Advantage Arnab

03 Nov,2011

By Ranjona Banerji

 

One would have expected some more fireworks from the print media over Markandey Katju’s remarks on journalists and how he wants to control the media. Katju has just taken over as chairman of the Press Council of India and seems to have bought into the government line that broadcast journalism especially needs to be contained or curbed.

Much as there are aspects about TV journalism in India which are annoying – and god knows I’ve been ranting about them in these columns – government control is not the answer. Nor is the answer in the Press Council of India taking exception to whatever he finds “obnoxious”. The hope is that eventually TV journalism in India will grow up and realise that everything doesn’t have to be a drama, that ignorance is not a virtue and that he who shouts the loudest doesn’t necessarily make the most sense.

Katju, a former Supreme Court judge, is evidently as irritated by TV journalism as most Indians. But bad quality is not the PCI’s concern. It has to look at weak standards and practices rather than a few dimwit journos.

Why not, for instance, take on managements for their policies like medianet (and its many variations) and private treaties? In today’s world, it is not editors who decide on such unfair and blatantly immoral practices, it is owners and managers.

As far as the dumbness of journalists is concerned, I would lay the blame squarely on our education system and the fact that media houses hire people who have studied mass communication at the under-graduate level. If hiring policies were changed so that mass communication/media studies was only required as a post-grad diploma or degree, there would be a dramatic improvement in the quality of our journalists. We might also remember that our best journos don’t even any media degrees.

Katju also seems to think that the media is one homogenous body rather than a diverse collection of rivals. Journalists are not ants looking out for the best interests of the hill. His notion that issues like poverty and development get ignored for Lady Gaga and Formula 1 is all very well but he may not realise that no newspaper or TV channel which concentrates only on serious issues will survive for more than a few months.

We need to get together closer on issues of press freedom and use our vehicles to make our points rather than leave it to bombastic statements from the Editors Guild, which is about as useful as the Press Council.

**

It was interesting however that even an interviewer as aggressive as Karan Thapar seemed to allow Katju to get away with his statements on his show, ‘Devil’s Advocate’ on CNNIBN. Katju held forth and Thapar listened. Very unusual and uncharacteristic.

**

Arnab Goswami and Times Now demonstrated on Wednesday night just why he is so adept at pulling the carpet out from under his rivals. He turned to the extradition orders issued against Wikileaks editor Julian Assange and held a fairly intelligent debate on vendetta and the use of Wikileaks. The panellists were Madhu Trehan, Faruukh Dhondy and for some unknown reason Suhel Seth who of course is TV’s go-to person for fireworks and posturing. N Ram joined later and not only did he and Trehan get into an amusing little spat but then Ram and Goswami started and even more amusing mutual admiration society.

The big winner for Times Now was the discussion on the deaths of two young men in Mumbai almost two weeks ago – Keenan Santos and Rueben Fernandes. Santos and Fernandes and a few friends were out one night when a group of men started to harass and molest the girls in their group. Santos and Fernandes and the other men objected, a fight ensued and Santos and Fernandes were beaten very badly. Santos died that night, Fernandes a few days ago. People apparently stood and watched and calls to the police were of little help.

The family and friends of the boys on the show demonstrated great courage and dignity and Santos’s father Valerian won many admirers. The rise of crime in Mumbai was deplored by guests Bacchi Karkaria and Roshan Abbas. Goswami expressed outrage at the lack of safety, the problems faced by women and even the use of the term “eve-teasing”, which is admittedly idiotic. He also slammed moral policing.

By giving national focus to this Mumbai incident, Goswami has certainly stolen a march on his rivals.

Presumably Katju can fret and fume some more now.

 

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One response to “Advantage Arnab”

  1. Rajesh says:

    amazing to hear you criticize the quality of indian journalism, when your own post is so rambling, incoherent, pointless, and hardly topical to your headline.