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Views Articles Media: Nepotism And Patronage Rule The Roost

Media: Nepotism And Patronage Rule The Roost

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This information landed on my lap via Orkut in 2009. Prima facie, it could be dismissed as a rant by a social media user envious of formally trained journalists. But the mutual relationships mentioned herein are not untrue. It was a bit dated. So I am updating the statuses wherever necessary. No wonder the mainstream media had to brave constant attacks on its integrity and objectivity. This seems nothing less than a wide-spawning clique of the ruling establishment. How can we rely on these people to deliver us dispassionate, unmotivated, neutral information and opinion?

We are reproducing the message because Sirf News has been launched with the promise that it would highlight things not published or broadcast by the mainstream media, even as journalists gossip which peers of theirs have been placed in what offices owing to which familial bond he or she shares with a certain honcho.

New Delhi-based media houses: Suzanna Arundhati Roy is the niece of Prannoy Roy, the co-founder and executive co-chairperson of NDTV. Prannoy Roy is married to Radhika Roy who is the sister of Brinda Karat of the CPI(M). The general secretary of this party is Prakash Karat CPI(M).  The CPI(M)’s senior member of the politburo and the parliamentary group leader is Sitaram Yechury who is married to Seema Chishti who, in turn, is the resident editor of The Indian Express. She was the Delhi editor of BBC Hindi Service before she joined the Express.

Rajdeep Sardesai is the editor-in-chief of IBN, the Indian partner of CNN-IBN. He was with NDTV before this. How did he become such a prominent face in the media? Sardesai is married to Sagrika Ghose who is the daughter of Bhaskar Ghose, who was director-general of Prasar Bharti at the time of this matrimonial union. Either in jest or seriously, she told the DNA newspaper in an interview, “Rajdeep and I were classmates at Oxford and he always copied my notes. It was tough being known as ‘Rajdeep’s wife’. But he’s such a big sweetie that I don’t mind a bit!” Beyond that, it’s not my conspiracy theory. The whole journalistic fraternity says Sagarika’s father catapulted his son-in-law to glory.

Sagarika Ghose’s aunt is Ruma Pal who is a former justice of the Supreme Court. Arundhati Ghose is another aunt of hers. This aunt was India’s permanent representative/ambassador to the United Nations.

Dilip D’Souza, a Mumbai-based writer and journalist who writes on social and political issues in The Sunday Observer, Rediff[dot]com, Outlook, Mid-Day, Hindustan Times, indiatogether[dot]org, The Caravan and other publications, was a member of the Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFD). His father was Joseph Bain D’Souza who was former Maharastra Chief Secretary and activist. Teesta Setalvad is a member of the PIPFD. She is married to Javed Anand. Teesta and Javed run Sabrang Communications. Javed Anand is general secretary of the outfit, Muslims for Secular Democracy. Javed Akhtar is a spokesperson for Muslims for Secular Democracy and is married to Shabana Azmi.

Karan Thapar owns ITV that produces shows for the BBC. His father was General Pran Nath Thapar, the Chief of Army Staff during the 1962 India-China war. The presenter of programmes like “The Devil’s Advocate” and “The Last Word” was a friend of late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. Karan Thapar boasts of his family ‘connections’, too. His mother was Bimla Bashiram before marriage, the eldest daughter of Rai Bahadur Bashiram Sahgal and granddaughter of Rai Bahadur Ramsaran Das. Bimla Thapar was a sister of Gautam Sahgal, whose wife Nayantara Sahgal was a daughter of Vijayalakshmi Pandit and niece of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Actor Rahul Bose is the brother-in-law of Khalid Ansari who is the chairman of Mid-Day Group of Publication based in Mumbai and of MC Media Ltd, which has a joint venture with BBC for FM radio broadcasting. Ansari’s father was Abdul Hameed Ansari, a Congressman when alive. John Dayal, the All India Catholic Union’s national vice president and secretary-general of the All India Christian Council (AICC), worked as a journalist with the Delhi edition of Mid-Day.

South of the Vindhyas: Narasimhan Ram is the Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu. Ram’s first wife was Susan. An Irish by nationality, she was in charge of Oxford University Press publications in India. Their daughter is Vidya Ram, a journalist. Ram is now married to Mariam. Jennifer Arul and KM Roy along with Ram participated in the closed-door Catholic Bishops Conference of India in Thrissur, Kerala. Arul is the resident editor and bureau chief in south India for NDTV and also a chief operating officer for Astro Awani, an Indonesian news-and-information channel. KM Roy, a reporter in The Hindu, is the general editor of the Mangalam Group of Publications, which was started by MC Varghese. Roy received the All India Catholic Union Lifetime Award from Dayal’s outfit mentioned above.

