Asianet Kerala’s Broadcasting Embarrassment

In full cry

In full cry

Non-resident Keralites, at least in UK, do not have much of a choice when watching Malayalam TV channels. They are usually at the mercy of local dish TV operators that do their own scheduling and editing, showing scant respect for the subscribers. They even truncate serious interviews and documentaries to show old Prem Nazir-Jayabharathi film songs. It seems that the channel bosses back home have little control over their agents here. Asianet and Asianet News are two locally available Malayalam channels and subscription for both together costs about £160 a year. It was the insensitive local editing and programme scheduling that prompted me to look up Asianet.

Asianet is reputed to be the biggest Malayalam TV broadcasting house, which airs multiple channels. Yet, if you Google for Asianet, the results can be quite confusing. A search for Asianet landed me Asianet Communications, Asianet Global, Asianet Satellite Communications, Asianet Data Line and Asianet Digital TV among other things. Finally I had to call my journalist friend back in Trivandrum to solve the mystery.

I am told that, now Asianet is more than one company. A big chunk of the original firm has been acquired by none other than media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The remaining three of its channels, Asianet, Asianet News and Asianet Plus, are controlled by Rajiv Chandrasekhar, technocrat and former CEO of BPL Mobile. He holds majority shares, through Jupiter Entertainment Ventures, his Bangalore based company. Other prominent share holders are Reji Menon, the original promoter of Asianet, T V Madhavan and K Madhavan, the current Asianet MD. Two brothers of Reji Menon and K P Mohanan, the current Chief News Editor also hold a few shares.

Besides owning FM Radio ‘Indigo’, Rajiv Chandrasekhar’s future media ambitions include Asianet channels and FM Radio channels in Kannada, Tamil and Telungu, the other three major south Indian languages. He is also a Rajya Sabha MP representing Bangalore. The sitting Director of Karnataka Power Corporation and also a former advisor to Government of India on Information Technology, Chandra Sekhar indeed is an admirably smart cookie with many more colourful feathers in his cap. Currently Asianet is reputed to have a 35% share in the 250 Crore Kerala advertisement market.

The write-up about Chandrasekhar was just to impress upon the reader that Asianet is controlled by a very capable chap. Now let us come to the real subject of this little piece here.

Every Saturday, K P Mohanan, the News Editor of Asianet, presents a programme called ‘Kanvettom’, in which he is the star-in-chief. He usually analyses and comments on political or social issues that are of recent media interest. The Asianet website claims that ‘Kanvettom’ is a very unique editorial programme, ‘the first of its kind in the history of Indian news television’. Being the news editor, it seems that Mohanan has created his own war medals and is wearing them in public like some quaint general from a banana republic. The site also introduces Mr Mohanan as a veteran journalist and editor, who has worked with major media organizations in different parts of the world and also as a permanent member of the World Press Institute, Minneapolis, USA. He also claims to have interviewed a dozen Prime Ministers and Presidents, including Margaret Thatcher and Jimmy Carter.

Now, about World Press Institute, any journalist can apply for a membership if they have the following.

1) At least five years of full-time news experience 2) Fluency in all aspects of English 3) Several written essays 4) Three letters of recommendation 5) At least three work samples.

There must be at least a thousand south Indian journalists who meet those requirements. WPI seems to be some sort of a charity school that instils American values of journalism in budding journalists from third world countries. They also arrange tours across America and hold interviews with available celebrities and politicians. Most probably, Mr Mohan must have interviewed his celebrities as part of his internship at the said World Press Institute. To know more, please do visit: http://www.worldpressinstitute.org

It is common knowledge that being a print media journalist and an electronic media man are poles apart. The traditional journalist most probably did his work the previous night in his pyjamas with a bottle of rum as witness. Whatever one came across the next morning was an erudite one man show, with no supporting crew. The electronic media man, unless someone else scripts his show, needs all that a bit more. He requires an unobtrusive presence that sets aside the centre stage for the subject that he discusses or the person he interviews.

