Android TV Box


After some serious investigation, I decided to cut the umbilical cord of entertainment which has defined households for several decades when it comes to TV time.

Yes, I decided to cut my cable TV subscription when the current contract ends. Of course, not the broadband fibre internet connection, that is absolutely needed.

What happened, you might ask. I am asking myself why I kept paying for cable all these years.

High speed broadband internet of the order of 300 MBPS and above became available only some 3 years ago in Singapore. I got my 1 GBPS connectivity around 2 years ago (though it is namesake only, the speed does not come anywhere close to the stated speed of 1 GBPS, though it is fast).

Without such high-speed internet, it would not have been anyway possible to eliminate the cable subscription.

I was surprised with the plethora of options available on streaming internet with an Android TV Box. Not only that, I could even view foreign news channels and sports TV which are not available even with a cable subscription. Thousands of viewing choices become available at your fingertip.

Of course, we do not have time to see even one movie completely at home. I used to just see the top news on CNN and some financial news on CNBC. Nothing much else. I became movie and TV serial friendly only upon the advent of Netflix. Though I would like to maximize my returns from that monthly subscription (which enables the family to see movies and serials on laptops and iPADs), personally I struggled with watching even one full season of a serial. So, time is short when you are looking at the familiar options, and that does not change a wee bit even with the Android TV Box.

However, I took it upon myself the project of cutting cable subscription costs which are quite steep in a tight market like Singapore wherein the competition is rather limited. It became a technical evaluation project, not surprisingly. I am not an Android guy, having been committed to the iPhone for the past over 5 years, so it took some time to figure out things.

It was, however, an exciting investigation. It took me just about couple of weeks to figure out what to do and how to execute, what to buy, etc., I studied a variety of options and eliminated most as local support in Singapore was found lacking. I did not want to just walk into Sim Lim Tower (the consumer electronics hub of Singapore), and pick up any kind of Android TV Box, though my research did produce options which were available there. I decided to go and buy online, which I ultimately did, saving time and effort.

There is a mind-boggling variety of options available to anyone who wants to cut the cable cord and move into streaming media technology. It took me a while to wade through fake claims and determine what are the really good options available.

Finally, I chose the following main features as necessary for the performance I was looking for –

Main Features:
● Combines durable 1.5GHz ARM Cortex – A53 CPU with Amlogic S912 chip
● Android 7.1 version, coupled with the rapid and stable configuration
● 4K / 3D video gives you high-quality video experience
● Dual-band WiFi gives you more smooth speed experience
● Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. Easy pairing with most Bluetooth-enabled devices
● Support Miracast / DLNA / Airplay, share your video to your TV
● Voice remote control (you would love it)

Specs:
Core: Octa Core
Processor: Amlogic S912
CPU: ARM Cortex-A53
GPU: ARM Mali-T820MP3
Model: M8S PRO L
RAM Type: DDR3 (3 GB min.) ROM: 32 GB min
System: Android 7.1

There are many boxes available meeting the above specification. I bought the MECOOL TV BOX

Like most such boxes, this is also made in China. It has a good reputation and good product reviews. I would like to remind the readers that there are several such products available from several China manufacturers and you better do your own research. I bought the Mecool M8S PRO L 4K TV Box Amlogic S912 Bluetooth 4.1 + HS – VOICE REMOTE CONTROL ( 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM ) model which you can find in Sim Lim Tower or online. This product has a local supplier in Singapore who offers one year warranty which is not usual for these kinds of products.

I had my usual enthusiasm of getting something new after I placed the order online. The box arrived in 3 days and I was surprised it was so small. It is very small, and I could not believe it could pack so much power, yet it is a real high powered cable cord cutter.

I installed the box and ran it for a couple of days, but then I grew tired of the look and feel on my TV screen and wanted to go in for a new build. Again this is a thrilling journey, as you have to erase all the pre-installed content on the box, and take the risk of the box not working after your experimentation.

But it worked for me – I uninstalled all that was there and re-installed it in the way I liked with a KODI build that I preferred. KODI is the entertainment dashboard for the Android TV Box, and there are many builds available on top of KODI to stream media content to your TV box. It took me a couple of days to understand what the geeks around the world are doing, and then I decided to do it my way with NO LIMITS MAGIC BUILD which is one of many types of builds available.

