Ranjona Banerji: Why I criticise Times Now most

08 Jun,2012

Ranjona Banerji

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Is the cacophony of television news adding anything substantial to the dissemination of news, views and information? In fact I should make that “substantive” since this seems to be the new fashionable word. I repeatedly hear people saying it on TV and since there is no editing provision for live TV debates, mistakes are exaggerated and emphasised. A man who was introduced as a Supreme Court lawyer (I cannot remember his name but he also hates the BCCI, if that’s a clue) said this repeatedly and I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall if he had ever appeared before Markandey Katju. Sadly, the print media is also unable to see the difference between “substantial” and “substantive” even as it continues to mis-spell “minuscule” as “miniscule”, probably because it doesn’t register on spell check in Microsoft Word. The dictionary has not been spotted in newspaper offices for over a decade now and sits high on the endangered species list. And of course the difference (or as they say on TV “differential”) between “less” and “lesser” is a lost cause as far as the print media is concerned.

 

This segue from irrelevant debates to bad spelling is now over. This week, Times Now spent half an hour discussing a proposal by Air India to give special favours to MPs. The problem was that no one except the anchor, editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami, knew anything about the plan. So the discussion – if it can be called that – never went anywhere.

 

There are events which are offensive and annoying. But not all of them have enough substance – substantial or substantive – to merit a debate. A little discretion is advised if you do not want to drive viewers away.

 

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I have to admit that I watch more Times Now at primetime than any other English TV news channel . And that is why I criticise it the most. But even in all the seemingly manufactured outrage, it appeared that Times Now had a finger on the pulse of its viewers. Now I wonder – drama for the sake of drama gets boring after a while, even in a country which thinks that Rowdy Rathore is a good film.

 

CNN-IBN is dull, NDTV I have ambivalent feelings towards and I stopped watching Barkha Dutt after her reaction to the Radia tapes, Headlines Today remains a channel for babies and NewsX appears to have not paid its carriage fees to over half the country’s operators. The best programmes on CNN-IBN are probably Cyrus Broacha’s The Week That Wasn’t and Karan Thapar’s Devil’s Advocate and Last Word.

 

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The problem for TV of course is that issues like the economy, drought, government inaction, female foeticide – which newspapers have focused on today – have no visual or dramatic traction. Indian TV news does not seem to have as yet worked out how to develop a story. If everything has to be breaking news, then at best you have raw data which can move in any direction and at worst, you have nothing.

 

The Indonesian connection to Madhu Koda is a case in point. For such a story to have maximum impact, it would have made better sense for Times Now to construct a story and then air it. By just running with what they had, they only confused and bored people.

 

This lack of direction and journalistic skill is why they keep running to people for reactions, whether it is a tree that has fallen or a road accident. Or indeed, a proposal by Air India to treat MPs like kings.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are her own.

 

 

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2 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: Why I criticise Times Now most”

  1. varadhachari says:

    TN is not alone-every channel has affiliation-because pay per lie is becoming popular-UPA is loaded with cash-but illiteracy ensures impact is least-poorest of poor want CASH

  2. Simple Indian says:

    I fully agree with your views on how news channels present, rather thrust all sorts of ‘news’ down our throat in the name of ‘breaking news’. Like you, I too watch TimesNow more often than any other news channel at prime time. That’s because I find other popular channels either too insipid or too biased, as if they have a hidden agenda to present ‘news’ in a certain way. The Radia Tapes only proved my assumption to be true, which was another reason the likes of NDTV and CNN-IBN drove me into the arms of the ‘lesser evil’ that TimesNow is. I may not always approve of the belligerent manner in which Arnab moderates (if you can call it that !) debates, but he comes across as less biased and pliable, compared to some of his peers in other channels.
    However, in this era of ‘paid news’ (I often can’t make out which ones are paid for and which ones not !), I find it prudent to watch multiple channels to have a balanced perspective (though it doesn’t always help). Moreover, with many politicians and businessmen having controlling stake in several media houses, it is only natural for those channels to air ‘news’ in a certain manner. Also, the Radia Tapes proved that many celebrated media persons are not content with presenting news, but would like to power-brokers, making bed with the very people they castigate on their shows. In my opinion, there is as much morality left in the media, as there is in politics in our country. It’s a shame both thrive in the name of ‘democracy’.

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