Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sting Thing

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.

Giving Credit
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!


  1. ya very well said rashmi , this sting operation is indeed smthin to be appreciated unlike the cheezy ones conducted by India TV which were more inclined to peek a boo in the private lives of the rich n famous .... Operation Duryodhan surely has to do smthn wid the common man ...i m sure thr will be many more like this n hope all the othr political whizkids learn a sabak from this ....
    but u knw what , the name still haunts me as to why Duryodhan ...cudnt they get a better name than that ... tracing the history of these news channels i have found out that the copy or the script is awful most of the times ...i remember some news channel may be aaj tak or zee news doin a stroy on Sunil Dutt after his demise ...n u will be shocked to know that it was titled as ' Mother India ka Laal " or somthn on similar lines, how crapy can it get ?
    but anyways the crux of the matter is that Aaj Tak has definitely got the TRP"S rolling its way ...well done ....

  2. I guess we need to have a serious thought on this kind of journalism. Often makes me wonder that good news item like this creates bad readers/viewers.

  3. 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

    >>That happened because fishes caught in operation Westend on Camera were too big. Jaya Jaitly and Bangaru laxman were Presidents of their parites instead of a everyday MP. Also since it has names of two main political parties, Parties knew the pressure wouldnt be on a single one. So best way out was take a high moral ground.
    Oh BTW whats so new in the case? Doesnt every Indian know that to get a Sarkari work done you gotta pay the dues?

  4. with all the _reactions_ these sting operations have created in the country, i'm surprised that no one has flipped the coin and looked at the other side. IMHO, The whole operation is a publicity stunt based on the fact that somebody will definitely fall for a bait. The question is, in any country with a corruption stats like ours, how many politicians follow these ethics strongly, cuz for those who follow it with little lax can happily take this _bribe_ since its not doing any direct harm to anyone (or is it ?). I'm not taking any sides, but I do think that the way media-power is rising in country, they'll surely become a big part of the corrupt system and use their power against/for political parties, but guess what, their misuse won't be technically termed as 'corruption'

  5. On a differnt note on Ms bansal i didnt know that people actually watch STAR news do they broadcast news.......? i mean seriously one disgusting program after another "match ki mujrim" etc and that day they were trying to equate Sachin's record with Ms india/world whatever showing both together and didnt care to even report a rare hockey win over pakisatn boy if people watch Star news then i dunno what to say ..Total paprazi

  6. "Secondly, did all the MPs approached agree to take bribes? Or were there some who refused? That might be interesting to know"... good question, Rashmi. But again, I think they would have approached only those people where there were some expectations. All around us know about the court clerk who takes bribes, (except the police, of course), and so the media people will also have known who to invest their 15-20 lakhs on.

  7. Two points - first, this was not a joint operation of cobrapost & Aaj Tak. Aaj Tak, it seems, bid for this news in a competitive bidding with a new channel on the cards, and star news among others. Aaj tak, it is reported, shelled out a whooping Rs. 65 Lacs for the exclusive news. Check details Here. Makes great business sense to conduct such sting operations. Behl & team also deserves credit to make honest & investigative journalism lucrative too. Hope to see more aniruddhs in the future.

    Second, Parties immediately suspended their MLAs because they had seen the tehlaka days & they realised that it will harm their image, evn if they fought it legally. This is the beauty of our system. No, Bangaru & Jaitley (jaya) weren't treated differently beacuse theywere big fish.

    The parties would have played defiant had this not had he potential of rewriting their political future.

  8. One more thing Congress MP from Aligarh Mr. Brajendra Singh Choudhary was one of those who was made the offer but he refused and sent the team. Read details Here

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Rashmi, this one made to the floor:

    (a) whether Government have given sanction for the seed trial of Saliner Cotton of Monsanto;

    Long live JD Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye.

    You can see the PDF document of Rajya Sabha at

    I left the html (very long link) at Desipundit sticky post. This question is on page six.

    I also read somewhere in the Cobrapost article By Aniruddh Balal that it was the configuration of middlemen that led to particular MPs and had that configuration been different, the names might have been different.

    And we also have our IITK educated MP M.K. Naik.

  11. On digging more, I found that Naik may not be from IITK but next door NSI

  12. Rane, are you saying that we should have become so blase and apathetic about corruption in this country that we should not be taken by surprise when MPs 'succumb' to the temptation to take a bribe? That, if you offer an individual a bribe to do something corrupt, it is but natural that most of the time they will accept it, so it's the briber who is at fault for offering it in the first place? If we lose even the ability to be shocked by this kind of thing, times really are dangerous.

    Of course, nobody's claiming that the media is doing this with purely altruistic motives -- of course they want a scoop, of course they want greater hits and TRPs. But in the process, if they reveal something as ludicruos as this, surely that's a good thing? And when you say the media could produce such scoops to serve their own ends, what you don't realize is that the media has too many checks built into the system. Nobody works alone, too many people are in the know and it's difficult to guarentee everybody'll keep their mouths shut.

  13. Hi Rashmi...
    As u said "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'".

    I think its apt coz its Duryodhana who does the Vastraharan ;-)))

  14. am i the only one here who thinks that these so called Sting operations are Entrapment and therefore illegal.

    It is important because i wonder what the legal standpoint is. If these idiots can claim entrapment and escape.

    Overall i dont think anything will be done. We will migrate to the next big story of a movie star braving Tsunami waters to save a three legged dog.

    Atlease they move on from the casting couch to some real problems.

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