Finally, the TV Box is producing the results I expected, but I have more work to do. It is exciting and it is absorbing – more than the actual media content which has started streaming.

Kill your cable connection and embark on a new journey. Do not download media just stream it to stay within legal limits.

Cheers, and Have a good week ahead,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 September 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

The News Bias


There exists a political bias in almost all news organizations. Most famous ones such as CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post are considered liberal, which means “leftist” in the U.S. News organizations such as Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and countless others are best characterized as conservative, which means “rightist” in the U.S. There is hardly any neutral news organization or publication anywhere in the world. The closest that I have seen are The Hindu newspaper in India, and The Guardian in the U.K. There may be others that I do not know, and my lack of mentioning others does not mean that there are no other neutral publications or TV news channels.

There is nothing wrong with some bias, as news editors are, after all, human beings, and have certain orientations and thought processes in their heads as they handle news and news analyses. However, they are not supposed to twist or tweak the factual news to their advantage, with an insidious purpose in mind. It could be that they wish to provoke an anti-government or anti-establishment public reaction, which goes against the grain of news gathering and publishing. The editorials could convey what the editor(s) wants to comment on the main news of the day, but the reporting has to be absolutely factual, as otherwise it could turn dangerous, as we have seen recent instances especially in India with fake news (“faked” news) dominating and corrupting the public’s view of the happenings. Such reporting happens in many countries around the world, and is designed to serve the political orientation of the editor or owner of the publication.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there has to be a law to regulate news, much like in the old days when news publications could be prosecuted for incorrect news reporting which results in public mayhem, destruction, deaths, violence, etc., (this used to be called “censorship” in old times). There is nothing wrong in seeking to enforce law and order against what is famously known as the “Fourth Estate”. I am not inclined to believe that a carefully calibrated law and order enforcement against an erring news publication or TV channel or news organization can be termed as shutting down press freedom. Everyone is subject to the same laws, so what is so unique about one segment of the society?

Well, we might need a “news ombudsman” to ensure impartiality, and to enforce actions against all publications without fear or favour. It is easier said than done. Any government appointee is going to be at least slightly biased, and so it is critical to select someone with the involvement of the government of the day, the political opposition in the parliament and the judiciary, and to embed sufficient powers in the office of such an ombudsman, who can issue orders to law enforcement, much like the Election Commissioner, or the Head of Anti-Corruption Agency.

News organizations should also include all social media platforms such as FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, et al. They need to be regulated simply because they are more powerful than any brick and mortar news producer. News on such platform posted by anyone spreads at exponential speeds and rumours could create havoc. We have also recently witnessed how FaceBook sacrificed the personal data of millions of people who use their platform for monetary benefit. Given the proclivity of the younger generation to take up social media platforms with amazing speed, it becomes essential to moderate such platforms without causing damage to the neurons of youngsters at a very young age.

I enjoy flipping the news channels between CNN, BBC, Fox News, CNBC, and other local / regional channels. The priority given to news coverage varies across the channels. Sometimes what you think is a very important piece of news does not even merit a mention in some of the channels. If things do not go well for the audience of Fox News, then the anchors distract them with some unimportant sidelights. And so on and so forth. Of course, it requires a worldly intelligence to segregate fake news from what is real. It is not an easy skill, as fake news could easily be debunked and thrown away upon a refresh of the news website; it could be worded in a convincing way which reflects in certain measure some amount of truth, or it could be covered by a famous news anchor. If Russia is disliked by most news channels for ideological or political reasons, it is very easy to spot that dislike. If China is berated for trade or intellectual property thefts, that also gets highlighted in a big way. There are hardly any counter arguments that you would hear in the world famous TV news channels against their own governments or allies. It is not unnatural, but it is not normal in a news reporting organization. There are, of course, good examples of news reporting which is balanced and also good analysis of news with differing viewpoints which we get to see sometimes, but such balanced coverage is slowly declining in my opinion, as the audience wants “supportive” analyses, not “destructive” analyses by political commentators. There is also disdain of these commentators or opinion-producers amongst the common public, as they are repeatedly used throughout the year, with more or less the same views. They are either “supportive” of the government, or in some cases “destructive” of the government’s stand on issues. Eventually, people will realize that anyone on this planet can have a view of his/her own on any issue which may or may not affect him/her. Nothing wrong with that position either. The point is that fast-talking commentators have not helped to define a news organization, they only reflect their own biases in their opinion piece.

