#PrimetimeWatch: Controversy Over Pakistan's F-16 Jets, Chopper Scam Dominate TV Time

A daily round-up of trends and patterns on news television.

New Delhi: The Indian Air Force on Friday countered claims in an article in Foreign Policy that US personnel had accounted for all the Pakistani F-16 fighter jets. The article refuted India’s claim that one such jet was downed during the February 27 aerial battle. IAF sources responded by telling the media that there were radio signatures and communication to show that the pilot of a Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft did eject.

At an election rally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused the top Congress leadership of receiving kickbacks in the AgustaWestland chopper deal. “Persons who received kickbacks in the case and are mentioned in the charge sheet are ‘AP’ and ‘FAM’. The same chargesheet mentions ‘AP’ means Ahmed Patel and ‘FAM’ means family,” he said.

How did the media report these stories, and more?

English channels


The channel had a discussion of the Foreign Policy article and IAF’s explanation.

Anchor Nidhi Razdan said Foreign Policy is a very well-respected magazine but did not quote anyone in the story – which was only source based.

NDTV’s defence editor Vishnu Som explained the IAF’s stand. He said from the data of the surveillance aircraft which were engaged in the operation, IAF has revealed that they could track Abhinandan’s Mig-Bison and an F-16 in one frame. But in another frame, the F-16 was missing. India had claimed that Abhinandan had shot down the F-16 before his own Bison was hit and went down in Pakistani territory.

Som also insisted that “tactical radio signals” of IAF pointing to one of the F-16s not returning to the base. “Radar track of F-16 disappears” was one of the headlines the channel ran.

It also spoke to deputy director of Wilson Centre, Michael Kugelman, who said the Foreign Policy findings “hurts India’s narrative on Balkot and post-Balakot air skirmish”. “The optics for India are pretty worrisome here – these are very credible reports,” he said.

The channel also had other headlines like “IAF: Multiple parachutes seen in air”, “IAF: Abhinandan landed 6 kms from Pak pilot landing” and “IAF: One pilot was Indian, others were Pak” to refer to IAF’s claims.

Also read: IAF Refutes US Report on Pakistan’s F-16 Jets, Says Radio Signature Confirms Downed Aircraft

Defence expert Ajai Shukla said, “IAF speaking on the issue now means it wanted to put its case out but was being held back. Moreover, it has only put out technical evidence and radio signals – so in the perception battle, India is at a very disadvantageous position.”

Air Commodore P. Dikshit charged that the report was part of a business strategy and a face-saver being adopted by F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Republic TV

The channel, with #MichelExposesFamily and headlines like “Cong in Agusta Panic” and “PM names FAM and AP”, took up the PM’s speech and the chopper scam issue.

Anchor Arnab Goswami questioned how and why the Congress welcomed a CBI probe into Vyapam but later discredited the agency for other probes. Likewise, he said, “they demanded a probe by ED in Vedanta conspiracy in Odisha and into the Yeddyurappa diaries case but today discredit the same agency for its probe into Agusta scam”.

The channel also noted that “Chargesheet says AP is Ahmed Patel” and quoted the senior Congress leader saying, “probe me, hang me if I am guilty”.

Times Now

The channel witnessed a heated argument and exchange of words between BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia and Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari over allegations of corruption in the Gomti riverfront development project.

During the discussion on corruption with #NiravLondonFiles, when anchor Navika Kumar asked “where is there no case against Gayatri Prajapati (former Cabinet minister in Akhilesh Yadav government and an accused in a gangrape case),” Bhatia used the word ‘chor’ to allege wrongdoing. This was objected to by Tiwari, who equated his allegations with barking, leading to an angry argument.

India Today TV

In Election on My Plate, anchor Rajdeep Sardesai did a special story from Tutocorin in Tamil Nadu where DMK leader and former Union minister Kanimozhi is pitted opposite BJP state president Tamilisai Soundararajan.

The programme looked at how people in the constituency are opposed to the Sterlite plant and how firing on protesters last year led to the death of 13 people. Due to this there is anger among the residents, especially those who lost their family members.

“EPS-OPS to pay for Sterlite”, “2018 firing haunts AIADMK” and “No justice for victims” were the headlines that ran with the story.

Also read: How Many Women Candidates Will Contest in 2019?

Sardesai also spoke to the mother of a deceased, Durai Rasu, who said: “Compensation doesn’t matter, my son was everything for me.” The family has decided not to vote in protest.

He also spoke about how 22-year-old Ranjit Kumar was shot in the head. “He was not even a part of protest, but just bystander,” said a relative.

The story also brought out how “not a single cop has been arrested”.

Hindi channels

ABP News

The channel had an interview with Modi in which he spoke about how the Congress manifesto was a lot of doublespeak. He recalled how during the protests against Kudankumar nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, sedition cases were filed against nearly 6,000 protesters at the behest of the Congress-led government at the Centre. “But now they speak against the law.”

On Congress saying criticism of government is not being anti-national, Modi said the Congress should answer why it has no “faith in judiciary”.

To a question on whether allying with PDP in J&K was a mistake, Modi said: “One Mufti sahib was there then, we said that day too that we represent opposite poles but there was no possibility of any other government as we were not in a position to form a government of our own. So with a minimum agenda and in Kashmir’s interest we decided to form the government.”

NDTV India

The channel showed a protest by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited employees along with a headline that “50,000 employees face retrenchment”. It showed the protesters saying that while the government bailed out Jet airways, it was “not allowing bank loans to BSNL”.

The protesters, who marched from Western Court to Jantar Mantar, also noted that their salaries are regularly delayed.

Anchor Ravish Kumar said he receives such complaints regular from employees of several public sector undertakings. Many of them also complain about not getting a pay hike.

Zee News

Drawing from some names mentioned in the Agusta chargesheet, the channel ran a story on “How do big companies manage the media”.

Also read: Rajasthan Farmers Denied Insurance Claim as Axis Bank Paid Premium For Wrong Crop

Anchor Sudhir Chaudhary spoke about how in Agusta case, it was managed that only good reports are filed.

Headlines like “Journalists named in chargesheet”, “ED mentions Shekhar Gupta in three places”, and “Gupta terms charges laughable” ran along with the story.

The channel, however, did not run Gupta’s detailed response in the matter.

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