Many months back, even ahead of the November 26 terror strike in Mumbai which transformed the English news television landscape entirely, I had written that Arnab Goswami was the best anchor on primetime news TV.
He was different from Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt who were stars of the nightly bulletins. He was direct, he asked the tough questions and didn’t let his guests get away easily.
In many ways, just as Angry Young Man Amitabh Bachchan mesmerized the nation in the 1970s, the Angry Young Man Arnab Goswami grew big on television. Rajdeep and Barkha (and Prannoy Roy etc) were journalists… this guy was like one of us.
November 26, 2008 onwards was when he was at his peak. Some may say he took the easy (and if one may add uncharitably: safer) option of being in the studio as his reporters went closer to the hostage drama. But it was a wise decision. While it’s good to have your trump cards in action - whether they should be on the field or off is a call that’s got to be taken. By staying in the studios, Arnab ensured that the 60+ hours of the hostage crisis was covered the best on Times Now.
It’s been no looking back thereafter. He took the nationalistic line and the longevity of the terror discussion ensured that he would go on and on and on. Then there were border concerns in China and immigrant problems in Australia and wherever there was an issue where there was an Indian case to be fought for, Superman Arnab came to the rescue.
A variety of political scandals and multiple scams ensured that there were enough ratings for news on television. Plus a packed sporting season.
However, Arnab appeared to have got greedy. Or was forced to not see reason and hold back. He stretched his nationalistic debates a bit much.
Agreed the nation wants answers and is happy that Arnab asks for them too, but the shrillness with which he goes about his task makes it a charade. There is a hardly a night when there is peace among his his panelists.
There are other problems with the Arnab we see on Newshour and beyond. His body language as he faces the camera shows that he gets in with a view. And he wants to lead the discussion as per that.
He gets carried away. Like he failed to see reason when Anna Hazare was at his peak. Like he did last Sunday as anchored a newsroom discussion through the day for Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s funeral procession. While one didn’t expect him to damn him, the death of a political leader like Thackeray offered enough reason for a debate on his policies and style of functioning.
Arnab’s ‘Frankly Speaking’ with Raj Thackeray may have seen him raise some probing questions, but he let him get away. Raj even had some fun at Arnab’s expense.
Last night (on Tuesday, Nov 20), we had a discussion on the two girls in suburban Palghar being arrested over a Facebook comment. The arrest as well as the vandalism thereafter must be damned. Those who committed both the crimes ought to be taken to task.
I hold no brief for any of the three Mumbai women guests present, but Arnab was being offensive. At least allow Shaina NC to speak and move on if she’s not making a direct reference to the Sena, though later she did make an oblique reference!
Arnab is fortunate that his competition, save Rajdeep Sardesai’s CNN-IBN, is not formidable. The NDTV 24×7 coverage of the Bal Thackeray death and funeral procession was pathetic. Sreenivasan Jain is poor with live news TV. His performance has been consistently below par: he was no great shakes when he was the Mumbai bureau head some years back, on Profit and now with the Thackeray coverage. Yes, on-off documentaries are great as are his exposes.
As for Headlines Today, I think I have the solution to how it can be a force to reckon with. Let Rahul Kanwal be around for interviews et al, but get another primetime anchor-editor.
Since I don’t have NewsX piped in through my digitized signal, I don’t watch the channel, but to my mind, CNN-IBN is by far the best English news television channel.
Mind you, Rajdeep also gets shrill at times and Sagorika Ghose is a dozen times his decibel levels, but what makes the channel stand out is that it’s got multiple faces.
Times Now appears happy to have not created a face beyond Arnab. But that’s their internal policy, though I am not sure if it’s a wise one.
As for NDTV 24×7, it’s sad to see a wealth of talent often being wasted. Although I didn’t see much of the channel after a point last weekend, perhaps getting Barkha Dutt on would’ve been better with the Bal Thackeray coverage.
Back to Arnab. If he really wants the viewing masses to find him spending their primetime with, he must switch tracks, get less combative and chill.
A 10-day Vipassana course perhaps?
Mediaah! Is written by Pradyuman Maheshwari, Editor-in-Chief, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. If you don’t want to use the messageboard below, inbox your comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or BBM 29FEA79C.