Looking at the overall stained news scenario, it is but normal to conclude that we should make up our own news – what I mean is that, you pull together pieces of news from various publications using some software which can generate your own news as per your own criteria. If I am a conservative, rightist kind of person, then my filters would produce news that I am looking for! Tomorrow, I could become a liberal and I will then get to enjoy the “liberal” view of world news and happenings!!

Well, folks have a good weekend, and avoid drinking alcohol,

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

14th April 2018 (Today is TAMIL New Year, Wishes to my Tamil Friends and Families!)

The terrible loss of privacy


Privacy is a funny aspect of life.

Most institutions and corporations we deal with in our lives demand that we sign off on dotted lines when it comes to providing them access to our very personal data. Most consumer companies do the same thing. Governments have always asked for our data. However, the phenomenon of giving away our total freedom and personal data to social media giants did not bother us for a long time. Until last week.

I am referring to the data breach on 50M Americans who have accounts with Facebook. Well, this is not the first instance, but in terms of scale it is the biggest ever. There have been hacks on Apple’s iCloud, releasing personal data of celebrities. There have been other hacks such as the bad one on Yahoo mail.

But, people forget and forgive, the reason being that they still need the services of the social media companies, cloud service providers and email operators. There is just no alternative to leading one’s life today – if an individual is not on Facebook, he does not exist – not just virtually, but physically as well! He or she is ignored for lack of digital savviness, or inability to be in sync with the rest of the world which seems to be rushing into Twitter, Instagram, Snap, WeChat, WhatsApp, Line, Google’s variety of offerings including of course Search, and so many such digital tools.

So, things will be back to normal after a few months for Facebook. They will undergo detailed investigation that is reserved for Russian hackers, questioned on Capitol Hill, excoriated in the “adult” networking circuit, and punished in some way, like being forced to implement tougher security measures. Facebook’s reputation currently is in the dumps, and they should not be trusted as they have traded their users’ data. But apart from all this, do you think that anything substantive will happen to them? There are more than 2B users who depend on Facebook for communication. Not me however – I never seriously used the consumer version of Facebook, though I have an account with very sparse data on myself (I however use a corporate version of Facebook behind my company’s firewall for internal teamwork and collaboration, along with other tools such as Microsoft Teams and Yammer).

So here I am – not a regular user of the consumer version of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, et al, but a serious blogger on this WordPress platform and LinkedIn user. I select what I wish to do, and cannot be led to use some tool that I do not wish to use. Further, I am careful not to accept terms and conditions of these tool makers and platform owners, and do not click to give access to all my data voluntarily. Neither do I agree for unsolicited marketing communications from these folks or their marketing collaborators, though sometimes it is made difficult not to agree.

The question is – what is more important: maintain privacy or lose it due to either the lack of security of the provider or his desire to sell off my data for money? In my case, the answer is crystal clear – I would rather forego the convenience of “checking into” Facebook and detailing what I am up to, or posting my photographs enjoying a vacation with my family, but safeguard whatever little privacy that I still have. It is not necessary for the entire world or my friends and relatives, or for any government, to know what I am doing at this moment (I am blogging now!). It is irrelevant to them, but it is critical for maintaining my sanity. It is not that I am anti-social – I am in multiple WhatsApp groups – but I wish to remain private. I do not respond to LinkedIn invites from people who I have not yet met. I should know the person through a referral or I should have met that person before I would even consider accepting the invite.

Nothing wrong with wanting to be a private individual. However, we know that most teenagers willingly give away their most personal data on the Facebook platform. The issue is that Facebook cannot be trusted to keep that data totally private and secure.  We do not know for sure that the data is safe and secure. We also do not know if they had traded our data for money. We never knew that Facebook gave away the data on 50M Americans to a U.K. Professor for some vague research, who in turn handed that out to the now infamous Cambridge Analytica.

