Ranjona Banerji: When News TV brought an issue to life

07 Dec,2012

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The 20th anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the deaths of a young man in Mumbai and a policeman in Amritsar for fighting on behalf of women being sexually harassed and the defeating of the vote against FDI in multi-brand retail in the Lok Sabha were the big stories of the day. The Times of India’s nation pages seemed to be against the idea of FDI in multi-brand retail and quite disappointed that the BJP and other opponents had lost. On the edit and business pages, it was quite another story. One gets the feeling that the stories on the nation pages slipped past a newspaper which long been in favour of economic reforms. Someone sleeping on the job in the Times of India newsroom?

 

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Karan Thapar’s Last Word on CNN-IBN had an interesting discussion on the demolition and how India had changed in 20 years. However, there was no one representing the demolishers so the discussion was distinctly one-sided. Erudite, informed, intelligent and thoughtful perhaps but one-sided. We have got used, have we not, to super battles between anyone and everyone? Instead, we had Dileep Padgaonkar, Ashis Nandy, Mushir-ul-Hasan and Paul Beckett.

 

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The big question for both Times Now and CNN-IBN on Thursday night was sexual harassment, the law, men and death. In Mumbai a year ago, two young men were killed by a mob for trying to protect the women with them from being harassed. This week, a man in the Dombivili suburb of Mumbai was killed by four men, three of them minors, for intervening while they were harassing a young woman. In Amritsar, a police officer was shot dead while trying to protect his own daughter from a group of men harassing her.

 

Television has many failings but it wins every time it debates these issues. The more we talk about the way women are treated in India the more chance women have of improved surroundings. The cold distance of print cannot create the emotional immediacy of television and this is a plus in TV’s favour. It is annoyingly intrusive and terribly unprofessional at times but it can bring issue to life. On Arnab Goswami’s show, the politicians of Punjab were shown up as uncaring as they either tried to score points of each other or mouthed meaningless platitudes. Goswami in fact called one out for saying he was “sad”. “I don’t believe in expressions of sadness,” said an imperious Goswami.

 

Rajdeep Sardesai had a more reasoned approach but he also had to stop Punjab’s politicians from their politicking and trying to milk the Amritsar situation to their advantage.

 

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On Headlines Today in a debate between Arvind Kejriwal, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Ravi Shankar Prasad, moderated by Rahul Kanwal, Kejriwal looked extremely grumpy while Aiyar and Prasad behaved like consummate politicians.

 

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And that’s the saddest news story of the week: Arvind Kejriwal has been forgotten and abandoned by the media which made him. He is just one more news story in a packed news cycle. He gets shifted from Page 1 to Page 15 and even more painful, he moves from being a 24-hour story to a scrolling line at the bottom of the TV screen.

 

Sniff!

 

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