Here, I am not belittling the unseen print media professional. I have personally known some of the greatest, like K Balakrishanan and P C Sukumaran Nair. (Strangely, both of them would have made fantastic electronic media personalities, just because they knew what they were writing about and never deviated from their subjects). Two modern equivalents (almost) would be Gouridasan Nair and T N Gopakumar, who by virtue of being alive in the present times have the good fortune to prove themselves more than adequate in both the versions.

Now let me come back to the news editor at Asianet. First of all, Mr Mohan dresses up and grooms himself too much for the part. (Do we have a male Oprah Winfrey doing a soliloquy?) Secondly, in every episode, HE IS THE SUBJECT. His voice modulation, emphasis, gestures, facial expression and everything else is a NO-NO lesson for any aspiring TV/Radio journalist. Finally whatever he says comes out as a biased personal opinion and a not as an impartial evaluation. The rather disturbing on-screen presence of the News Editor goes on to highlight the brilliance of other very professional Asianet newscasters and anchors like T N Gopakumar, Prasanth Raghuvamsom, Manjush Gopal and a dozen others. All of them set a great example for Kerla’s electronic media journalism, prudently stepping aside to leave the centre stage solely for the subject at hand.

Here I have a couple of questions for the brilliant Rajiv Chandrasekhar. Despite you being a very smart businessman, why is the news editor at Asianet allowed to blatantly project himself, hogging the centre stage and paying scant respect to journalistic sensibilities? Has anyone bothered to rate ‘Kanvettom’ for its journalistic values? Why is Mr Mohan let loose, throwing to wind the concepts of a sane and sober media presence? Why do we, the paying viewers deserve him? I am sure that the issue of minor shareholding has nothing to do with it. Rajivji, it is time for some quick cut and paste at your desk.

However, Kanvettom is the not the most tasteless programme we have seen on Asianet. That trophy goes to supporting actor Jagadeesh, who with his appalling English and brassy costumes, talent searched future comedians and mimicry artists. When he cold-heartedly murdered those haunting Mukesh melodies, the spirit of the great man was seen restlessly pacing the Royal Albert Hall, where he did one of his greatest performances.

As always, at all times, may better sense prevail.

NOTES: (1) The visual used in this article is courtesy, Asianet website. (2) If there are any errors, please do correct me. (3) This piece is authored by my right as a paying Asianet subscriber. (4) It is not the blogger’s aim to personally offend or insult anyone.

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15 responses to “Asianet Kerala’s Broadcasting Embarrassment

  1. I came across your blog just by chance, while I was searching for malayalam journalism.

    Excellent writing. Me too harbour the same view regarding this noisy and intolerable programme. Atleast Mr. Mohanan can practice some sort of voice modulation to please the viewers. He reminds me of Cherian Philip who used to do a similar programme in Kairali(Thank God! it is no more there).
    He can always hand over the baton to, the much talented younger lot like Sindhu sooryakumar, Venu Balakrishnan(I think he joined ManoramaNews), Saneesh, Aparna or Prajula, ie. if it is very necessary for them to carry on with this crap.

    Keep writing.

  2. Mohan Nair

    Please forgive K.P.Mohanan. He does not have any idea of the medium- happens when print journalists take to television. The guy is a genuine “sad case”. He has been doing it for quite a long time. I first experienced the “shock value” of his presentation on the night A.K.Antony resigned as the CM of Kerala. Appraently he is a senior man at Asianet and his colleagues are scared to tell him his presentation style is awkward . Normallly, the family members intervene; in his case I guess even they are fed up.

  3. NICE REVIEW. I WONDER WHY THEY DIDN’T KEEP VENU BALAKRISHNAN WITH THEM!!!!

    • Hi Jo, the men and women who work for the media these days are more or less like the football players in the English Premier League. They have no loyalties to the brand names like Soorya, Asianet, Jeeva etc which found them and made them popular. The media baron with the fattest purse will get his man. Let there be no illusions. Cheers.

  4. Pachu Kovalan

    I thought I was a loner. Now I know many people feel the same way about the narcissitic program called “Kanvettom”.

    Very well written. Kudos

  5. Arun Thomas

    Excellent….Even I thought, I was a loner….Kudos….I think, that program is now not in Asianet!!!

