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October - November 2004
Indian Forum on British Media's Annual Dinner at Grims Dyke Hotel
The Indian Forum of British Media (IFBM), held a reception/dinner on August 25 at the Grims Dyke hotel in Harrow Weald. Among the distinguished guests were Sir Mark Tully, BBC’s famous reporter who has spent many years in India, and has taken up residence in Calcutta; Nat Puri, prominent UK-based industrialist; Ramnik Kotecha, CEO of the Kotecha Group of financial advisers. and K S Bharadwaj, the new Press and Information Counsellor at the Indian High Commission in London.
Mrs. Pushpa Bhargave, the General Secretary, acquainted the audience with the aims and objectives of the IFBM. She pointed out that the Forum has now been in existence for quite a few years. For the last so many years people of Indian origin settled in Britain felt that in spite of winning respect from the host community for being law abiding, hard working and being upholders of family as the basis of Society, British Media that is Radio/Television and Press have minimised the importance of India's culture, Arts and social and religious ethos. Such an attitude may be due to colonial hang-up or sheer ignorance of a great culture and civilization. Consequently, some UK Indians including Mr. Krishan Ralleigh and Mr. Balwant Pandey, felt it necessary to have a forum to monitor and scrutinise the programmes on British Radio and Television. They set up this Forum in 1997. Since then the IFBM has been organising meetings and seminars to highlight the responsibility of the Media towards true understanding of India’s problems, and promoting racial and religious harmony in a multicultural society.
Krishan Ralleigh, the President, while introducing the Chief Guest of the evening Sir Mark Tully said, "Sir Mark has brought India and the United Kingdom together by his regular dispatches from India for the BBC. His books on India give a deep understanding of the political and social progress of the country in the post-independence period. What he has done for India can be compared to none other than the legendary late Alastaire Cooke whose letters from America brought Britain and USA together.. Sir Mark’s empathy for India’s struggle to progress economically by democratic process made him a celebrity among Indian scribes. We have been looking forward to his address tonight which, quite appropriately, is going to deal with India’s recent general election and the Western Media."
Sir Mark Tully began his address with greetings in Hindi, lauded the latest general elections held in India. He especially pointed out the smooth take over from the BJP to the Congress and its allies. The Western Media, Sir Tully explained, could not comprehend the sheer vastness of the democratic experiment. Introduction of electronic machines right across India did an accurate and fast job in displaying results of the millions of votes At early stages of the General Elections, the Western Media was lukewarm to the news coming from India. There seemed to be no surprise outcome. All the polls pointed out a BJP win. But once the elections results started coming in, the Western Media began to devote large columns to Soni Gandhi and the Congress."
Accepting the premise, Sir Mark elaborated on the fact that the economic progress of India is not a newsworthy story for the Western Press. "Gradually," said Sir Mark, "The Western Media is being influenced by commercial interests. It may not be so with the BBC as it is financed by the tax-payer. But newspapers and commercial channels have to find ways to increase their revenues. Thus commercial interests play a large part in making events into newsworthy events. This may, sometimes, undermine journalists’ integrity".
Explaining about his own loyalty, Sir Mark cited the remarks of Karan Thapar, the BBC correspondent, that ‘Mark Tully has turned native!’. Sir Mark said that was not so. His love for India did not mean that his loyalty to Britain was less. As a Journalist he could empathise with India while perfoming his duty of providing information and comments about India to the British public in its correct perspective..Sir Mark, at the end of his address, took questions from the audience.
Mr. Nat Puri, one of the patrons of the IFBM, summarised the views of the audience by giving a few examples from the newspapers in which the BJP government and Hindus have been castigated in the British Media. This tendency has to be corrected. Indian Forum on British Forum would not be doing its duty if it ignored misrepresentation about Hinduism, India and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is now the major opposition party in India.
Mr. Chandru Malkani, the PRO, thanked Sir Mark Tully, Mr. Nat Puri and members of the audience. "Twisting stories by a journalist to suit one’s prejudice is not new. It goes on. But is it true journalism?," asked Mr. Malkani, after narrating a joke about an American journalist, a dog and an Afghan.
Following a round of speeches by Sir Mark, Krishan Ralleigh and Nat Puri in the ornate oak-panelled dining hall of the 100-year-old English hotel the guests sat down to a sumptuous Indian dinner.