AICC’s President is Joseph D’souza who founded Dalit Freedom Network (DFN) in the US and participated in the inaugural Religious Freedom Day attended by former Republican Senator Rick Santorum. The AICC claims that the Confederation of SC/ST Organisations (India), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (UK) and Release International (UK) are its sister organisations. Release International states it supplies the Bible and Christian literature for evangelism. Dalit Freedom Network (DFN) partners with Operation Mobilisation India whose regional director (south India) is Kumar Swamy, the State president of the Communal Harmony Committee. Swamy served the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission. OM India’s North India Regional Director is Moses Parmar who served as public relations officer (north India) of the AICC. OM seeks to plant and strengthen churches in areas of the world where Christ is least known. Its ministries work with Dalit-Bahujan people in this country.

The Operation Mercy Charitable Company (OMCC) grew out of OM India. It works with the DFN that has Dr Kancha Illaiah, a professor in Osmania University, Hyderabad, on its advisory board.  It also has William L Armstrong, a former Republican US Senator from Colorado, on its Advisory Board. Armstrong is currently the President of Colorado Christian University. One of the strategic objectives of this varsity is to share the “love of Christ” around the world. The DFN has Udit Raj on its advisory board. Raj claims Joseph Pitts is a great friend of India. Joseph Pitts is a Republican US Congressman from Pennsylvania. Pitts had sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice, then-Secretary of State of the US, requesting that the country denied a visa to Narendra Modi. Pitts, who has also led a Congressional delegation to Pakistan and India, is founder and co-chairman of the Kashmir Forum. He, along with Congressman John Conyers from Michigan’s 14th congressional district that contains Dearborn, with the largest Arab Americans for a city of its size, introduced legislation condemning actions of Modi during the riots of Gujarat in 2002. Raj joined the BJP and was made the Lok Sabha election candidate from the north-west Delhi reserved constituency against the wishes of the party cadre. He used to be a member of National Integration Council, Government of India; he continues to be national chairman of the Buddha Education Foundation and the All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations. Raj leads the Dalit International Foundation and the Lord Buddha Club. He was part of an international Steering Committee on Kashmir promoted by Majid Tramboo. The DFN has Baroness Caroline Cox on its Advisory Board, who is Deputy Speaker, House of Lords, England.

Most members of the racket above are regularly invited as ‘experts’ in debates on prime-time television and in op-ed columns of newspapers.

Suhasini Haidar, foreign affairs specialist on IBN, is the daughter of Subramanian Swamy and daughter-in-law of Salman Haidar.

Pakistani journalist, formerly working with The Nation, Nadira Alvi married novelist VS Naipaul. She assassinated Maj Gen Amir Faisal Alvi’s sister. The major general was once the chief of Pakistan’s elite SSG.

Resalat and Ettela’at are Tehran-based Persian dailies that signed MoUs with Siyasat and Munif, Hyderbad-based dailies. Toseh is another Persian daily. It collaborates with Vaarta. The latter is one of the dailies from AGA Publications Pvt Ltd, one of the companies in the Sanghi Group co-promoted by Gireesh Sanghi and brothers. Sanghi was a Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh in the Rajya Sabha and also the All India Vaish Federation (AIVF) national president. Mahendra Mohan Gupta, chairman of the Dainik Jagaran Group, is on the Advisory Board of AIVF.

The Ramoji Group is headed by Ramoji Rao, and chairman of Eenadu, the largest Telugu news daily in Andhra Pradesh. The Group also owns the ETV Network that produces content in Telugu, Bangla, Marathi, Kannada, Oriya, Gujarati, and Hindi. Ramoji is reported to be close to N Chandrababu Naidu and supported by the Telugu Desam Party. The parent company of Ushodaya Enterprises Pvt. Ltd, with a reported investment of Rs 600 crore from the Blackstone Group, is the Ramoji Group.

