TV journos, please develop some sense

20 Jan,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

If you have ever felt that you wanted to get bored to the point of death, as a sort of scientific experiment, you would do worse than to try and make sense of daytime TV news. Having just listened to a 5 minute conversation between an anchor and reporter about the latest on the controversy about the army chief’s age, all I could fathom was that the Supreme Court has dismissed a petition. Meanwhile, the anchor and reporter repeated the same thing about five times, over and over again. Plenty of ‘of courses’ and ‘in facts’, in fact, of course, studded this conversation.

 

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West Bengal’s hospitals have always had plenty of horror stories in and around them but now that TV has tasted blood there, one can see that there is unlikely to be an escape from the scanner right now. Mamata Banerjee had better watch out.

 

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Mid-Day was first off the block to tell us about extraordinary behaviour of the captain of the capsized ship, Costa Concordia, as he apparently ran away from his ship – later he said he tripped and fell into a lifeboat. The transcript of the conversation between the Italian Coastguard and the captain was an eye-opener. The captain has been accused of trying some kind of stunt which led to the cruise liner running aground. Indian TV and newspapers have as usual only concentrated on the Indians affected by this accident which makes looking for the complete picture a tedious task. Is there no life – or death – outside our geographical borders?

 

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Suresh Kalmadi gets bail and as usual, our TV channels behave as if he has been acquitted of corruption charges. There are few simple things for journalists to remember here: you are innocent until proven guilty in India, bail is a permissible legal option and I throw this in for good measure: it is okay to criticise the armed forces.
This hysterical self-righteousness demonstrated by most of our TV reporters is not just annoying, it is potentially dangerous.

 

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It might also help if our TV reporters and anchors develop a sense of humour instead of trying to save India’s sensitivities from the BBC programme Top Gear. Surely, we can work on the principle that we are a mature society and can take a few jokes? Or, perhaps Indian news channels should have special telecasts for Indians living abroad who get quite upset quite easily? Then those of us left behind in India can live our lives in peace.

 

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Meanwhile, we still don’t know if writer Salman Rushdie is coming to the Jaipur Lit Fest or not. So much for investigative journalism or a well-constructed publicity stunt?

 

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Veteran and respected journalist Harish Khare has quit as media adviser to the Prime Minister, says The Times of India because he is upset at the appointment of TV journalist Pankaj Pachauri as communications adviser. Is this something to watch out for?

 

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The death of TOI’s film critic Nikhat Kazmi on Friday morning was a sad way to start the day.

 

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