It is more important to spend F2F (“Face to Face”) time with friends, relatives and family, like in the old times. It is more important not to be influenced by hate speech and lectures that are posted on all social media platforms. Did we live without a mobile phone or social media platforms in the past? Did we live a life without networking? We did live well, but I believe we did not learn to adopt technology well in the 21st Century. We just blindly jumped into all that is new without much analysis.

I am not against any of these innovative tools and platforms which have created enormous value to equity investors and users. I think we need to be extra careful in how and why we use these in our lives. Do we give our date of birth or place of birth to our neighbours or strangers? We don’t. We do not share any personal data in public. The same caution applies when we venture into digital space. We cannot ignore the fact that digital platforms are fast proliferating across our lives, and will come to dominate all facets of our existence. We may not be able to order ice cream without a social media account in future, or something as ridiculous as that.

Welcome to a world less private, more intrusive, less secure, and more dangerous as a result.

Hope you enjoyed your weekend.

I am happy to share the fact that I am now allowed one glass of wine, and I will soon be posting on the wine I had and the experience of de-addiction to wine.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

25th March 2018

Balanced Media Reporting and the Fake News Phenomenon


Just 20 months – that’s all it takes to badly damage the fabric of society and the news media. Today in the U.S. we have very polarized and ugly societal wars between the Left and the Right. That has in turn spawned very ugly and damaging wars between news media which continue to report in their long-established, traditional manner, and the media which has gone berserk towards the extreme right end of the political spectrum. The neutral media was always considered to be, ever so slightly, tilting to the left, and we all know that there is nothing that is absolutely neutral in this world. Everyone has an opinion, whether he or she voices it or not. We also know that when the silent majority does not voice its dissent on any matter, the country or the world is “in” for a major battle. When they do express their dissent, we can expect transformative change.

I have consistently followed both the “left” and the “right” media, to derive a real sense of where the world is heading. While many a time the neutral or “left-tilting” media is right, I have also seen instances when the “rightist” media gets it right for a change.

Achieving a balanced reporting stance is a hard thing to accomplish in today’s heavily polarized world. Couple of examples come to my mind: one is “BBC News” and the other is “CNN”. There are other excellent examples which I do follow such as “The NewYork Times” and “The Washington Post”, but sometimes they do take a harsh view of the right. I continue to enjoy their incisive analyses and opinion pieces, however. I also occasionally look at the “HuffPost” and “MSN News” – they are great alternatives, though clearly on the left.

On the right, my favourite is “Fox News” – there are rather interesting pieces of journalism that I read almost everyday, pretty captivating episodes, and well-intentioned, yet clearly manipulated headlines. There are many media channels on the right, of course, but I find more time for Fox News everyday.

I also follow two rather unconventional media diligently every day. These are “Aljazeera English” edition and “Russia Today (RT) News”. While Aljazeera is relatively new for me, RT News has been a staple for at least couple of years. I believe that both these “alternative media” provide a dose of reality as seen from their respective perches. I have seen wonderful and balanced coverage and analyses in both, and I am now of the firm opinion that the day is not complete without reading the headlines of both media.

I recently eliminated “The Hindu” and “The Guardian” apps from my iPhone – “The Hindu” being the oldest, yet running English language newspaper from South India and “The Guardian” from the U.K. I occasionally see their full web versions, and sometimes my research takes me to their archives. Nothing wrong with either one of their apps, however I felt they were a bit slow on news coverage and their analyses, and sometimes unnecessarily critical of the establishment.

From all of the above, you may come to the quick conclusion that I spend most of my morning hours reading these apps, looking for angles to write about in my blog! That is not true, my intent is to keep myself constantly updated on what is going on around the world, while uncovering some learning from the actions or inactions of global leaders.

With all this stuff, it unnerved me when I heard that some of what we read from global news media could be “fake” – what U.S. President Donald Trump has termed as “Fake News”. It has always been a possibility that some of what we hear could be wrong, or incorrect, but then responsible broadcast media make amends and apologize for any inadvertent errors on their part. That is pretty normal, because people do make mistakes.