Deccan Chronicle Holdings Ltd (DCHL) brings out The Deccan Chronicle newspaper. It also publishes Andhra Bhoomi, a Telugu newspaper, and The Asian Age. DCHL is a publishing partner of The New York Times. It also publishes The International Herald Tribune from the New York Times Co that joined The Financial Chronicle as a partner with the Mumbai launch with a daily four-page IHT World Business supplement incorporating news, features and analysis on global policies, business and markets. T Venkatram Reddy, the Chairman of DCHL, is former MP, Rajya Sabha, from the Congress. MJ Akbar, who joined the BJP recently and said he was once misinformed by the media bout Modi, was the editor-in-chief of The Deccan Chronicle and The Asian Age. Akbar is also founder and chairman of the fortnightly The Covert. He has worked with The Times of India and The Telegraph. He was a Congress MLA between 1989 and 1991. He joined the Brookings Institution, Washington, in 2006, as a Visiting Fellow on US Policy Towards the Islamic World. Furthermore, he was a member of the Forum of Islamic Scholars and Intellectuals held in Makkha al-Mukaramma in 2005. His wife is Mallika Joseph who worked with The Times of India.

The late YS Rajasekhara Reddy was the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. YSR was from Congress. His father Raja Reddy set up a degree college and a Polytechnic in Pulivendula. YSR said that his one-year study at the Andhra Loyola College (ALC), a Jesuit institution, influenced him so much that he handed over the Pulivendula colleges to the Loyola Group. His family established several educational institutions in Andhra Pradesh. YSR’s daughter is Sharmila who married Anil Kumar who converted to Christianity after the marriage and set up the Anil World Evangelism and is an active evangelist. YSR’s son is YS Jagan Mohan Reddy who was a Youth Congress leader who went on to float his own party citing ‘betrayal’ of his father’s legacy by the party the family originally belonged to. YS Jagan is the chairman of Jagati Publications Pvt Ltd (JPPL) that publishes the newspaper Sakshi. Bhumna Karunakara Reddy, close to the late YSR, is the chairman of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. TDP chief Naidu claimed that Lanco group was forced to invest in JPPL. What is Lanco? Its vice-chairman is L Sridhar whose brother is L Rajagopal, the chairman of the group, who joined Congress in 2003. The Congress connection does not end there. Rajagopal is the son-in-law of P Upendra, a former minister from the Congress.

Andhra Prabha is a Telugu newspaper started in 1938 and owned by The New Indian Express Group. Andhra Jyothi is another Telugu newspaper. Its managing director is Vemuri Radhakrishna who has been accused of being a political broker while he was, as a reporter of Andhra Jyothi, on the TDP beat. The sting operations he conducts or commissions for CBN are allegedly a tool of blackmail.

SUN TV Network is owned by Kalanidhi Maran, the chairman and managing director of SUN TV Network that owns Sun TV, Gemini TV, Teja TV, Surya TV, Kiran TV, Udaya TV and Surjo TV among other channels. Maran also owns the Tamil daily Dinakaran that was started by a former DMK Minister KP Kandasamy. Maran’s brother is Dayanidhi Maran who was Minister of Communications and IT in the UPA Government-1. Kalanidhi Maran’s father was Murasoli Maran, a Union Minister from the DMK party in the NDA Government.
Murasoli Maran edited a Tamil daily Murasoli and English weekly The Rising Sun. As a publisher, Murasoli Maran published these Tamil magazines: Kungumam, Muththaram, Vannathirai and Sumangali. Murasoli Maran’s uncle is M Karunanidhi, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Karunanidhi launched Kalaignar TV in 2007. His now estranged son MK Alagiri owns it. Kanimozhi is one of the daughters of Karunanidhi who was a sub-editor with The Hindu and editor in-charge of Kungumam, a Tamil weekly. Kanimozhi became a Rajya Sabha member in 2007 and conducted programs in SUN TV and Vijay TV. Her second husband G Aravindan is a Singapore-based Tamil literary figure. Dina Thanthi, a Tamil daily, was founded by SP Aditanar whose second son is Sivanthi Athithan who owns Dina Thanthi.

Aditanar had launched Tamil evening daily Malai Murasu. He further set up Malar Publications Ltd that brings out the Tamil evening newspaper Malai Malar. Balasubramanian Adityan, son of Sivanthi Athithan, manages Malar Publications Ltd. Adityan set up Air Media Network Pvt Ltd that is into cable distribution, content productions and broadcasting; it owns AMN TV. AMN has produced content for FM stations, All India Radio, Doordarshan, Vijay TV. Dina Mani is a Tamil newspaper owned by The New Indian Express Group which, in turn, owns Kannadaprabha, Andhraprabha, Malaylamvarikha, Indiavarta, Expressbuzz, Cinemaexpress and Tamilanexpress.

