The exit of Punya Prasoon Bajpai, Managing Editor Milind Khandekar and anchor Abhisar Sharma from ABP News created a storm on social media but most media houses chose to maintain dead silence over the issue, barring a few brave exceptions. Even the triplet chose to remain mum, until now.
Punya Prasoon Bajpai has written a piece for The Wire in which he has finally revealed what actually transpired at the ABP News and how the Modi government tried everything to muzzle the channel and running of his show ‘Masterstroke’ which airs at prime time and criticises the government policies.
On 14 July, 2018, the proprietor-cum-editor-in-chief of ABP News asked Bajpai to refrain from using Prime Minister Modi’s name in his 9’o clock show. Within 100 hours came another diktat – that even the image of Modi should not appear on the show.
In his piece Bajpai writes that the Modi government has created a 200-member monitoring team which functions at 3 levels – 150 members are involved in monitoring the channels; 25 members gave it the shape the government wanted; and the remaining 25 reviewed the final content. Based on this report, three officials of deputy secretary rank prepare the report to be sent to the I&B minister, through whom the officials at the PMO would get activated and send their directives to the editors of the news channels about what was to be done and how.
If the channel doesn’t confine itself to showing Modi government in a positive light, immediately BJP spokespersons and RSS ideologues were told to stop appearing from those channels, which happened with ABP News from last week of June, he writes.
Bajpai cited two stories that he showed on ‘Masterstroke’ which didn’t go well with the government. First being of the proposed thermal power plant in Godda (Jharkhand), a project that is of the Adani group. Bajpai showcased the farmer’s woes in the area, Adani’s proximity with Modi that made the Jharkhand state government change its regulations and shockingly the farmers being threatened, if they did not part with their land for the power project, they would be killed.
Another story was of Chandramani Kaushik from Kanhari village in Kanker district (Chhattisgarh). The lady spoke to Prime Minister Modi during his live show. When the prime minister asked her about her income, she simply narrated how her income had doubled. The ground reality was completely different. The woman was coached by officials from Delhi about what she was required to say to the prime minister and how she must say the bit about the doubling of income.
Following the reports, the BJP leaders declined to attend ABP’s annunal public event and later ABP’s satellite link started misbehaving during primetime and the disturbance continued for an hour which would prevent the viewers from watching ‘Masterstroke’, the link would be restored back at 10 pm.
On an average, there were thirty or forty instances of disturbance in the satellite link. This also impacted the regional channels. This went on for 15 days. At the same time some advertisers withdrew their ads – the biggest advertiser being ‘Patanjali’. As the link was disturbed, the TRP’s dropped which earlier were as high as 17.
Bajpai resigned on 2 August and miracles took place at the ABP News. The satellite link was stable. Patanjali was back.