11.3.05

 

Exhibit Twelve

Monday, February 14, 2005

Monday Memo: When the media tries to muzzle the media

It requires a great deal of character and maturity to face the glare from the media. And this is especially so when you are subjecting someone to constant scrutiny and criticism.

But that’s the media’s job: play watchdog along with its role of an information and entertainment resource. Mediaah! was set up in July 2003 with these three primary objectives: inform, entertain and watch. We didn’t take our last role very seriously, we didn’t want to bark at every thing that looked amiss. We didn’t have the wherewithal to do it, and that wasn’t our intent. However, we took pleasure in informing, do that with gentle doses of humour. Everyone took it in their stride.

However, while the media keeps subjecting others to criticism – and brand it constructive though it may often be pretty destructive, the media itself doesn’t take too kindly to criticism. Regrettably, and unlike the US and the UK, there aren’t too many in India who review the media and put each and every news item under the scanner.

On Thursday, we had got wind of a legal notice from our sources in the Bombay office. Funny, because rather than send a notice, the more logical thing to do would’ve been to call or email. Tell us that x, y and z items aren’t in good taste or whatever. Instead they chose to take us on, and sent a mail on Friday to the founder of this site (and owner of the domain name) who promptly forwarded it to us. We replied to the notice, apologised since it was not our objective to take on a biggie, followed it up with a couple of calls to the lawyer’s office, but haven’t got a reply yet. We had a hit a Saturday, a holiday.

We hope the matter is forgotten now, and we can start life afresh, but from what it appears, one of the objectives of the notice was also to have us back off. We won't. Agreed, we have been carrying too much on a single entity for a while, but that’s because there’s too much happening there, and it’s the largest media group in the country.

It’s just like why a newspaper reports on the Union government so much and not about a Panchayat when the latter is also very active.

We messaged a few friends who include senior editors and publishers, technology evangelists, marketing professionals, cybercrime experts and the like. Some of who we are in touch with, others not so regular, and a few people who we think are our well-wishers. Save a handful who didn’t reply, all of them said our show must go on. An evangelist and one of the most successful internet professionals in the country told us that we must apologise and continue. “Can’t afford fight at this stage. Site is too good and important to be killed”. A top marketing pro at one of India’s biggest FMCGs and a big advertiser with the notice-sender said: Don’t let them bully you, fight them! A journo and law expert said: Your apology seems correctly worded. I hope the matter ends here. I really think give up Mediaah... such battles cannot be fought alone. Another publisher asked us matter-of-factly: What’s your long-term objective?

It’s in the interest of media organisations such as those who hate us to have sites like Mediaah! live on. We believe we are responsible, and aren’t unfair. Imagine if someone would set up a hate blog, and take on the high and mighty. So, while a Mediaah! can be forced to back off, the spirit may turn venomous and re-emerge in tens of them who are extremely scathing and vicious. Being anonymous, sending legal notices will also be tough.

All attempts to muzzle the media in the past have backfired. In our case, we don’t have the resources to ‘unite’ mediapersons from across the country. However, it is important that media entities accept the new realities of life. They must appreciate that unlike the good old days, each action will now always be under the scanner. Also: just as they carry news of families splitting or company developments before they are made public, Mediaah! too can subject them to the same. Is it in public interest? This bit can be argued for and against, but it’s important that we learn to take criticism and news on us in the right spirit.

Times are a-changing. Our readership is a fraction of what the biggies are, so we can cause them no real harm. But that doesn’t mean that observers like Mediaah! can be made to shut up.

As the title suggests, Monday Memo appears every Monday. Email comments at mail@mediaah.com
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