Irresponsible TV channels highlight a personal opinion of the MOS Preneet Kaur to give an impression to Indian students and Australian institutions that a second travel advisory has been issued and INDIANS HAVE BEEN BEEN ADVISED NOT TO TRAVEL FOR STUDY IN AUSTRALIA.
Friday, 29th January 2010: What an eventful day for all of us. Thank god that I did not have a heart attack.
Around noon, parents of Indian students bound for quality University education in Australia who had just come out of pre-departure briefing sessions prior to their departures in the coming week started calling the institutions and their representatives frantically quoting the Indian TV channels that “Indian Government has issued a fresh Travel Advisory clearly advising students NOT to opt for Australia and not to travel”. Australian institutions that begin their visit to India for several educational information sessions and conferences too panicked and some even have reportedly called off their visit to India.
The source of report was the TIMES NOW website (article link) and I quote from it:
TIMES NOW is from the Times of India group but I personally donot give it the same respect as what I give to THE TELEGRAPH or HINDU and hence switched to the NDTV website for a confirmation. NDTV being owned by Dr Prannoy Roy is certainly considered a standard amongst the TV channels and my personal bias due to the Doon School connections certainly accentuates this belief. NDTV website (article link) as that time was running it as the headline and stated under the heading GOVERNMENT ADVISES STUDENTS TO STAY AWAY FROM AUSTRALIA the similar message but more categorical and I quote:
NDTV confirming the TIMES NOW report made me call an emergency meeting of our staff with the agenda being to cancel the forthcoming Australian University briefing sessions in Kolkata as I had no intention to go against the Indian Government briefing. Also to drop our Australia advert from Times of India’s Education Times that is scheduled for coming Monday. It was a Friday afternoon and the Universities in Australia had already wound up for the day, thankfully.
However, something seemed amiss. The interview of the Minister of External Affairs, Mr Krishna just a few hours earlier aired on NDTV did not indicate anything about the advisory. Maharani Preneet Kaur is Minister of State in MEA and can possibly issue an advisory but these are evidently not broadcasted in this manner. I have respect for the Patiala family (once again my bias for the Doon School link. Not just Capt Amrinder Singh who shares my alma mater, but the full lot of Raninder, Jayat and Jagat Singh were at the time of my Doon School stay and almost batchmates.). However, what Maharani stated appeared more like her personal opinion and the reference that she made to the advisory was the earlier advisory that only cautioned students going to Australia to be careful and provided some Do’s and Don’ts. This is what appeared to me but still the NDTV and Times Now had stated almost categorically that a “second” advisory had indeed been issued.
I cross checked with the Australian High Commission which seemed clue-less and were themselves trying to verify the reports and they too seemed to give a lot of value to the NDTV standards of journalism leading them to not discount the information on their websites.
By now, hundreds of websites were carrying the report of the second advisory. Regional channels began re-cycling the reports and parents began the process of cancelling the plans for their children.
I used my “non-TV” channels for confirmations and called up my friends in the reliable PTI wire service who confirmed that there was NO NEW ADVISORY AGAINST OZ.
All this while, Ministry of External Affairs website was totally silent on the advisory and this gave rise to further doubt on the genuineness of the reports. In late afternoon, the Ministry of External Affairs website carried the following clarification:
Clearly, there was NO second advisory and the Minister Kaur had only referred to the earlier advisory. It is also clear that the bites that the channels picked up from her were more of her opinion and the Ministry on its website seemingly has rephrased the same and has clarified by putting the referenced date that the advisory that MOS referred to was the first advisory only and that there hence was no second advisory. It is quote obvious that the TELEVISION CHANNELS concocted that to make it look like A FRESH TRAVEL ADVISORY and even labelled it as a “second” advisory. Ministry of External Affairs was quoted in the reports but noone bothered to even check the Ministry website which remains regularly updated and which carries the advisories. Advisories are not one-liners uttered by the ministers but always a well worded document that is put up on the MEA site.
The Television channels continuing to be irresponsible had further harmed the Indian-Australian collaborative interests. All this while , on this important day, hardly any notice was made to the fact that the police in Australia had arrested the killers of Indian Ranjodh Singh and the accused were surprisingly “INDIANS”. I invite the “Seths of the world and the Goswami’s of the world” to be brave and withdraw the “racism” tag that they had given to OZ when the burnt body of Ranjodh was discovered a month ago. They will not as this requires courage and not just media-savviness. Nor will it bring them the TRP advantage.
It is a sad state of affairs in our country that the FREE press that is running for the “No. 1 position” and which needs to arrive with the “first breaking news” fails to understand the responsibility that comes with FREEDOM. It has let us all down by the fact that the false-alarm has affected and panicked so many people. While I donot want to blame the MOS for her comment (you may ascribe it to my Doon bias) but would hope that she visits Australia for herself in the near future to be able to review her opinion. Journalists however do know and donot need to be reminded on the way advisories is issued by the MEA.
Having had a troublesome afternoon, I took off a little early from office and took my family to my other passion: Movies on Fridays. Amitabh Bachchan starrer RANN did not let me down at all. Infact it was so timely. The way the farce of TV reporting has been unravelled by Ram Gopal Varma should make all our OZ bound students and parents to “doubt” every thing that they see on the box which is so aptly nicknamed “Idiot-box”. Completely in line of developments of the day, Big B and his channel almost reminded me of Dr Prannoy Roy and NDTV while Mohnish Behl and his sensationalism reminded me of Arnab Goswami. Like in reality where Arnab was trained by Dr Roy, in Rann too, Mohnish is trained by Big B. I need to tweet Ram Gopal Varma with my appreciation and ask him this. A must watch for all in our industry and in present context.
It is with this “dope” that I have done this blog. Kept it factual and with all details and links so that you can form your opinion. In Rann, the young and ethical journalist (Ritesh) almost gives up and surrenders to the “wheels within wheels” but Prannoy Roy(sorry I mean Big B) finally re-dos all mistakes of the channel and makes a thunderous dialogue stating that his “Rann goes on”.
My RANN(Battle) must also go on and I must not give up…
PS: Times Now and NDTV sites on Saturday too have not corrected their report on their websites despite the clarification on the MEA site. Times of India (Saturday Print edition) carries the same report that the Government of India has issued an advisory not to study in Australia quoting their own reporters and well… it is clear that NO ONE wants the truth.
I now need to discover the Rann’s Paresh Rawal’s “real life” avatar now.