Freaking News | Making sense of gobbedygook

22 Sep,2011

A week is a long time in politics said one British prime minister or another and as far as news cycles are concerned, a week could be an eternity. Last week’s newsmakers have vanished as the 2G scam took control of television once more. However, most of what was happening was official gobbledygook as everyone, from anchors to honoured guests tried to make sense of it. Even Arnab Goswami, as he demanded answers for things which India wanted to know, got caught up in dates, memos and LOIs, possibly leaving viewers searching for the remote as the evening’s melodrama had been denied them.

Early on Wednesday, there was plenty of television excitement over the news that the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the puppet-master of the Bharatiya Janata Party, had informed LK Advani that he was not a potential prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections. By the evening it became clear that no one really cared and no one doubted that the RSS controlled the BJP.

In any case, it all became about a letter which the finance ministry under Pranab Mukherjee had written which raised questions about the position on 2G taken by the finance ministry under P Chidambaram. But much as TV channels tried to put to the Union home minister in the dock, the government did not bite. And then it all became about dates, LOIs (which it turned out means letters of intent) and memos.

Internationally, the focus was on the plea to stop the execution of a man convicted in 1991 for killing a police officer in 1989, in the American state of Georgia. Questions had since been raised about the investigation, witnesses had retracted their statements and there appeared to be no physical evidence linking him to the crime. However the US Supreme Court did not stay Troy Davies’s execution. This led to debates about justice and capital punishment. However Indian channels did not find Davies to be newsworthy – although social networking sites were buzzing with it.

The changes made to Facebook also got international airtime and certainly, both Twitter and Facebook were filled with angry comments from users. You get the feeling that Indian channels keep a close watch on various popularity measuring mechanisms which also tell them how much drama can be milked from a news event and how much jingoism can be added to it. If it fails on these two counts, the event is now news. Therefore one can conclude that possibly erroneous death penalties in other countries and social networking sites do not make Indian blood boil.

Is it then surprising that The Times of India issued an ad that said that TV was all hot air and only newspapers can shed light on events?


Newspapers of course tried to explain what the latest 2G revelations mean but even they struggled between dates and memos. With the prime and finance ministers out of the country, further political explanations became difficult. The Supreme Court stepped in to make it clear that its silence on 2G should not be misinterpreted to mean that it is asleep.

The Sikkim earthquake and the problems of rescue operations got adequate representation (although TV did not forget, it must be acknowledged).

Also the Planning Commission’s bizarre figures to determine poverty in India got newspaper space and flak. Advani’s little problem was a single column here and there – this is not a new story after all.

Salman Rushdie’s introduction to Twitter was found to be newsworthy, two days after he took the literati of the twitterati by surprise by showing up there.



Every time a new film is due, the India media behaves as if a new inhabitable planet has been found. This week, it seems, a new film will be released. One does not know yet whether space suits will be required or it will be one more black hole.

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