If the headline is big enough, it makes the news big enough. This is one of the memorable lines from the 1941 film, Citizen Kane. It could just as easily be said today. The headlines on the Star versus the swadeshis battle have been big enough and numerous enough.
It would be silly to expect otherwise, I suppose, with so many of the biggest and boldest of media barons involved. Ironically, the fight — which is really about shares in the television viewership pie — is being fought out mostly in print. In fact, the tipping moment came when newspapers like the Times of India joined forces with the TV guys like Aaj Tak of the India Today group and Prannoy Roy’s NDTV. Headline after front-page headline appeared — with the stories ranging from well-argued analytical pieces to straightforward scoops to rumours, innuendoes, even denials, tarted up as reports. An exercise that transformed a routine and bureaucratic matter like the uplinking rights of one television station, the sort of news that would usually have been relegated to the “Briefs” section of the business pages, into an issue of momentous significance.
With few papers rooting for it openly, and certainly not as vociferously as its opponents, Star has had to resort to full-page newspaper advertisements where the beleaguered channel openly named names and complained about the “mix of vested interests, commercial pressures and competitive agenda” that had mounted a “media campaign aimed to confuse and mislead people”.
Rupert Murdoch may be wishing he had not switched his attention so totally to television. The press magnate who made his presence felt outside his native Australia when he bought into The Times and the Sunday Times of London has not bought a newspaper anywhere in the world in the last decade or so. The small screen is where the big bucks are. But, he forgot, print is where the power is.
Old kid in new box
Vinod Dua has left Sahara TV, where he had been a consultant on news and current affairs since February 2000. “I was finding myself redundant,” he has been quoted as saying. Suddenly, Vinod Dua is in the news again. How easy it is for journalists to be forgotten. Even television stars who were household names just the other day. Long before Aap ki Adalat and Vir ka Teer, Dua’s Janwani programme had politicians trembling and viewers glued to their small screens. Remember, too, those heady Doordarshan days when he and Prannoy Roy created on-screen magic during many election and budget days. He was the first to give respectability to Hindi, standing his ground against the suave Roy.
Then came the burst of satellite television. Old stars like Roy glittered, new stars like Rajat Sharma and Rajdeep Sardesai were born. Dua faded — into also-ran channels like Jain TV and Sahara.
But a comeback may soon happen — if Dua’s talks with Star News for an election package work out. “Nothing has been finalized or formalized,” he has said. It can’t, before Star clears all its own hurdles. Meanwhile, Dua has also had lunch with his one-time partner and friend. Roy hasn’t called back.
Write it like Beckham
The players of Real Madrid may wish they were somewhere else, but for one member of the accompanying press corps, it is turning out to be a voyage of discovery. In China, being the world’s first-ever David Beckham correspondent, writes Stephen Moyes, the Becks correspondent of the British tabloid, Mirror, is a whole new ball game. Excited fans want his autograph as the next best thing. Reporters want to know every detail of the person entrusted to follow the world’s most famous footballer, including whether or not he shares his fondness for Alice Band, sarongs and ponytails, while television crews camp in his hotel lobby. “The whole episode has given me a tiny glimpse into how 28-year-old Becks feels being under the media spotlight day in day out,” writes Moyes. The idea should be copyrighted: a star-paparazzi role reversal for just one day.