STAR Vijay TV, a Tamil TV channel once owned by STAR TV. STAR is owned by News Corporation based in Hong Kong. News Corporation is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Fox Entertainment Group is a subsidiary of News Corporation. It owns Fox News in the US. Fox News is a conservative, pro-church, Republican Party channel in America. Moreover, News Corporation owns The Wall Street Journal.

Jaya TV is a Tamil TV channel, owned by the Jaya Network whose owner is J Jayalalithaa (of the AIADMK), these days the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Makkal TV is owned by Makkal Tholaikatchi and run by Pattali Makkal Katchi. It belongs to Anbumani Ramadoss’s party.

Asianet Communications Limited (ACL) has a majority stake in Asianet TV. ACL is owned by Jupiter Entertainment Ventures Limited (JEVL), a subsidiary of Jupiter Capitals Ltd. The other media outlets of ACL are Asianet News, Asianet Plus, Best FM 95, Asianet Suvarna, Suvarna News, Asianet Sitara and Sitara News. Rajeev Chandrasekhar is the founder and chairman of Jupiter Capital. He entered the Rajya Sabha in 2006. His uncle is MK Narayanan, former National Security Advisor who had headed the Intelligence Bureau from 1987 to 1990, and now Governor of West Bengal.

That ends the list. I omitted a section that was about another NGO gang that is not quite connected to the media. Now let’s study some of the present prominent faces on national television.

Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief and news anchor of Times Now, is a well-connected journalist, too. His paternal grandfather, Rajani Kanta Goswami, was a lawyer and Congress leader. His maternal grandfather, Gauri Sankar Bhattacharya, the Leader Of The Opposition in Assam for many years, was a writer and a recipient of the Asam Sahitya Sabha Award. Arnab Goswami’s father is Col Manoranjan, a BJP member who contested the 1998 Lok Sabha Polls as the party’s candidate for the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat in Assam.

NDTV’s political editor Barkha Dutt was born to SP Dutt, an official in Air India and Prabha Dutt, a journalist with the Hindustan Times. Barkha’s younger sister, Bahar Dutt, is also a television journalist working for CNN-IBN. While this is one of the cleanest records so far, clear of nepotism of politicians, Barkha’s career does suffer the blemish of the infamous Radia Tapes, wherein she was overheard acquiescing in to corporate communication executive Niira Radia’s urge to place some politician the latter’s client wanted to see in the Union Ministry.

Accused of the same wrongdoing, Vir Sanghvi, once the chief editor of The Hindustan Times, was himself taken aback when India Today asked him to start Bombay, India’s first city magazine, at the age of 22. What was India Today enamoured with? His degree from Brasenose College, Oxford? Nah! In 1978, he hadn’t completed the course yet. In an article titled, “The Foreign Hands,” on 22 July 2006, Sanghvi revealed his parents were communists: “My parents were trendy Lefties with communist links, so I have no difficulty in believing that the so-called ‘progressive’ lobby was happy to parrot whatever Moscow said — all this in the name of global revolution.” Remember, the 1970s’ Indian state was just short of a stooge of the Soviet Union.

The list is endless. Whichever newspaper or television news channel one peeps into, the top shot turns out to be politically connected, and those who play the second fiddle are related to them, rising later on to top positions in the same or a different media house.

Nepotism and patronage being the order of the media today, it’s not surprising the social media dismisses the whole lot as “paid” whenever they take a political stand. The ‘payment’, of course, is made mostly in kind, not in cash. Perhaps the solution to the malaise is open entrance examinations for recruitment to media houses followed by an online declaration of results and justifications corresponding to the selection of each candidate.

Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta
The founder of सिर्फ़ News has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life and columnist in various newspapers and magazines, writing in English as well as Hindi. He was the national affairs editor of Swarajya, 2014-16. He worked with Hindusthan Samachar in 2017. He was the first chief editor of Sirf News and is now back at the helm after a stint as the desk head of MyNation of the Asianet group. He is a mathematician by training with interests in academic pursuits of science, linguistics and history. He advocates individual liberty and a free market in a manner that is politically feasible. His hobbies include Hindi film music and classical poetry in Bengali, English, French, Hindi and Urdu.

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