Ranjona Banerji: Budget blues with news channels & papers

01 Mar,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

After careful consideration (which in news channel selection terms translates into a combination of channel surfing and experience) I watched Union finance minister P Chidambaram’s Budget speech on Doordarshan and then switched to Budget analysis on the stockmarket channels. I avoided any channel which had a politician on its expert panel. This is because I know very little about most of the stuff discussed and I’m willing to bet that Deepak Parekh knows much more than me and knows more than Subramaniam Swamy.

 

Most industry bigwigs, analysts and other expert type people appeared to like the Budget or at least assume that that Chidambaram was on the right track. Quotes from politicians of other parties are full of scorn, which is perfectly understandable. But it is more sensible to read quotes from politicians in newspapers than watch them have apoplexy on TV.

 

In fact, I have decided that since age determines that blood pressure problems are close on the road ahead, watching prime time news TV is bad for health, state of mind, mental peace and so on. It is far more sensible to check on TV news through the day and studiously avoid it between 8.30 to 10.30 pm.

 

Meanwhile, back to the Budget. The Times of India headline says: ‘PC Nets Big Fish’ in a drawing that takes its inspiration from Life of Pi, the movie. Intriguingly, the front page box tells us that the drawing is inspired by a recent Hollywood movie that bagged four Oscars without naming the movie. Medianet or a desire by TOI editors to tax the minds of their hapless readers?

 

The Hindustan Times goes with ‘PC Offers Growth Tablet’. The Indian Express seems closest to home with this one: ‘1997: Dream, 2013: Wake-up’. My only objection here is that as far as possible, hyphens should be avoided in headlines. No damage would have been done with ‘2013: Wake Up’ except for extra therapy for an anal retentive subeditor. The Economic Times plays it straightforward with ‘FM Doesn’t Declare Elections’. Unlike its predilection in the past for over-the-top graphics, it settles for sticking a blue turban a la Manmohan Singh on Chidambaram’s head. However to me as a result, he looked a bit like Swami Vivekananda!

 

In spite of the market crashing the general consensus was that this was the sort of workman-like Budget expected and needed. To provide ample fodder for political commentators and prime time TV actors, Nitish Kumar chief minister of Bihar liked the Budget (and wrote a special piece for ET) and Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat didn’t.

 

The Times of India managed to find a loophole in the Budget’s tax provisions to give readers a row of women wearing bikinis on the top of one page – ostensibly to educate us on how much supermodels across the world earn. A more gratuitous form of sexual exploitation it would be hard to find. For reasons of gender equality and comparative commodification, a few pictures of buff, waxed male supermodels would have been appreciated. No?

 

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Twitter was abuzz through the day, with jokes winning over analyses – well on my timeline at least. The tax for the super rich got the most scorn – especially the figure of 42,800 as the number of super-rich earning more than Rs one crore a year in India. You have to admit, it’s laughably low. The bank for women had many puzzled and then soon jokes began over the fate of deposits made by men which ran into risqué territory.

 

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How am I to survive without watching Arnab Goswami every night? It is a question I am still grappling with…

 

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