But “Fake” news? Is that not a deliberate attempt to replace the correct news with deception to suit the political orientation of the media owners or editors? Yes, it is. But then who practices it? If you go by what Mr Trump says, almost all major news media – CNN, MSN, CBS, ABC, AP, and others who report on what he says, and what he does, are reporting “fake news” every day. Not that Americans are running away from these long-established broadcast media – most of them have grown up with these media, and they control the airwaves for the most part. It would be interesting to see the results of a survey which measures Americans’ responses to Trump’s fake news allegations.

Whatever it is, in my opinion the “fake news” phenomenon does not exist in the way it has been described. There is only one news, and most of us get it right every morning. Some of these could be incorrect, but that inaccuracy lasts only for a few hours before it is replaced with the correct content we should have seen.

There is a lot of satire by the U.S. late night shows on Trump, his tweets and his fake news. If the news as reported in the major news media is not as per his expectations, then that becomes fake news, and this “expectation” of Trump has smeared his presidential reputation to no end.

In a nutshell, we have to see both sides of the same coin. Balance is eventually achieved in our head because we are trained to see the right from the wrong. Our brains are hard-wired, and so sometimes we tend to fall on the side of the news that we really like to see. But then brain realizes its mistake and brings itself back to neutrality.

Enjoy your news via newspapers if you still get one. I get most of mine via the news apps, while still subscribing to The Straits Times which I never finish reading.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

2nd December 2017

The Big Bang Theory


I started seeing this CBS TV Serial some 3 months ago only.

Now I am kind of addicted for those 30 minutes.

This is easily the best TV sitcom that I have ever seen (that’s not to say much though !), which sees me asking for more. The cast of the serial is just amazing, there is a lot to be said about the extremely careful selection process. All the main characters – Leonard, Sheldon, Howard, Raj, Penny, Bernadette and Amy – keep delivering outstanding performances.

The best things that I like about The Big Bang Theory are its scientific, mathematical and physics orientation (which is a rarity in TV serials), combined with amazing interpolation of quick-hitting catch-phrases and sentences from the main characters (with a hint of mischievous humour on most occasions). One has to be really fast to follow the dialogues as sometimes these dialogues are tainted with some heavy physics or mathematical analogies. Not that one is going to learn anything about physics or advanced mathematics, but the feel of the show is that the four guys are real nerds working for one of the most advanced institutes in the world (Caltech, I guess).

I keep laughing continuously especially with the quick repartees from Sheldon, and the quaint, surprised look which comes often in the face of Leonard.

The female participation has been well leveraged, but I regret the exit of the character Leslie (who is almost a better physicist than Sheldon and often challenges him) from the series. Amy, while a good nerdy match to Sheldon, is not able to compete with Sheldon on actual physics theories !

All in all, The Big Bang Theory is easily the best TV sitcom out there that is continuously entertaining and thought-provoking in a silly manner. The cast is probably the best one can assemble for such a serial, and they seem to be keeping the flame burning bright as the serial proceeds through the current season (which is Season 5 in India). I think that this is eminently relaxing and entertaining, though sometimes I feel a bit awkward having my son watching it along with me !

Try seeing this serial and you will see what I mean apart from the scientific impact !!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
4th August 2012
Mumbai

The Court of Media


I have once written about media’s unfettered freedom in India.

Now, I do not think that unfettered freedom is that good. Media is not comprised of folks who are all super-intelligent, super-educated, super- analytical and simply outstanding human beings. Not at all. On the contrary, most of them are sensationalists and the rest are mere reporters.

While I am not denigrating the importance of a free press in any society, it is critical to rethink the role of the media when they choose to “execute” accused or inflame passions, before the truth is discovered and reported. While it is all good to know what happened in a particular case or scandal, it is also important not to pass any judgements at the “Court of the Media”. The media is not qualified to pass any judgements. Neither can they claim to know everything about every case or every person in every situation. Mostly their information is incomplete. Given that the influence of the media is overblown in our society, it is very important to reassess the role of the media.

