Ranjona Banerji: Enough of serial debaters & screamers on news channels
By Ranjona Banerji
They maybe very nice people when they’re at home but there are some people whom I never want to see on television again. Well, preferably never again but if that is not possible then at least after a very long time. Here are their names, in no particular order: Manish Tiwari, Chandan Mitra, Swapan Dasgupta, Meenakshi Lekhi, Kamal Farooqui, Mohammed Owaisi, Suhel Seth, Renuka Choudhary, Mukul Oza, Jainarayan Vyas, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Vinod Sharma, Vinod Mehta, Mohandas Pai, Shobhaa De… News channels need to find a whole new list of serial debaters and screamers to appear on their channels every night to give the viewing public a break from this lot. I have nothing against some of these people and personally find some of them unbearable but I am tired of watching all of them.
Of course, there is possibly a severe shortage of argumentative Indians in India, in which case these TV channels can get together and organise a training school for political spokespersons who are stuck in a groove and for societal leaders (yes, I know the jargon!) who have become a little jaded with all this constant TV exposure. A special refresher is needed for journalists who cannot decide if they are indeed journalists or spokespersons for political parties.
Also, news channels need to make their guests sign a full disclosure about how many other TV channels they plan to visit on the same day. It can be very disturbing for viewers to see the same guest saying different things wearing a different shirt on different channels at exactly the same time. This can lead to moments of sheer terror at the tricks your mind is playing on you. It usually happens to me when I quickly hit the remote to get away from a certain screamer only to find him or her on the next news channels.
A running scroll at the bottom of the screen could warn us: “Viewers are informed that guest number so-and-so is also currently appearing on all our rival channels and therefore they do not need to rush and join Alcoholics Anonymous immediately.”
I do suspect however that the longer you watch TV news in India on a regular basis, the greater the likelihood of Alcoholics Anonymous becoming a distinct possibility.
I forgot to mention, the warning scroll at the bottom of the screen needs to have at least three grammatical errors for it to look like legitimate journalism or viewers may well confuse it with an ad.
I have to admit that the one person I really miss is Abhishek Manu Singhvi. His sneering arrogance and amazing felicity with the language made him very watchable. Why his sex life ended his television time I have not yet understood.
TV news therefore continued in its own inevitable fashion last week. The bigger excitement was in the social media as the government of India, which has never really understood freedom of expression in 65 years, tried to block websites, twitter, Facebook and so on.
That this is a self-defeating exercise has not yet been understood.
Meanwhile Barkha Dutt, once India’s star TV anchor but now I’m not so sure, started a twit-fight by suggesting that the problem with twitter is that it is boring and predictable and full of agenda-pushers, stalkers, loser, lurkers and other such characters. I peeked into her profile (no, I am not a follower) and found that while she had thousands of followers, she followed only 160 people. No wonder twitter is boring for her. My advice is simple: follow more people and get to know more points of view than those of the stalkers, losers and lurkers who follow you!
Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are her own