Millennium Post

Media mislead, taken for a ride

It is incredible how misinformation can spread like wildfire in the present media machine and how poorly the fact-checking mechanism, if any, fares in the current hyperbole-driven press market. A glaring proof of its unpardonable breach of trust was evident in the recent ‘news item’ doing the rounds in practically every circuit of the media machine, thanks to a major news agency that was fed  – that involving the face of Indian corporate sector, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL). Apparently, almost every newspaper and TV channel in India, and their subsidiaries/branches abroad (regrettably enough, the list includes this newspaper as well), that subscribes to the particular news agency, carried a story, evidently a rehashed press release from the mega company itself, that claimed that RIL ‘became the first company in the country to achieve quarterly turnover or sales of more than Rs 1 lakh crore in a quarter,’ with its turnover standing at Rs 1,06,523 crore, against Rs 93,266 crore in the previous quarter. From the press release of the RIL, the figure of Rs. 1,06,523 crore is inclusive of excise duty. This is a blatantly false claim, since RIL is the first private sector company to reach the magic number, since IndianOil, the public sector giant of oil and gas and the country’s largest company, had already crossed the threshold last year.  In fact, IndianOil is the first company in India, to have  crossed this milestone of the Rs 1,00,000 crore sales turnover (inclusive of excise duty) in quarter Jan- March 2012, with a total turnover of Rs 1,01,105.66 crore.  Even without considering  the excise duty, IndianOil clocked a sales turnover of Rs 1,01,359.72 crore during the quarter Oct-Dec 2012.

Evidently, this is both a gross misuse of a public platform such as the media as well as an enormous failure on the part of the media itself to verify the claims on its own. While the press agency must be castigated and should apologise for the ill-advised report that it brought out and which was lapped up across the board without further verification (except a few media groups, mercifully), the RIL itself must also issue an apology to the public at large for coming out with such blazing lies. Naturally, once exposed as perpetrators of misinformation, RIL head Mukesh Ambani’s claim that RIL’s performance in the first half of the year reflected the resilience of their business model in a period of volatility and uncertainty falls partially flat, since more than pure business operations, RIL’s profits and the figures suggesting their market shares come with minor adjustments, and are often aimed at hoodwinking the public. Clearly, introspection is more than due on the part of both the media and one of the biggest corporate house in the country.
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