The current arguments in the Supreme Court of India about the critical importance of the press bear testimony to the strength of democracy and the independence of the judiciary in India. The very thought of formulating a set of reference guidelines for the media is obviously anathema to the media world, and they are understandably resisting any such thought, notwithstanding any logical arguments in favour of the same. The futility of winning a case against the media is well established, at least in India. The lawyers for powerful media houses and publications will argue till the end of this world how critical it is that the media maintains its independence and neutrality – everyone knows that no media is absolutely independent or neutral.

The question of sullying the reputation of any individual – whether he has public standing or not – is an important consideration before the Court. Why should the media make the conclusion on the integrity of an individual – what right they do have in asserting their position which may not be justified at all – and what recourse the individual has against the concerned media ?

The other important situation is the safety of a victim. The more information is revealed about the situation of the victim, the higher the probability that the victim will be disturbed trying to influence the outcome of the case. The media mostly plays a destructive role in such situations.

While I am not providing any evidence in this post, one is free to make his own judgement by just following the news media. It is evident that media needs to operate within a set of guidelines, and if they cross the boundaries, the Court should have the liberty of passing strictures and exercising their power based on a suitable legislation.

Well, these are my thoughts, and I could easily be challenged, of course. Let us think carefully before hailing the “Court of the Media”, which is not conducted by qualified individuals who can pass judgements on any one and anybody in the society.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
14th April 2012
Mumbai

Press Freedom in India


I have written about the raucous media in India, which is even more vociferous than what one encounters in the Philippines, for example. The Indian Press is probably the freest in the world, even freer that what one gets in the U.S.

However, what you see on Indian TV is mostly sensational news, sometimes not thoroughly vindicated as the different channels are in a constant race to grab your eyeballs. The Indian media in general, TV or print, is not research-based, focusing more on spot news gathering and indifferent analyses of news developments. Serious matters do not get the same attention as news involving movie stars and entertainment.

The recent commotion in the Indian media about remarks attributed to Justice Katju, Chairman of the Press Council of India, only proves that media folks have very thin skin. Let us look at what Justice Katju said in a recent interview: he responded to a question on how he estimated the Indian press by saying, “Yes, the general rut is very low and I have a poor opinion of most media people. Frankly, I don’t think they have much knowledge of economic theory or political science or literature or philosophy. I don’t think they have studied all this.”

The above is in fact, a mostly true statement, while the manner in which it has been stated may not appear to be correct to the readers. It is not possible for media persons to be experts in various knowledge areas, they are basically collecting news and reporting on the same. There is distinction between ordinary news gatherers and the senior editors who run shows analyzing latest news and developments. However, instead of explaining the differences and nuances in news reporting and analysis, the media responded vitriolically against Justice Katju’s comments and he chose to ignore their reactions.

Both sides appear to have issues. While I tend to agree with Justice Katju that news reporters need to be more intelligent on the matters that they are reporting and that the news channels should focus more on development news rather than on entertainment, it is also his responsibility to engage with the critical Fourth Estate functionaries in the most diligent manner.

Both hands are needed to clap, otherwise we would end up in a potentially tight spot. Taking actions against the media could be construed as exercise of arbitrary powers to control its voice against the government. Media has hit back vigourously against Justice Katju and what can one do about it ? India is a noisy democracy, and it will continue to be so. Maturity and responsibility are in short supply in the country anyway and that fact is reflected in media behaviour as well.

It is time to reconcile and arrive at an amicable code of conduct. The Press Council plays an important role and that should be recognized by the media. India needs Media to ensure that necessary checks and balances are enforced in society and in government, its role cannot be replaced.

India could be the freest place on earth for journalists but they would do well to support the cause of development by educating themselves on the ground realities with suitable knowledge and diplomatic behaviour.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
5th November 2011
Mumbai

Jack and Jill on HEADLINES TODAY TV News Channel


Courtesy: Shyam, my IIM-B Classmate

Note: I have just written a blog piece about Indian TV News Channels yesterday. I could not resist publishing this one ! Hilarious !!

