TV5: Advance, cash or cheque?

TV5: Advance, cash or cheque?

cobrapost |
May 25, 2018

Running a hate campaign comes easy when the price is right

Srinivas Murthy, Vice President (Marketing), TV5, Hyderabad

The 24´7 Telugu TV news channel was launched on 2 October 2007 by B.R. Naidu, who has business interests in travel, manufacturing and infrastructure development. Inaugurated by TSR, the channel telecasts hourly news bulletins and 30 special news bulletins. With bureaus in Hyderabad, Vizag and Vijayawada, the channel boasts of a team of 294 reporters spread across Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, while claiming to be the No. 1 Telugu news channel. Senior journalist Pushp Sharma visited TV5’s Hyderabad office to meet Vice Presiedent Srinivas Murthy. While explaining his agenda to Murthy, the journalist tells him that one of the three main requirements of his campaign is promotion of soft Hindutva through preachings of the Bhagwad Gita and Lord Krishna. You can run 20–30 second long FCTs on your channel specially created to serve the purpose, so that it helps create a congenial atmosphere in our favour. This will be released by the Shrimad Bhagwad Gita Prachar Samiti. Agreeing, Murthy says: “Okay. 30 second ka FCT jo hai aap mujhe wo material laakar aap mujhe denge (Okay. You will provide me the material for that 30 second long FCT).” Yes, that is ready with me in the form of audio, the journalist informs him.

After the first soft Hindutva phase will follow the semi-political phase, the journalist tells him. In this phase of our campaign, our political rivals such as the Congress, the BSP and the SP will have to be thrashed. You have to run a sustained campaign against their leaders. But it has to be done in a subtle manner using their nick names such as Pappu, and when you use such names as Pappu, people immediately understand what its stands for. Seconding his client, Murthy says: “Pappu of India bole toh wahi ayega (When you say Pappu of India, they will know what it means).” Yes, you got it right, the journalist tells him. We don’t need to be direct while attacking our opponents, and then everybody what Pappu means. So, you will have to create a new property for this kind of character assassination, for instance, “Pappu Returns”, for instance, on the pattern of “So Sorry” on Aaj Tak. Murthy agrees to create such an intellectual property as he says: “Property banaana hai theek hai (We have to create a property, all right).” Yes, the journalist tells him, so that we can damage the credibility of Rahul Gandhi and his Congress party. “Okay, one anti-Congress property [hitting] indirectly,” says Murthy. Yes, the journalist informs him, and its major character will be Pappu. “Okay, theek hai (Okay, it is fine),” we hear him say. So, for the first two phases, that is, promotion of Hindutva and semi-political, we have set aside a budget of Rs. 6 crore for your channel, the journalist tells him. For the third phase, we will increase this budget. Responding with a crisp “Theek hai (It is fine),” as their client the journalist is talking to him, Murthy ventures to ask: “Ye payment kaisa rahega (How this payment will be made).” Fully in advance, he is told. “Advance, cash or cheque?” asks Murthy. Fully cash, the journalist tells him. Says Murthy: “Theek hai (It is fine).”

As the discussion on the agenda moves on, referring to the commercial on soft-Hindutva Murthy asks: “Ye semi-political jo hai Hindu dharm mein nahi daal sakte (This semi-political [jingle] cannot be used for [the promotion] of the Hindu religion)?” Yes, this is not meant for that phase, he is informed. “Khali aapka news mein chalega … Telugu aur Kannada mein dalenge (You mean this will be run only in the news … we will broadcast it in Telugu and Kannada),” he again asks. Yes, the journalist makes it clear to him, and when there are debates or panel discussions on your channel, do support us against the Congress which you can bash relentlessly. If you expect the budget to be increased, we will be only happy to do that. Agreeing Murthy says: “Theek hai (It is fine).” In order to gain the trust of his client, Murthy reveals: “Aapka jo demonetization mein jo hai na TV9 wala jo hai aapko ekdum negative kiya. Aapke Telangana-Andhra Pradesh mein ek hee channel TV5 jo hai demonetization ka positive diya hai that days and uske liye humara chairman sahib ko Modiji ne bulaya (Your demonetization got a negative coverage by TV9 here. There was only TV5 in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh which gave a positive coverage to demonetization in that [sic] days. For this, Modiji personally invited our chairman [over to Delhi]).” That is why I have approached you, the journalist tells him before taking his leave.

The story does not end here, as you may be thinking. A month later, Sharma called the TV5 vice president over phone to see if Murthy is still alive to the nefarious agenda which he had agreed to undertake in his meeting with the journalist in his office. Pleasantries over, the journalist comes back to his agenda and asks him to note down two points which Murthy needed to take care of. One, we have certain alliance partners. You know TDP has parted ways with us, and there are leaders of small parties like Anupriya Patel of UP’s Apna Dal. Then there is Upendra Kushwaha form Bihar. What you do is run stories against all these alliance partners, so our party gains an upper hand on them. Agreeing, Murthy says: “Okay, okay.”

Hope you got my point, the journalist asks him.

Yes, positively yes yes yes. Ye Bihar ko Bihar ka kya matlab hai apne usmein (Yes, positively yes yes yes. What this Bihar man has to do with us here)?” says Murthy while asking a pertinent question. He is intelligent to know it well how running down some politician from far off Bihar in an Andhra-based vernacular channel is going to help the client’s party. But Murthy is not intelligent enough to call it a bluff. Their client journalist smartly dodges the pinpointed question by saying that TV5 has a big audience around the country. Agreeing, Murthy asks: “Accha ye content kahan se milega (Okay, how we will get this kind of content).” It will be delivered to you there in Hyderabad itself by one of our pointman, the journalist assures him. “Theek hai, acchi baat hai (Okay, it is fine),” says a satisfied Murthy.

After securing his agreement on this count, the journalist now comes to the second point. You see, of late there have been farmers protests across the country. Link these protests with Naxalites or Maoists, he tells Murthy, so that their protests are taken something as sponsored or provoked and as such are not a result of their anger against our government. “Accha, accha, accha (Okay, okay, okay),” we hear him say in agreement. Another favorite topic for the journalist is Aadhar. Now, coming to Aadhar, he tells Murthy that their channel has to support the government stand on the scheme even if the Supreme Court passes an adverse verdict on it. Murthy is happy to do that as well: “Theek hai Sir, acchi baat hai (Okay Sir, it is fine).”

So, we have a channel, TV5, the top executive of which is happy to run an agenda that has potential to cause polarization among the electorate to the benefit a particular political party while it undertakes character assassination of certain individual politicians by either caricaturing them or by running down them down in their news stories. Even farmers will not be spared.

Can paid news get any ugly?

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