Saturday, 29 January 2011

The NDTV Davos Junket

Davos is an important mile stone in the global business calendar.

Every year the most powerful businessmen in the world hob-nob with equally powerful political leaders and discuss global economic policy. Fortune 100 CEOs become accessible to the media. Philanthropy gets discussed and the rest of the world is reminded about how policy decisions that affect their lives gets shaped without their participation.

The cream of NDTV – Barkha Dutt, Vikram Chandra and Sreenivasan Jain  along with a few others from NDTV were in Davos. A rich and creamy delegation indeed.

They spoke to George Soros (a man convicted of insider trading) about Commodity Trading and it’s links to inflation. *Bangs head on table*

They spoke to Melinda Gates on philanthropy and how wonderful it is that world’s richest people who have made billions will promise to give away a portion of their wealth after they die. How they made their money in the first place and why they can’t channel it back right now – did not seem to be pivotal to the discussion. One topic that should have come up in the NDTV interview with Melinda Gates – is their interest in vaccines – that are targeted at first world diseases but tested in countries like India. (e.g. the HPV Vaccine. Path International – an organisation behind the tests is a recipient of Gate’s benevolence. See open letter on HPV trials from Indian Journal of Medical Ethics here).

They spoke a lot about Good Governance with Indian business Tycoons. Why and how an Indian business Tycoon who gets subsidies in the annual budget would want to talk about good governance – beats me.

They interviewed Indra Nooyi of Pepsi Co. Of course it would not be polite to bring up (and play hard-ball) on the issue of water conservation with one of the largest water miners in the country no? The green theme is (obviously) meant only for viewers and not advertisers. (See this piece in ehmmm NDTV)

As the studio jockeys were having a field day or should we say “a day in the field”, the real stories were breaking in Nothern Africa. CNN and BBC were running non-stop coverage of Egypt and Yemen – while our crew from NDTV was giving air-time to advertisers in the name of economic policy.

If they had sent their journalists from NDTV Profit or their lifestyle channel, it would have made sense and been a fair investment of air time. But to send all their editors most of whom are political pundits seemed a little odd.

Maybe it was an internal business decision to start getting international exposure. Maybe it was an effort to become a news channel that looks beyond India. Maybe it was seeking out new funding and wanted it’s dream team on display. The coverage unfortunately ended up looking like a junket for journalists.They were all in the wrong place at the wrong time as North Africa was in the grip of a revolution.

It would have been nice if we could have seen Sreenivasan Jain on the streets of Cairo covering a rapidly breaking story. He once covered a US election very well...yes I remember the glory days of NDTV.

Many of us in India are waiting for Al Jazeera. Hopefully their entry will put news back into news rooms in studios with potential (like NDTV).

On a relevant side note, after the greenwashing of “Greenathon” and “Save the tiger”….
We now have the “Coca-Cola-NDTV-Support My School” campaign. My issue with this programme is once again the choice of partner. Why do I have to remind NDTV about Coca-Cola and the people of Plachimada? While the people of Plachimada and the toxins that they drink thanks to Coke will be forgotten – you and I will be told that they really care about our children. What about the children of Plachimada? I predict lots more of Suhel Seth on air (his company Counselage has Coca-cola and NDTV in their portfolio). We may also see a lot more of Shashi Tharoor (the man who batted for Coke as residents were complaining about toxins in the groundwater in Plachimada).


  1. NDTV? I have no words for this confused organisation

  2. Even I was surprised by the blanket coverage of Davos this year. I tuned out after seeing their obsequiousness to any of the invited guests. Moreover they fail to explain what relevance any of those pronouncements have to the average Indian. Imagine if Egypt was covered with the same depth. Would have made more interesting viewing :)