Ranjona Banerji: Must-watch Network

27 Nov,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

RP Singh, former director general of the telecom department and the auditor for the Comptroller and Auditor General who prepared the 2G spectrum analysis report for CAG, has led the media on a very merry dance. Suddenly, he was the man in news for being a “whistle-blower” – that Parliament Accounts Committee chairman Murli Manohar Joshi had influenced the CAG report on 2G, that he (Singh) had not allotted that mind-boggling number of Rs 1.76 lakh crore, that he had objected but the CAG had not listened and other such juicy stuff. Then he came on TV and waved lots of papers and booklets about but since we couldn’t really see what they were, they could really have been dhobi lists and household accounts.

 

Two days later, all the newspapers – except the Indian Express – told us that Singh had retracted his statements on BJP leader Joshi. Promptly Singh appeared on TV and said he had never retracted his statement about Joshi and waved more pieces of paper about.

 

By now, everyone was so confused that newspapers got bored of running around in circles and all we know is that Singh was not happy. Surprisingly, it is TV who has stuck with this story and done some hard work (produced some papers of its own to wave about) while newspapers have just left us without our usual trusted interpreter of TV hysteria.

 

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It is something of a massive coup for Arvind Kejriwal that he actually made it to a Times of India editorial on Tuesday. In the last month, every new revelation from this self-conscious crusader had got less and less media attention. The launch of his new party, its name and method of functioning has not produced the sort of high octane excitement he must have become accustomed to. Tuesday saw this front page staple on the inside pages of most newspapers. And while CNN-IBN did have a debate on the Aam Aadmi Party, other news channels were less impressed or more likely just bored. The funniest bit on the show was when Mani Shankar Aiyar accused Rajdeep Sardesai of being a cynical promoter of economic reforms with no cares for the unfortunate. Sardesai’s face set like a jelly and he could barely contain his annoyance.

 

As for Kejriwal, he better do something quick because his fledgling party cannot possible survive with breathless 24 hour TV coverage.

 

Last week, I watched Sidney Lumet’s brilliant 1976 film Network again. A major TV station decides to go with a deranged news anchor’s ramblings on prime time to raise TRPs. What unfolds is an “amorality” tale about the dehumanisation of TV that still contains lessons for today’s world of TV. It should be made compulsory viewing for today’s journalists. I have to come clean here: there is no singing and dancing in the film.

 

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India lost to England at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Monday. You might be happy that cricket is back to centrestage. Or you might have thought that the Mayan predictions of the end of the world in 2012 had come a few weeks early. It is now congenitally impossible for Indian cricket fans – and this includes the media – to have any balanced perspective about cricket and India. CNN-IBN (Sardesai again) did a show on whether Sachin Tendulkar’s time was up and then answered its own question by saying one should not blame Tendulkar when the whole team failed. In newspaper terms, that’s like contradicting yourself in your own editorial. Why bother, no?

 

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