MJR: TV worries about aam aadmi, forgets economics

25 May,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji


The petrol price hike announced on Wednesday sent TV into a spin. Since the economy is not a strong point for our honourable anchors, they all decided it was a bad thing but then didn’t know how to go further so opted for passionate pleas on the plight on the aam aadmi. Economists have a slightly different view – they see the subsidies to the aam aadmi as the problem as far as India’s oil bill and budget deficit is concerned. The hike on petrol will apparently have only a marginal effect on easing the financial burden carried by the gas companies.


Said The Economic Times on Thursday, “Subsidising petro-fuels is not something that India can afford: this subsidy accounts for a sizeable part of the fiscal deficit and drives up the current account deficit. These twin deficits depress growth by curtailing investment. India needs de-control and competition in petro-fuels.”


The Times of India on Friday says more or less the same thing: “Despite shock and awe for the middle class, the surprising thing about the petrol price hike is that it will only have a marginal impact on the under-recoveries of oil companies or in curbing oil imports. Petrol accounts for just about one-eighth of total oil consumption. In fact most recent numbers show that it is diesel, kerosene and LPG – which account for almost three-fourth of the oil products consumed – that has pushed under-recoveries of oil companies by a massive Rs 1.38 lakh crore.”


The Hindustan Times on Friday: “A steep hike in petrol prices has jolted Indian consumers out of a false sense of security that the government can shield them from the relentless rise in oil prices… India’s energy consumption has remained oblivious to how international prices moved. Our oil demand does not decline as prices rise and this adds to the downward pressure on the rupee. It is a vicious cycle that can be broken up by freeing up all fuel prices and reimbursing only those who cannot afford market rates. A sizeable chunk of the economy is getting a free ride on the government’s fuel subsidy.”


Therefore, despite the hysteria generated by TV channels, the consensus from other sources is clear – we have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from a price increase in all petroleum products. In their anxiousness to get a dramatic confrontation, TV channels forget that not everything makes for a good debate. Why not have a good, solid interview with an economist to explain the problem? They can of course intersperse the interview with song and dance (am I confusing this with IPL?) or run their earlier tapes of panellists yelling at each other so that viewers are not terribly confused with a large dose of sensible talking.




On NDTV, there was mudslinging at the media by the friends of the Talwars, now about to be tried for the murders of their daughter and their domestic servant. There is no doubt that the media goes overboard very often and did so in the Talwar case as well, over-dramatising the details of Aarushi’s life for instance.


But nor can there be any doubt that the Talwars manipulated the media and milked the sympathy card for all it was worth. To get a respected popular historian like Patrick French to write an impassioned article in your defence and then follow that up with a TV interview – master stroke. Unfortunately for them, the judge did not quite see it that way and ruled that they be tried for double murder. Justice may or may not be blind but it is often oblivious to TV channel hoopla.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and columnist based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia



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One response to “MJR: TV worries about aam aadmi, forgets economics”

  1. Anand K says:

    This is spot on. Was watching our beloved Arnab last night on the Newshour. For a change, the panelists were people of strong repute and a better authority on economics than the honourable host. Unfortunately, Arnab ensured that viewers missed out on good analysis by continuously interrupting the panelists without having anything substantial. He was completely found wanting on the subject and had to keep going back to the notes provided by his research team that did not prove quite as useful against the knowledge of the people on the show who breathe these economic numbers night and day.

    While I don’t mind Arnab’s circus when the panelists themselves are the rabble rousing politicians, last night’s show was an opportunity missed.