The India Today Group has landed in a controversy after Kallie Puri, chairperson of the India Today Group, was allegedly stung as part of a Cobrapost investigation titled ‘Operation 136 - Part II'.
In Cobrapost’s video, a senior official of the India Today group allegedly agreed to run a paid “advertising campaign” with Hindutva and political overtones in exchange for a sum of Rs 275 crore.
As part of its sting operation, Cobrapost sent their reporter Pushp Sharma under the alias of Acharya Chhatra Pal Atal of the 'Srimad Bhagvad Gita Prachar Samiti' to meet Rahul Kumar Shaw, Chief Revenue Officer of the TV Today Group.
Shaw is the official who allegedly agreed to take Sharma’s three-phased proposal forward.
Here is the broad outline of the campaign that Cobrapost’s Pushp Sharma proposed.
- Phase 1 of the campaign required the organisation to promote Lord Krishna and Bhagwad Gita in order to propagate "Hindutva vibes".
- Phase 2 included content targeting Opposition leaders “Pappu, Bua and Babua” via jingles.
- Phase 3, Sharma said, will depend on what the "need of the hour" is when the 2019 general elections approach in the later part of the year.
On being proposed the idea of running a campaign, Shaw said that he is very “pro-government” and will arrange a meeting with Kalli Purie, Chairperson of the India Today Group, as Puri’s approval was essential in the matter.
“Personally I want to do it, because I am very pro (government),” said Shaw.
Next, Cobrapost’s Sharma is seen in a meeting with Puri and Shaw where he proposed his 'three-phase campaign'.
On the point of defaming Opposition leaders, Puri said that whatever the network puts out is within specific guidelines and that there should be no "editorial interference". She also said that if she sees any in-field activities of the group that she does not agree to editorially, the organisation will criticise them.
‘Truth Distorted,’ Says India Today
Rahul Kanwal, Managing Editor of India Today and Aaj Tak, posted an official statement of the group on social media that said that “truth had been distorted” in the sting and said that the organisation will be forced to take legal action against Cobrapost if the investigation is not withdrawn immediately.
Here is India Today’s entire statement.
It has come to our knowledge that your organization has posted online a story titled "OPERATION 136-Part-II", which has certain references and claims to India Today Group.
At the outset, we vehemently deny the portrayal of India Today Group as a media house that will compromise its editorial integrity. It has never happened in the past and there is no question of it ever happening. In fact, in the meeting with our senior management, your reporter was told in no uncertain terms that the Group will not do anything unethical, and that any advertising creative that divides the country on religious or caste lines will not be acceptable, and will not be aired on our channels. However, in your video posted online, this has not been adequately reflected and has distorted the truth.
We have sufficient checks and balances to ensure no inappropriate content would be broadcast or published. India Today Group has always stood for the highest standard of journalism.
It is clear that the said broadcast is out of context and has been manipulated with clear intention to sully, tarnish, disparage, discredit and to running down an otherwise impeccable standing and reputation of the India Today Group.
You are hereby called upon to immediately stop and suspend the broadcast regarding the India Today Group otherwise we will be left with no option to pursue strict civil and criminal remedies against you.”
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