Well known journalist N. Ram agrees that the INDIA alliance’s decision to boycott 14 television anchors who have been identified by name raises moral and ethical concerns – is it fitting in a democracy for politicians to boycott fellow citizens? Perhaps, equally importantly, Ram, the former editor-in-chief and publisher of The Hindu, says “a more subtle approach could have suited the INDIA Alliance better”.
He adds, “It would be smarter for the alliance to leave it to individuals to decline and accept” any request to appear on shows conducted by these 14 anchors.
In an interview to The Wire, Ram made a point of saying that “bias is common in journalism”, adding “you can’t discriminate on the grounds of bias”. However, he said communalism, hate against Muslims and bullying is a different matter. But he repeated his point that it might have been smarter for the alliance to simply, politely and quietly refuse invitations from anchors they do not like rather than publicly announce a boycott.
Speaking from the point of view of channel owners, Ram categorically said “no self-respecting channel should allow a politician to decide who will be the journalists to talk to him”. This means that channel owners should take a strong stand both in defence of their anchors (who have been boycotted) and in defence of their right to adopt whatever political position or stance they want for their channel. But will they? That, Ram said, is a critical question. Answering it, he said he doesn’t believe channel owners will stand up for their rights because they do not have the necessary self-respect.
Asked whether he believes channel owners are self-respecting, he answered, “No.”
Finally, Ram was asked why he believes channel proprietors permit and even encourage hate-filled discussions, particularly anti-Muslim ones? Is it because they are themselves full of hate for minorities? Is it because this brings TRPs, advertising and, therefore, profits? Or could it be because these proprietors face Enforcement Directorate or CBI inquiries and this is a way of protecting themselves? Ram said that it was fear and intimidation, under threat of inquiry and investigation, that is the explanation. He accepted this means channel owners lack spine and cannot stand straight even when they are required to.