Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Operation Intimidation. Media biggie sends Mediaah! legal notice. Asks us to delete 19 posts and stop defaming it 

It's just not worth it.

On Monday, we received a legal notice. It was from one of the better known media conglomerates of the country, asking us to delete some 19 posts on Mediaah! as also refrain from writing anything 'defamatory' about it in future.

This isn't the first time we've had a problem with media companies. In the last couple of months this is the second legal notice we've received, other than a missive from a media baron asking us to apologise for what s/he termed was an insulting post.

All of this has left us wondering whether it's worthwhile running Mediaah! We aren't making money on it. In fact we have been spending a helluva lot -- in terms of time and monies. Running Mediaah! requires staying in touch with several people across the country - often elsewhere in the world, and not just on the mail but also on phone. Since it’s only done in our spare time, we’re compromising on our personal life, health and leisure…

A friend recently asked us why we revived the site when we knew that running a blog like Mediaah! means playing with fire? Well, our objective is to eventually work towards setting up a propah foundation for media studies and research in the country. The kind in the United States by the name of Poynter. Our plan was to set up a training centre for mid-career journalists and run a variety of newsletters on issues concerning the media -- headlines, design, style, press laws, cyber law, technology, radio, television etc, and have Mediaah -- the news site -- as a draw to the click-and-mortar foundation since nothing sells better than hard trade news.

When we relaunched on January 17, the response was better than the last time around. We thought we could well achieve a 'Poynter India', but for the rather unfortunate response from a few media organisations. There are five options before us:

1. Apologise, remove the 19 posts and lie low for a bit, and get back after things are forgotten
… but given Mediaah's style, it can never lie low. Also, what stops other organisations from also sending us legal notices if we discuss them?

2. Knock off our real names, and run it fictitiously
… but this isn't our style. We think it's important for any critic to have the guts to take his/her name. And there was no way in which we would register the domain name on a fictitious identity etc.

3. Shut the site. Start it again elsewhere. Not as a domain, but just on Blogger or Rediffblogs
… but the new site could also attract similar sentiments if it is with our real names

4. Ignore the notice. Go ahead with life and take on the biggies
… but who will take care of the legal process. Also, we don’t want to be seen as crusading anti-management unionists who want to spoil every party… because we aren’t that

5. Shut the site
… but the only people who will emerge victorious are the biggies who have intimidated us (or waiting to do so). Given the circumstances though, it’s the most practical thing to do

We will never ever choose #2. #4 is tricky, the conglomerate in question has deep pockets and has enough resources to have us run around in circles. We have a strong case, but it doesn’t help fighting them. So the options before us are #1, 3 and 5. We are keen to opt for #5. What is your view? Please email us at mail@mediaah.com

Meanwhile, we have just one bit of advice to media biggies and organisations. Mediaah! started from scratch with Zero subscribers and readers on July 10, 2003. We would like to state here that we are not writing at the behest of anyone. We are not working on behalf of any media group or individual or group of individuals. Mediaah! is a solo effort, and the only thing that keeps us going is a passion for the media. We believe that just as all of us in the print and electronic media criticise and pass judgment on the world, we too should be ready to be under the scanner. Just as we review the act of others (politicians, civic bodies, films, sport, fashion etc) and gossips about stars, there’s nothing if we too are subjected to the same treatment.

Mediaah! grew to 8,000 readers because people like you thought we offer honest commentary and are unbiased. Most of our regular informers are people whom we have never ever met in our lives. The biggies have tried to intimidate us because we were bold enough to reveal our identity. But creating a blog or a free website is child's play. There can be no stopping tens of other Mediaahs which could cause more harm and even get unnecessarily personal.

Mediaah! has always been fair in its criticism, and has even written nice things about people/ entities whenever they deserved it.

So while we know that we'll be letting down our readers and subscribers if we kill ourselves, a biggie seem to be getting close to what it wants: Stifle criticism. Maul us with legalites. Rape our enthusiasm.

We are waiting to hear from you, dear reader. Perhaps some of us can use our good offices with media biggies and ask them to chill. If the biggie in question doesn't withdraw the notice, we will be forced to kill ourselves. Tonight.

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