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A Goebbels in DD? - The Hindustan Times

Editorial ()
25 January 1997

Title : A Goebbels in DD?
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Hindustan Times
Date : January 25, 1997

The crude manner in which Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee's views
expressed on the Netaji's centenary function on Thursday
were blacked out by Doordarshan ominously points to the
presence of a Goebbels at eh head of the Information and
Broadcasting Ministry. Of course, Mr C.M. Ibrahim nowhere
approximates to anyone's concept of Hitler's infamous
propaganda aide. But then neither does Mr Deve Gowda
approximate to anyone's concept of Hitler. But the point
is that every person who by fortune blessed becomes the
Minister for Information and Broadcasting starts thinking
he owns the country's radio and television. While it
would be only fair to give Doordarshan the benefit of the
doubt that it could well be a technical fault which
denied viewers the opportunity to see and hear Mr
Vajpayee's remarks on Netaji. Seven months age, a whole
news bulletin was cancelled because the Karnataka Chief
Minister criticised the expulsion of Mr R.K. Hedge from
the Janata Dal. Doordarshan's own record of blacking out
Opposition viewpoints has not been exemplary enough to
set aside all doubts.

Granting that it is a calculated act of censorship, it is
only logical to trace it to Mr Ibrahim rather than to
anyone in the State-owned television organisation. In
fact, Mr Ibrahim has made no secret of his plans to use
the medium for the sole benefit and a positive projection
of the Union Government. Censorship and tailoring of news
would be a natural corollary to that kind of an attitude.
Other I and B Ministers have done the same thing in a
subtle way. But Mr Ibrahim, like perhaps Mr V. C. Shukla
during the Emergency days, does not believe in subtlety
or finesse. So news manipulation and partisan projection
of people and events over Doordarshan would continue
despite the fact that television viewers these days have
credible alternative news bulletins to switch on to.

All that makes nonsense of the United Front Government's
pledge to bring forward an amended Prasar Bharati Bill
promising some element of autonomy for the official
electronic media. With all its constraints in recent
times, Doordarshan has brought in a semblance of
professionalism in its coverage of events cutting across
party politics. Ultimately, of course, Doordarshan will
have to reckon with growing competition from private
network and willy-nilly improve its programmes and news
coverage. But the Ibrahims of this world can cause
sufficient havoc during their stay in Shastri Bhawan to
damage the medium's credibility as well as the morale of
the staff. The Government owes an apology to Mr Vajpayee
even as it owns an explanation to the viewing public of
India for what happened on Thursday.

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