Ranjona Banerji: After playing “war war”, now “economy economy”?

18 Jan,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The apparent war-mongering by our TV news channels has been tamped down for the moment but that doesn’t mean that it is any less dangerous or that it should be forgotten. The media has to reflect public opinion not manipulate it. A provocative media is fine as far as it goes but a media which goes overboard into hysteria about every single subject is about the little boy who cried wolf once too often.

 

(This edit from the Hindu makes clear the perils of playing “war war” because you can’t find anything better to entertain yourself with: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/stop-baying-for-blood/article4310116.ece)

 

Therefore, having “solved” the problem with Pakistan, TV now shifted its focus to the diesel price hike introduced by the government. For hours on the Newshour debate on Times Now, the issue was discussed. Populism, sops, subsidies and fiscal deficits were some of the words thrown around but with the anchor batting for different sides at every half hour (it was a very long programme), the viewer can be forgiven for turning into a quivering mess of protoplasm at the end of it. Arnab Goswami was sometimes for helping the fiscal deficit along, sometimes he was batting for the middle class, sometimes he was for sops for the poor, sometimes he was calling political parties out for their hypocrisy… who knows at the end what that diesel price policy means (actually I know: read a newspaper, any newspaper).

 

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But why blame Indian TV all the time, eh? It was interesting to see just how long the BBC World Service in India took to report on the helicopter crash in central London on Wednesday morning. They were stuck on the euro for about 45 minutes – by which time CNN and Al-Jazeera both had it – until they got to the story. And when they did, they only had mobile phone footage of the crash.

 

Even more interesting was the amount of support they had on Twitter. When I made a couple of jokes about the delay by the BBC, several people sent me links to the BBC website to tell me that they had the news there first.

 

The web then as we all know is the biggest threat to all other idea and the sooner the fuddy-duddies figure that out the better for them.

 

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The death of former veejay Sophiya Haque got plenty of play in Friday’s newspapers. Haque was very popular on TV once amongst the MTV-watching crowd but has not been seen in India for almost a decade. Was the coverage given to her sudden death from cancer a result of the sentimental nature of some editors or because there’s a new generation of editors who can’t be older than their mid-40s, for whom Haque was an important part of their growing up years?

 

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I have a request from the people of Ranchi for sports journalists: while you’re covering the One Day International between India and England, please also spare a few column centimetres for the ongoing hockey league (which has a Ranchi team apparently) and is being ignored because of the cricket.

 

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

 

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