#FutureProof: EC vs broadcast editors has a puppy-dog ploy driving it

Arvind Kejriwal's ploy, calling India's broadcast editors as 'violators of the Constitution' & stooges of commerce, is a fit case of the "puppy-dog ploy", remarks Rohit Bansal

e4m by Rohit Bansal
Updated: Apr 9, 2014 8:08 AM
#FutureProof: EC vs broadcast editors has a puppy-dog ploy driving it

Arvind Kejriwal may not have time for management books. But his ploy on Monday, calling India’s broadcast editors as ‘violators of the Constitution’ and stooges of commerce, is a fit case of the “puppy-dog ploy”.

The said “ploy” is a term popularised by my professor at Harvard, David Yoffie, in his work, ‘Judo Strategy’. In ‘Judo Strategy’, as the name would suggest, Yoffie documents how a start-up, or a rank outlier (read AAP), can invoke the right levers (including cuteness!) to put stronger opponents on the mat.

For those landing from the moon, here are the four tweets from @ArvindKejriwal in quick succession exemplify the ‘puppy-dog ploy’ -
1. EC (Election Commission) banned telecast of BJP manifesto today due to elections. Still, many channels did it. Why?....
2. .....I heard some top editors (Under Broadcast Editors Association - BEA) exchanged msgs and decided to telecast BJP manifesto in violation of EC directions....
3. These editors took a stand that they were ready to "face" consequences. Fearlessness or Ready to violate constitution for commerce?
4. Which party paid how much money to which media house for ads? Do people have art to know this?

From these four tweets emanates a flawless puppy-dog manoeuver:
1. The EC is shown to have indeed banned the telecast of the BJP’s manifesto, never mind what had actually transpired.

The reality is that neither CEC VS Sampath nor the EC website were explicit in what they wanted. Whatever was said by Sampath to anchorman Rajdeep Sardesai on Sunday was, at best, a hint that the media should not telecast the manifestoin the six seats going to polls on Monday.

Sampath’s arch of influence did not extend to the entire of the country – and certainly wasn’t an official diktat of the EC.

So, while Mssrs Sampath, HS Brahma, and Naseem Zaidi, the three ECs, are yet to take a final view of the Editors’ decision (defiance!?) to telecast the manifesto for the rest of the country, their underlings are already active in briefing reporters informally that the broadcasters' decision to air the manifesto release in the five seats of Assam and the lone Tripura seat covered in Monday's polling was indeed a violation of Section 126(b) of Representation of the People Act.

On Yoffie’s index, I’d say, Arvind-1, BEA-0.
2. Arvind has made “messages” that were exchanged between the Editors as part of official record.

My independent queries reveal that there were indeed emails exchanged between various BEA editors to this effect. Their decision to “defy” the EC, thus comprises “evidence” of violation of Section 126(b) of RPA.

The said Section states that no election matter shall be displayed by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus during 48 hours prior to polling. According to sources in the EC, a party's manifesto can fall within the definition of "election matter” though transmission of rallies and political statements doesn’t!

The punishment of a proven violation is three years of imprisonment.

So, the Editors (and you, dear reader) now know who to give the credit to if some familiar faces in the evening’s news menu go missing for the next three years!

This isn’t being said for the sake of mere banter.

Sampath’s immediate predecessor, the distinguished SY Quraish, hinted just as much in my presence to Navika Kumar of Times Now, when the channel had shown exit polls a minute after polling ended at 5pm.

As Navika and her boss Arnab Goswami listened with rapt attention, Quraishi explained to them that they (and their channel) were rule-bound not to conduct an exit poll 48 hours prior to polling and till polling had concluded.

Since the results of their exit polls were being beamed at 1701 hours, it was obvious and apparent that the Times Now exit poll was being conducted even while polling was underway – a violation worthy of packing its Editor and owners to the prison for three years.

Those used to seeing Arnab bully the nation would have been amused to see him morph into a respectful good boy when Quraishi told him and Navika about ‘teen saal andar ho jaoge!’

By putting their emails into the realm of cognizable evidence, ‘Judo Strategy’ say that the score is, Arvind-2, BEA-0.

3. The third import of Arvind’s tweets is that Editors are violating the Constitution because of their original commitment to commerce.

Now, in the context of the BJP manifesto, it is clear that Arvind is stating that the BEA and member channels that they lead are sold out to Narendra Modi.

Would BEA editors (or NBA, under whose umbrella major news channels are organised) have the bandwidth to drag Arvind to court for making such an allegation?

I doubt that.

But with his tweets, Arvind is certainly daring the EC to ensnare BEA and NBA in a violation under paid news.

Howzzat for Arvind-3, BEA-O…!!

PS: As for what Prof Yoffie actually thinks of this, watch this space!

The columnist is an advisor at the intersect of media, regulation and strategy on RIL, who Arvind Kejriwal has been attacking. The views are personal. Tweets @therohitbansal.

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