  6. I can’t agree with you anymore. Asianet is kidnapped by the Trivandrum lobby, led by the Mohanlal, Priyadarshan, MG Sreekumar trio. Most days we see Mohanlal movies. Most of the programmes are recorded in Trivandrum, showing the same dried out faces in the audience. During the newscasts they show stills from Trivandrum as if Kerala means only TVPM to Asianet. Why can’t they shoot some of the programmes in Trichur, Kozhikode or Kannur? And the so called comedians whose programmes force us to the brink of vomit. I think Asianet gives chances to all its pallbearers like K.P. Mohanan & Co. Whoever has got talent is not recognised, like Mr. T.N. Gopakumar. Where is Venu?

  7. KPM has moved over to a channel owned by Congress leaders in Kerala. His yelling in the night used to wake up my wife. I used to see it for the comic effect. My wife recently asked me what happened to ‘that man’ who shouts “Is there rice? Are there roads?”
    The deal, I believe, is that Congress will give him a MLA seat in turn for lending his expertise to the channel’s growth (or premature burial, it has to be seen). Anyway our Khaddar guys will give him a seat where there will be no congressmen in the vicinity.

  8. Vandana Vasudevan

    Came across your blog accidentally. Excellent piece of writing Sir! Started recieving Asianet News few days back; still discovering it but completely agree with what you said about Jagadeesh. He just just kills any Hindi melody he sings and flaunts his outrageous English that puts you off to the core.

  9. Anand Pillai

    The programme producers and the presenters appear to have their own agenda. Most programmes lack substance but provide comic relief. Anglicised Malayalam is given a premium. The news items are generally biased and it is so in all the Indian channels. What else can you expect when religious bigots and politicians run channels for material benefits? Of course, once in a while viewers are saved by rare patches of brilliance.

    • Dear Pillai, the days of neutral reporting ended when channels were bought over by tycoons and political parties that had their own hidden messages for the listeners. When a newsreader needs to spend sixty minutes with a make-up man to read a twenty minute broadcast, the priorities have shifted. Either she is repulsively ugly or the Kerala public is expecting strip tease. We had a newscaster who used to say “athyapahan”, “vithyarthee”, “nirpantha puthee” etc in Asianet. Thankfully, they have shifted him to reporting. (I have nothing against him. It was just his Tamil accent acting up). Then we have the wannabe nymphs and sex sirens that chew up and spit Ezhuthachan’s Malayalam like a water buffalo dealing with stale cattle feed. But let us blame no one. It is the young Kerala families and Kerala youth that spend a couple of hundred rupees to see these repulsive idiots compeer awards and fashion shows. It is also sad that there are no more rotten eggs and tomatoes in Kerala markets and that present day Keralites do not know how to use these effectively. However, the newscasters in Asianet are a shade better than the disasters in Manorama News.

  10. Excellent writing, Prithvi. Mohanan is now the CEO of Jaihind. He has now copied Kanvettom and hosts a similar show. Talking about ‘uchaaranam’, have you seen Asianet’s US reporter and anchor Krishna Kishore – very few in Kerala can match him. Professional to the core. I think he anchors US round up programmes.

    • Yes, Balan.. Our present day ‘mallyaalam’ monsters should take a leaf out of Krishna Kishore’s book. It is quite evident that Krishna has been abroad for quite some time. Yet, he keeps his diction pure and clear. Malayala Manorama’s News Channel is currently the worst, along with Asianet. Few of the newscasters and compeers can differentiate between ‘kha’ and ‘gha’, ‘tha’, tdha’ and ‘dha’.. I have heard about a casting couch.. would not be too surprised by a broadcasting couch as things stand.. sad… miserable..

  11. Absolutely disgusting! I feel like smashing the T.V. whenever I see K.P. Mohanan! He is absolutely disgusting! Most awkward! simply abominable! Somebody banish him! His style, his disgusting voice, disgusting disgusting voice modulation makes me mad!!!!! I feel like kicking him in the ass!!!!!

  12. Jagadeesh! abhorable to the core! I cannot quantify the extent of my disgust towards that most disgusting person! I would rather do a life term in prison rather that watch him and his appalling performance on T.V! Kick him out!

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