NDTV's monopoly over the English-speaking classes in India is over. Ten months after it was launched, India Broadcast News (IBN), in collaboration with CNN, has decisively emerged as a leading competitor for English television news. Headed by prominent journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, who quit NDTV after a decade's stint, CNN-IBN has captured a sizeable segment of the urban upper- and middle-class viewership. But NDTV will not be shoved away so easily: the channel has a massive network, and has recently spruced up its look and quality of reportage. Bearing the brunt of NDTV's established credentials and IBN's success has been Times Now, from the Times of India stable, which has shown dismal ratings. But those who were hoping that the war for news would boost standards of journalism and introduce a new culture of television reportage will be a tad disappointed. For the viewer, it is more of the same.     Kuldip Nayar has seen it all. From the times of Partition and Gandhi's assassination, through the turbulent decades of the 1960s and 1970s in Indian politics, to the entire gamut of India-Pakistan relations, the veteran journalist knows Independent India like few others do. So when this man decides to tell all, Southasia listens. Nayar has just released a book of his scoops. But the big one is yet to come – he promises a fuller memoir called The Days Look Old soon. While we wait for that one, Chettria Patrakar cannot but think of the senior journalists across Southasia, who have reported and been involved in events that have shaped the contemporary history of the region – Ayub's coup, the Dalai Lama's exile, the 1960 takeover by King Mahendra, the Sino-Indian war, Bangladesh's liberation, the beginnings of Tamil nationalism, and many others. History would be unforgiving if the experiences of the hacks of those years are not well documented.     Media regulations in Nepal are set to be drastically overhauled. A High-Level Media Commission (HLMC), appointed two months back, has now submitted its recommendations to the government. And if Prime Minister G P Koirala's assurances to the members of the HLMC are anything to go by, this is one commission report that will have an impact. Suggestions include detaching the government's control over government-owned media, limitations on cross-ownership, and allowing up to 49 percent foreign investment in print media, provided decision-making remains with Nepali citizens. The committee has also asked the government to recognise the digital medium as mass media. Other recommendations centre on the state's advertisement policy, and creating an inclusive media. Let's hope this gives a boost to free and responsible journalism in the country after the heady days of the People's Movement of April, which owed so much of its success to the reporters and editors..   As Nepal tries to institutionalise the notion of press freedom, it could teach some lessons to its mammoth neighbour up north, which has yet again showed its scant respect for democracy. Beijing might pretend to have turned a new leaf by opening up Tibet, and introducing more participation. But the farce is apparent. China has banned all reports distributed within the country by foreign news agencies until they are cleared by the state. The government has resorted to the old trick of using the most broad-based definition – protection of national unity, social stability, economic and social order – to decide what reports must be controlled. But the real decision is said to have been motivated by more specific concerns – state news agency Xinhua's aim to edge out competitors, especially financial news providers, as well as anger at the policy of foreign agencies not to completely toe the official Chinese line on Taiwan. But in this wired age, the wise men of the People's Republic are fooling themselves in thinking that various forms of censorship can keep their people in the dark about the world outside.   In the flurry of editorials and opinion pieces that have tried to explain the significance of the Havana meeting between Pervez Musharraf and Manmohan Singh, one stood out for its lucidity and clarity. On 18 September the Daily Times of Lahore welcomed the resumption of talks, and drew some key lessons from the meet. Its editorial suggested that whatever the provocation, there should be no talk of disengagement; that terrorism requires cooperative mechanisms; that India must introspect about other causes that give rise to militancy within; and that Pakistan has an obligation to clamp down on such groups. Sober, balanced and thoughtful – the paper's take on bilateral relations was a refreshing read.   Journalists are back to living dangerously as hostilities resume in Sri Lanka. The press in the country has always been sharply polarised – categorised as either Sinhalese-nationalist or pro-LTTE. In the last two months, two journalists and two newspaper distributors have been murdered, while a news manager was abducted and released. Reporters and editors from both sides have been in the line of fire. If the two sides have decided they would prefer war to sanity, there is little others can to do to prevent it. But a dirty war is unacceptable, including one that targets the messenger. Chettria Patrakar would hope that the medley of the international players in the island nation would ensure that, at the very least, the basic codes of humanitarian law are respected by both sides.   What's wrong with Indian editors? Have they forgotten their role of reporting with diligence and leaving heavy opinion for the editorial and op-ed pieces? Some of Delhi's editors have long thought of themselves as agenda-setters and direct participants. Some newspapers have a defined ideological stand, with every report viewed according to this prism, and wherein their journalists have no hesitation in framing stories tailored to this agenda. The Asian Age does not like proximity to the US, and detests the present foreign-policy establishment. So after the Havana meeting, we saw the paper go all over town with speculation – in the news reports, mind you – about the US hand in the deal. On the other side, The Indian Express is the leading advocate of engagement with the US and hates the left. So its bureau chief in Delhi decides to go to Israel while Lebanon was being bombed, and wrote stories about how the Indian comrades should draw inspiration from the Israeli left, which was supporting the invasion. Uggh, give me Bhutan's Kuensel anyday!   Once in a while, Bombay directors can sense the pulse of the people just right. And Hindi cinema must be lauded for these few times when people can really relate to it. This year's biggest hits, Rang De Basanti and Lage Raho Munnabhai, were entertaining movies with contrasting messages; while the former used violence to solve present ills, the latter rediscovered M K Gandhi for the urban youth and India Shining crowd. But there was one similarity that added another level of welcome – the use of radio to pass on the central message of each film. At critical turning points, and in the both the films' climaxes, the protagonists relied on radio broadcasts to convey their messages. Not television screens. Not online chatting. Not mobile text messages. And that struck a note, for most Southasians are radio people, turning to these ubiquitous little transmitters for information and entertainment. Radio remains our most important and empowering tool, but it is an idea only a few policymakers understand well. And that explains why radio still has not received the attention it deserves. Perhaps Bollywood movies will succeed where decades of activism has failed in rejuvenating radio.   Author-publisher contracts have just gained a new sanctity. And who else but Pervez Musharraf to have brought them back into vogue? He would like us to believe that an agreement with a New York-based publisher has sealed his lips. After having raised a furore by revealing that the US had threatened to bomb Pakistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, President Musharraf suddenly went mum on the issue when questioned during a recent joint press conference with George W Bush. "I would like to – I am launching my book on the 25th, and I am honour-bound to [publisher] Simon & Schuster not to comment on the book before that day," said the man who has thought little of backing out on honourable promises made about Pakistan's democracy timetable. Whether deft diplomatic manoeuvring or a publicity stunt to boost his book sales, President Musharraf is one smart Southasian. – Chettria Patrakar

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Himal Southasian