead down paths beyond the classroom. Salsa dancers are often invited by corporations and clubs to perform at their events. Some lucky Bangaloreans can even make a living out of it.

Aside from LVDS, studios like Prithvee & Rees, Dance Studio Inc and Salsa Bangalore all offer training with flexible schedules.

So no more procrastinating, put on your dancing shoes and head to any of Bangalore's Salsa studios, spice up your weekly schedule and get saucy with the latest dance craze to sweep the subcontinent.

[This was printed in the in-house newspaper of the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, on 17 November 2008, in the Arts & Culture Supplement, Image Courtesy - Sneha Kapoor, LVDS]