What an amazing sting! Amazing because just a few days ago Aaj Tak was pleased as punch that apna reporter managed to sneak into Amitabhji's hospital room.
Yesterday, with Operation Duryodhana, executed in partnership with Aniruddha Bahal's Cobrapost , the channel gave a real and powerful example of what being 'sabse tez' can be about.
Yes, competition may have dumbed down TV but with it also comes the incentive to take risks and do something to rise above the clutter. Something like Operation Duryodhana.
It's great that Aaj Tak recognised 'we can't do everything'. No major media house would have the expertise, the patience or the balls to pull of a sting operation of this magnitude. Working 8 months on one story? Uh, 8 days is a major 'well-researched' magazine cover. 8 hours is more like it on most days.
For Cobrapost too, the Aaj Tak tie up makes a lot of sense. Remember what happened with tehelkagate? Sure it got coverage but by giving co-ownership of the Duryodhana story to the Today group, Cobrapost's sting makes a huge impact. And won't die down easily either.
Within hours all the parties whose MPs are implicated had suspended their MPs. Excepting the RJD.
Contrast with the tehelka scandal where those caught on camera remained defiant and instead tried to harass tehelka. Probably thinking: woh log chhote hain, unka mooh band karva sakte hain.
Now, it ain't gonna be possible. You can attack Aniruddha Bahal and his team but can you malign the India Today group and get away with it?
The Aaj tak tie up also makes great financial sense for the Small Guy. 5 lakhs were paid in bribes to the MPs alone. There must have been hajaar other incidental expenses. And of course the cost of running the Cobrapost operations - salaries, cellphones et al.
Instead of worrying about how the office electricity bill - as well as how to create an impact with the story - Cobrapost could concentrate on its core area of expertise: conducting the sting operation.
And it looks like they invested in some really great spy cameras 'cause the picture quality is far far superior to the grainy visuals generally seen in a sting operation.
As far as Aaj Tak is concerned what is Rs 15-20 lakhs? Or even more?? Sure there was a small risk that things would not come through but with Bahal's reputation that was a risk worth taking.
The result is a story that will give Aaj Tak eyeballs worth several crores. Given that the channel had Star News nipping at its heels recently, this is surely just what the TRP doctor ordered.
And it goes to show that no matter how many times you change your channel graphics, the ratings will come only when you give viewers a reason to tune in for your core offering - NEWS.
The issue is of such national interest that no competitor can afford to ignore it. But surprisingly, this time almost all have been graceful enough to acknowledge it was a Cobrapost-Aaj Tak sting operation.
This includes even the biggies like TOI and HT although curiously ET has not done so and in its online article TOI is a little more coy, only mentions Aaj Tak.
Only NDTV appears to be in denial and sulking. . No mention of this news at all on their current homepage
In their late night bulletin last night the top story was 'opening of Pune International airport'.
Star News, meanwhile, took a 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' view and was airing its own series of 'look, these are your dirty politician' bulletins.
Getting politicians from across the spectrum of parties was a really smart idea. Perhaps that's what took the operation so long?
Given that 6 BJP MPs succumbed to the Dark Side one can infer that those in the party out of power have less avenues for 'income' and can be tempted more easily.
But how come there are no MPs from Left parties? Can the public conclude they have more integrity?
Secondly, did all the MPs approached agree to take bribes? Or were there some who refused? That might be interesting to know.
Some of the questions MPs agreed to raise were absolute rubbish. eg an imaginary genetically modified "Catch 22 cottonseed" . And the ROTFL :
“Is it true that while NRI firms such as India Uncut of USA, Sepia Mutiny of Britain and AnarCap Lib of Netherlands have been allowed to invest in Indian SSIs, the reputed German investment firm Desipundit has been denied permission? If so, the reasons thereof?
Is the Union Government of India planning to make automatic the long procedure of permission for SSIs to import new technologies such as Trackbacks, Pingbacks, Blogrolls, Splogs and Hitcounters?”
This question was submitted with the purpose of getting a reply from the minister of Small Scale Industries. Thankfully, there are some brains functioning in Parliament house because from Cobrapost's press release it would seem that none of the faltu questions actually made it to the floor or even as questions worthy of written replies.
But yeah, they make for a great story. It's good to see the Cobrapost guys retain a sense of humour in what must have been a tense and trying time.
And I love the name 'Operation Duryodhana'. Although it's not apt in the literal sense coz the operation was more of a political 'vastraharan'.
This time the Duryodhans were the ones getting 'exposed'. And ironically, it was a woman - Cobrapost's intrepid Suhasini Raj - who was doing the exposing.
And much as I'd like to see who she is, I hope she and the rest of the sting ops team stays away from the limelight. So we can look forward to many more such Duryodhans and vastraharans!