Here is how the Indian TV news channel HEADLINES TODAY would report the Jack
and Jill nursery rhyme. All names (except those of Jack and Jill), are
fictitious.

Prashant – TV Anchor
Two persons have been injured in a freak climbing accident. Jack and
his companion Jill had gone up a hill to fetch a pail of water when
Jack fell down and broke his crown. Jill came tumbling after. Live
from the hill, our reporter, Amrita Shah, takes up the story.

Amrita Shah
Thank you Prashant. Well, as you say, two persons – Jack and Jill –
had gone up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Suddenly, Jack fell down
and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. Prashant.

Prashant
Thank you Amrita. What do we know about the hill?

Amrita
Not too much. Jack was going up the hill to fetch a pail of water when
he fell down and broke his crown. Jill came tumbling after
[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: “hill breaks crown of
pail-boy Jack”]

Prashant
What news of Jack and Jill?

Amrita
Prashant, it seems that Jack had gone up the hill to fetch a pail of
water. We know nothing about the pail, or how heavy it was but it
seems that Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling
after. I have here with me, an eyewitness to the accident, Mr Shahid
Trivedi. Mr Shahid, tell us what you saw.

Shahid Trivedi
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell
down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.
[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: “Boy and girl tumble
down hill. Water spilled”]

Amrita
Jack and Jill. What do we know about them? Are they brother and
sister? Are they married? Just what were they doing on the hill
together?

Shahid Trivedi
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

Amrita
And what happened next?

Shahid Trivedi
Jack fell down and broke his crown

Amrita
Go on.

Shahid Trivedi
And Jill came tumbling after.

Amrita
Prashant, there you have it. Two people innocently going about their
business to fetch a pail of water when one of them falls down, breaks
his crown, and the other comes tumbling after. Back to you in the
studio Prashant.
[Headline appears at the foot of the TV screen: “Water errand ends in tragedy”]

Prashant
I have with me in the studio now, Professor Chandrashekar Belagare
from the Indian Institute of Applied Hill Sciences. Professor: a hill;
Jack; Jill; a pail of water. A tragedy waiting to happen?

Professor
Well that depends on the hill, the two persons, the object they were
carrying and the conditions underfoot. Let us look at the evidence so
far.
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down
And broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Clearly, one would suspect that if Jack’s fall was severe enough to
break his crown then the surface of the hill must have been slippery
or unstable. But I think we’re overlooking something quite fundamental
here. Who was carrying the pail? Jack fell down and broke his crown
and – this is the key – Jill came tumbling after. If Jack and Jill had
been carrying the pail together, would they not have fallen at the
same time? The fact that Jill came tumbling after suggests that Jack
lost his footing first and perhaps knocked Jill over as he slipped.

Prashant
Professor thank you very much. So there we have it, two persons – Jack
and Jill – went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down
and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after. Later in the
programme, Osama bin Laden killed in Abbotabad, Kanimozhi and Raja
sent to Tihar jail, Shayad Halwa reveals names of ministers, and
Pakistan launches nuclear warheads against key Indian cities. But next
up, join us after the break for a studio discussion about hills, boys
and girls and whether water-fetching trips should be supervised. We’ll
be right back…

Courtesy: Shyam, my IIM-B Classmate

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
7th August 2011
Mumbai

Indian TV News Channels


I spend around 10 to 15 minutes at the most in front of TV, and almost always skim through the news channels, apart from peeking into what is going on in the movie channels.

While the overall coverage of news has surely improved over the past decade, there are a few things that bother me about the news channels in India. These are:

1. Mostly aggressive tone, overstating the news aspect and over-emphasizing the sensational aspects of happenings;
2. Trying to be judgemental about the characters in the news;
3. Throwing open questions that no one has answers for, including probably the person accused in the news;
4. Constantly challenging the wisdom of the newsmakers;
5. Positioning the newsreaders and interviewers and anchor newsman/newswoman as “news makers or news creators, or in plain words destroyers of human beings, or as celebrities par excellence”

Of course, these are my own views, and this is what I feel about news channels. The derivation is that there is no calm and collected analyses of news and happenings, only shrill voices questioning everything around and creating non-stop doubts in the minds of the viewers. Why should I see the news when I can get a more balanced coverage in the news media online ? If the only important agenda is finding fault with everyone, then the mission statement of these channels should be changed accordingly. What a viewer needs is not judgement, he needs bland news reported in a calm voice without a sense of agitation and righteousness that the current crop of news reporters carry with themselves ? Who are they trying to impress ? Are they the only folks concerned about what is going on in this country ?

