February 6, 2018

By Kedar Mishra

By standard media ethics a media house must remain as a neutral watchdog and stay away from the power sharing. Unfortunately most of our media houses are in a horrible race to surrender their autonomy and want to be there to follow their master’s voices. Bending and crawling to power has become new standard norms and there are very few exceptions who survive with old ethical order.
In Odisha, Odisha Television (popularly known as OTV), a media company promoted by corporate giant and Lok Sabha MP Baijayant Panda and his family is taking a strong moral stand against ruling party of Odisha.

Particularly after Baijayant’s suspension from BJD, OTV has gone all out to demolish the BJD government’s reputation and they bring every small and big issue with great packaging skill to corner the government. There is no harm in blaming government or asking difficult questions to the ruling establishment, but a loud question emerges – why now? Why not before?

On Sunday the OTV anchor in a full-throated news package says that “The presence of Bipin Bihari Mishra, who was earlier grilled by CBI in Seashore chit fund scam, at the book presentation ceremony of Tall Man Biju Patnaik in Mumbai on Saturday has now raised a few eyebrows in Odisha.

Mishra, chief of Suryakhethra Foundation, was spotted sitting besides several BJD leaders including Health Minister Pratap Jena and party spokesperson Debasish Samantaray at the mega event.” Absolutely fine, media must take note of who is sitting with whom in the power corridors.

Somehow, Mishra was asked by the CBI to explain “for his foundation receiving a donation of Rs 1 lakh from Seashore Group in the past“, revealed the same OTV source. Taking donation from a dubious company is unacceptable and the foundation which received money must be legally grilled by the competent authorities.

The larger question comes if taking 1 Lakh rupees donation from a tainted chit fund company is a crime, what about the millions of rupees which was taken as sponsorship money or advertisement revenue from the tainted companies like the Artha Tattwa and the Seashore by the major media houses of Odisha, including the OTV?

Was it so ethical to take the Artha Tattwa as prime sponsor for more than one events organised by the news channel few years back? Didn’t we remember that much discussed TV byte of Artha Tattwa CMD Pradip Sethi where he said that a leading television channel has taken 5.5 crores from him?

Didn’t we see the marketing managers of so many media houses standing in a long queue in the Bhubaneswar office of CBI to explain the amount they had received from those fraud companies? Didn’t the so called moralist channels promote events/products and personalities from those tainted companies?

It’s too convenient to lecture on morality, but to really be a moral one. The leading TV channel has done a big disservice to Odia society by promoting criminals as achievers or saints. It is very much remembered that a fake godman who was later caught by police for committing fraud and sexual exploitation was the star speaker in one of the OTV’s sister channels.

The same criminal was also being awarded as a great saint by the same media house in a sophisticated event. For so many months OTV showed an advertisement where a certain entrepreneur was shown as “the maker of modern Odisha” but the same man later ended up in jail for cheating thousands of people.

If we make a list of “immoral and unethical conducts” of the OTV, it will certainly not be a smaller one. So before lecturing on morality it will be better if the competent editors of the same media house look at their own history of immorality.

(Kedar Mishra is a freelance journalist, writer and art critic)

February 6, 2018 0 Comment

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