Ranjona Banerji: Can we have more analyses as they did post-Romney-Obama debate

04 Oct,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

There are few things as fascinating as watching the American media covering a US presidential election. On Thursday morning India time, president Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney had their first debate in the battle to the next presidency.

 

CNN carried detailed and precise coverage and analysis after the debates were over. Surveys were conducted on particular groups – registered voters, undecided voters, general viewers – and very particular questions were asked from each. The speeches by both candidates were picked apart point and point; each issue looked at from the time spent to the claims made and figures were examined for accuracy.

 

The panellists were a collection of journalists, analysts and former political campaigners. This meant that there was plenty of analysis and very little acrimony. The viewer got a clear understanding of what had happened and how these experts thought events would pan out.

 

One understands that there is a general perception that India thrives on melodrama and that the entertainment industry must try to fulfil that need. However, there are some issues which are serious enough to be taken seriously, especially by news television.

 

There is no doubt that elections are covered seriously by Indian news channels. But we often waste too much time allowing politicians to fight with each other on panels, drowning not just each other out but everyone else as well. The current format could be jigged to interviews with politicians each spelling out their viewpoints but the panels could be restricted to experts who are usually less likely to let emotion win over logic. When I say “experts” I do not mean those random Delhi party guests which so many channels manage to thrust into homes night after night.

 

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The “fight” between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Narendra Modi remained hot on television and on social media on Wednesday – especially after Gandhi’s first election rally at Rajkot – but many of Thursday morning’s newspapers had moved on. For The Times of India and the Indian Express, the proposed reforms in insurance and pension were headline news. But Hindustan Times did lead with Gandhi’s rally. The announcing of election dates for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh was also big ticket on TV and the entire announcement by the Election Commission was televised.

 

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Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni can give thanks that politics now consumes us so thoroughly. Otherwise, India’s exit from the T20 World Cup would have called for public executions by now. Headlines Today even on Thursday morning was concerned about Dhoni’s “magic fading” but for the other English channels, the crisis in Kingfisher Airlines and even the US presidential debate got more attention.

 

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All through yesterday afternoon, TV channels got very excited about three British women being arrested by the Sri Lankan police from West Indian cricketer Chris Gayle’s hotel room. But why they were arrested and what seriousness of the event – of any – was lost in the breathless excitement. On Thursday morning we learn it was much ado about nothing. Ah well.

 

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