Ranjona Banerji: TV news viewing can be injurious to the lower jaw

24 Jul,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Since president-elect Pranab Mukherjee spoke to almost everyone on Tuesday, it was hard to see why news channels rushed to qualify their interviews as “first” or “better” or whatever. Exclusive, in TV parlance, is apparently when you do the same thing as everyone else, except five minutes before.

 

Anyway, Mukherjee did not say very much about anything he was going to do as President although he talked about his childhood and his early political career. The silliest question I reckon came from Sagorika Ghose of CNN-IBN who asked whether Mukherjee’s ascension to Rashtrapati Bhavan was a “return of Bengal to the mainstream”. At this point my jaw dropped so low that it fell off and I was so busy retrieving it that I couldn’t pay attention to the rest of the interview.

 

The best I could get from Arnab Goswami’s interview with Mukherjee on Times Now was that first Mukherjee walked round his garden 40 times, then 33 times and now 30 times and he did not know how many times he was going to walk around the Mughal Gardens. He said he heard the gardens were very large. Anyway, as President he will have ample time to work out stuff like that. Or if he asks someone they might tell him how big the Mughal Gardens are.

 

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Sunday was all about the presidential election as well as everyone gave us live coverage. Of course, after some time they ran out of things to say because there was very little to say about a presidential election in India, at least not enough that can last a whole day even given TV’s marvellous propensity for waffling on about nothing. The highlight of the day was losing candidate PA Sangma’s losing speech. He started by congratulating Mukherjee and then went into a whine about how the Congress had used bribery, extortion and threats to ensure Mukherjee’s victory and how the North East and betrayed not just him but all tribals and themselves as well. (They didn’t vote for him.) Sangma’s entire campaign was based on pettiness, so nothing surprising here. What was surprising was Navika Kumar of Times Now stating emphatically that this was the best, most gracious and most sportsmanlike speech she has ever heard from a loser. Her guests Krishna Prasad of Outlook and commentator NN Satchidanand tried to point out otherwise, but she would have none of it. Jaw-retrieval is a common affliction for those who watch too much TV news, as I should know by now.

 

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Rupert Murdoch has stepped down from several boards which control News Corp’s titles in the US, UK and India. The pressure to do so apparently came from investors, after the phone-hacking scandal led to the closing of The News of the World and all the arrests of News Corp staff, current and former. Murdoch’s rise saw a lot of bile but in his fall are some abject lessons for media bosses and for those journalists who decide that principles are nothing when faced with corporate pressure to perform in a particular manner or to do anything to get results. The Nuremberg trials ought to be required reading for young aspiring journalists: the fact that you got an order is not defence enough.

 

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I was appalled yesterday and continue to be appalled today about Monday’s front page anchor in The Times of India about a group of Indian athletes that went to the 1936 Berlin Games under a saffron flag singing Vande Mataram and impressed Adolf Hitler enough to give the group a medal. The story behaved as if getting a medal from the 20th century’s most frightening dictator was a great honour. There was not a squeak in the story about Nazism and what the organiser of the group thought of that. The glorification of Nazism in India is restricted to those influenced by the religious nationalism that comes of out of Nagpur. The story, therefore, should have mentioned or questioned the RSS connections of the group. Saffron flags and Vande Mataram were clear giveaways but why not come out openly and say so? And for a journalist – and a newspaper – to ignore the Nazi angle to such a story is criminal.

 

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Vikram Doctor’s article in The Economic Times on food and the Olympics was extremely readable and well-researched. Try it: http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/onmyplate/entry/thanks-to-french-humour-here-s-best-of-british-food

 

 

 

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