[MJR] A tsunami of hot air and hysteria on Indian TV

12 Apr,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


Yes, it is true that there were fears of a tsunami in countries along the Indian Ocean on Wednesday. It is also true that there was terrible damage in the tsunami of December 26, 2004. But there was no need for Indian TV anchors and reporters to start behaving like ambulance chasers as they geared up with excitement to cover this momentous event.


This high-pitched hysteria for every single event, newsworthy or otherwise, gets exceedingly tedious, especially when there is little modulation in tone or pitch. Most Indian TV news channels didn’t even have adequate information nor do they have credible weather anchors, geologists or meteorologists on call. All they can do therefore is to keep repeating the same thing over and over again.


On Wednesday, although a tsunami warning was issued, no tsunami had happened yet. There was no call therefore to behave like the end of the world was upon us. This only engenders panic, made worse by the fact that reporters and anchors say one thing and the texts that run across TV screens imply quite something else.


International channels were a study in contrast. Al Jazeera and the BBC stuck to other world news – Korea, Syria, economic crisis – while CNN concentrated on the earthquake in Indonesia and possible after-effects. There was no breathless reporting; rather the effort was to explain what was happening in a sober and matter-of-fact manner. No attempts were made to audition for a travelling ‘jatra’ party, which appears to be the Indian model. And CNN’s weather expert Mari Ramos was as always excellent in her information and analysis.


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