The belated yet breathless coverage by national television channels of events surrounding the ban on telecast of two Telugu news channels – TV9 and ABN Andhra Jyothy – provides only a partial picture of the unsavoury row. While the prime time coverage may have helped to bring the spotlight on the issue at national level, what it failed to highlight was the genesis of the problem that led to the cable operators in Telangana to block the two channels for airing offensive content amounting to insulting Telangana people, their elected representatives and their culture.
Black-out of two channels in Telangana triggers national debate on freedom of Press
While the mainstream national TV channels made out the issue as a media freedom versus the TRS government, the crux of the controversy was that the Telangana Multi-Service Operators (MSOs) had pulled the two channels off the air for their consistent anti-Telangana content. And, Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao “saluted” their decision. It was essentially an issue between the cable operators and the controversial channels. Now that the issue has grabbed national limelight, all the major national TV channels described the ban on these channels as an attempt by the Chief Minister to muzzle the media that doesn’t toes his line. Though the issue has been boiling ever since the two channels were taken off air, it flared up again on Thursday after KCR openly made it clear that the media had to respect the sentiments of Telangana and its people, culture, language, if it has to survive in the State.
The channels have to salute us (Telangana people), if they want to continue here. Otherwise, we will bury the channels 10 kilometres deep under the earth and teach a fitting lesson”
“The channels have to salute to us (Telangana people), if they want to continue here. Otherwise, we will bury the channels 10 kilometres deep under the earth and teach a fitting lesson,” said KCR while responding to protests from some women journalists belonging to these banned channels as well as others from the fraternity. KCR even dubbed the comments of these channels as “idiotic writings”. This reiteration of the stand KCR has taken three months back to ban the channels as well as the fresh threat to the media evoked protests by national media, which launched a broadside against him and some of the editors and commentators have condemned him as “undemocratic” and “authoritarian”.
At the same, KCR also made it clear that he as the CM had never imposed the ban on the channels and pointed out that it was the MSOs who took the decision as they felt the contents aired by these media as an affront to the people of the new born State. The CM even hinted at a solution by saying that the issue was currently before the Speaker of the Assembly. It may be recalled that the Assembly in June has taken offensive to a comic programme ran by TV9 which ridiculed when the newly elected legislators struggled to read the text of their oath in the House. The channel used a phrase “Pachi kallu Tagina Mohaalu” (the faces that drank toddy), provoking the members of almost all parties in the House.
Of course, the channel tendered a written apology for its remarks to the Speaker. On the other hand, the legislators were angry with a series of programmes ran by ABN-Andhra Jyothi channel during the period. Though none of the comments made by the ABN strictly fell under the category of unparliamentarily, its overall tone and tenor as well as its owner’s Telugu daily “Andhra Jyothi” offended the MLAs. The Assembly speaker clubbed the comments aired by these two channels and reserved his decision on further action against them. Meanwhile, the MSOs went ahead and banned the channels, thus denying access to close to 80 per cent public in Telangana. This has drastically reduced the viewership of the channels.
KCR’s justification of the ban as well as his open appreciation to the MSOs who have decided to block the channels is seen as a sign of aggression and open defiance to the freedom of press. The issue went to the notice of Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar who disagreed with the ban on the channels. Indian Union of Journalists secretary general D Amar submitted a memorandum to Javadekar on Thursday in Hyderabad and sought revocation of the ban on the channels. The minister assured some action in the next two days. Some media persons also called on Governor ESL Narasimhan and sought his intervention in the matter.
The issue still hangs fire. But, if one were go by the cause of provocation for the ban on the channels, it appears there has been some bad blood between the ruling TRS and the media channels. If TV9’s comments came as the final provocation, the latent anger against ABN-Andhra Jyothi’s comments both on the TV and in paper has contributed to this animosity. The channel and its sister concern, Andhra Jyothy daily, have made scathing attacks on the style of functioning of KCR and his government over the weeks. Right from finding fault with KCR for targeting people from Seemandhra in Hyderabad, the channel and its paper have blamed him for several other reasons like flight of capital from Telangana and crippling industrial atmosphere in Hyderabad city. Now, it is to be seen how the whole issue would be resolved.
TV 9: “What would happen if you screen a Hollywood movie in a multiplex to someone who is habituated to watching old movies on touring theatre? Sample this!
As our leaders saw the State Assembly for the first time from so close a distance, they got perplexed as to what expression befits the occasion – ecstasy, bafflement or horror!
Not just their body language, they became laughing stock even at the oath-taking ceremony!
Our Telangana MLAs story is similar to those sour toddy consumers who are offered best foreign brand liquor!
People voted them to power and gave a ‘short-cut entry’ into the Assembly, but the leaders scared them with their very first performance at the oath-taking ceremony!
Not straight out of their beds – thank God for that – but fumbled even to read from a paper when asked to take oath.
And on top of it, Laptops were given to such incompetents!
What will a loincloth-clad person do when offered with a Laptop? Where will he tuck it? Wonder if they shove it inside their loin or sell it somewhere! But the T-MLAs took them with both hands just as a drunkard would crave for spicy pickle!
MLAs were put to severe hardships and confusion gripped them big time once they entered the Assembly wondering where to sit and how, which way to take for wash-rooms, whether to use papers given as tissues, how to switch-off the ACs etc.!
Though there is no direct evidence of the ABN-Andhra Jyothy channel making any programme against Telangana legislators or KCR, the Cable operators have alleged that the channel had been repeatedly telecasting anti-Telangana stories, running down the people of Telangana and their elected TRS government.