The assumption of pseudo powers by the Fourth Estate is to be scared about, it is to be worried about. See what is happening to the famous News Corporation. It is the intrusion into the private lives of people which actually creates unpalatable news and sensational news. The only thing to be happy about the Indian TV news channels is that they have not yet started doing what the News of the World did in the U.K., but that is not far off in my opinion. May be that is coming as Gen 2 of the Indian TV channel coverage soon.

While it is all right to question public office holders, the right place for that is the Court of Law. Attempts to malign public servants with whatever information available can only be done with dignity and without threats and challenges. They are not constrained to respond to a TV news channel, which does not have any legal, moral or any other kind of authority. TV channels cannot usurp authority and drag people into mud without having a complete picture, and that too, it is not necessary for anyone to respond.

If I am asked to rank the TV news channels, it would read something like –

A) CNN IBN

B) HEADLINES TODAY

C) TIMES TV

D) NEWS X

E) NDTV

However, not withstanding what I said above, there is some aspects which I do like on these channels. One such thing is the public panel discussion and forum discussion involving politicians (who obviously willingly participate in such sessions, despite the challenges of aggressive and hostile questioning by the anchor person). These discussions are sometimes refreshing and very illuminating on the public policy issues that are plaguing India.

In a nutshell, read your own news online or in newspapers. See TV news channels for some gimmicks and hostility display, and to push yourself to do such questioning yourself – may be one can train oneself to become a news reporter or news anchor ! But nothing much else !!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend without news channels !!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
6th August 2011
Mumbai

Media and Morality


There appears to be no relationship between the Fourth Estate and Morality.

Till now, most people would have thought there is absolutely no connection between Politics and Morality. While that continues to be true around the world, the growing power of Media has thrown the spotlight on people who shine the spotlight on others.

I am referring here to the exposure of the phone hacking scandal involving famous media group in the U.K., which does not believe in ethics or morality. Sensational news is worth anything, they will pay thousands of dollars and more to penetrate the lives of even dead victims, like what happened in the U.K. What is amazing is that even the previous prime minister’s phone records were hacked into. And, the current prime minister appears to be close to this same media group, going by various reports.

So, there you go. If Politics and Politicians have no morality (in general), so does the Media and Media Barons. It is OK to violate country’s laws because Media has assumed the “real” powers of the Fourth Estate, which probably in their opinion should be as powerful, if not more powerful than the other branches of the government – the executive, the parliament – and the judiciary. The Media wishes to have the power of blackmailing over the commoner as well.

Does the government and the police have to kowtow to the Media ?

Is this the way to achieve the balance of power in the society ?

Surely not. We have time and again seen the corruption of the Media in India. We have seen some aggressive Media actions in the U.S. as well, denigrating even the President of the U.S. So, it is more than clear that Media has asserted its superiority over the rest of us in an absolute manner, and in somewhat a threatening manner. The Media can bring down any individual or class of people, and there is really no check and balance on Media. They can expose anyone in society at the flick of a switch, it appears.

As we have seen in the recent past, Media is not incorruptible. The NDTV media personality who bankrupted her reputation is still too fresh in memory. There are many such cases. Media is no God. They cannot and should not be allowed to play God. They have no scruples, no morals, no good sense. They want news, any kind of news which can sensationalize the society. They will intrude into anyone’s privacy.

So, let us be careful with the Media. Also, let us not give too much credence to what we see and hear on the Media. The truth is somewhere in between the various media reports. Sometimes the truth is far away from the Media reports. And character assassination has become a habit in the newsmedia in India, so watch out for personal attacks on newsmakers.

In essence, Media and Morality do not see eye to eye. All over the world. And, especially in the U.K. and its old colony, India.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
17th July 2011
Mumbai