Ranjona Banerji: Pointless debates on News TV

24 May,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


I have some suggestions for primetime debate topics for Indian news channels. Should the sun start rising in the West? Should women exist? Should we start to talk sense every night? Should the human species reverse its steps on the evolutionary ladder? O wait, maybe our news channels have already started that process…


The spot-fixing scandal around the Indian Premier League may or may not have captured the public imagination – people still seem to be watching it – but it has certainly consumed our news channels. I just heard this morning on Times Now that this spot-fixing episode is cricket’s worst crisis. Far be it from me to contradict our worthies (but I’m going to do it anyway) but surely the match-fixing scandal of 2000 was the biggest in recent time, where two much revered and successful captains of international teams lost their jobs? But what do I know, eh?


Right now, all that the investigation has shown is that Sreesanth and two other cricketers belonging to the Rajasthan Royals team took money from bookies to give away runs in particular overs which they bowled. The rest has been a whole lot of speculation and moralistic posturing. Journalists have twigged on to the fact that the Delhi and Mumbai police are at loggerheads. But instead of investigating what that means for this case, we decide to have a debate instead: “Are the Mumbai and Delhi police at loggerheads”. It’s hard to see what purpose such a debate serves. Give the viewer/reader the story and move on.


The moralistic posturing, especially by journalists is even funnier. The issue, as far as I can see, is that three cricketers at least cheated – cheated cricket itself, cheated cricket fans and cheated their franchise owners. Whether they met escort girls or bought Blackberry phones is extraneous to the cheating allegations. The cheating is bad enough by itself. By diverting attention to the fact that bookies exist, the media is diluting the crisis.


I would have expected a greater call for legalising betting but apparently logic and reasoning are in short supply at times like this. Instead, we have the ridiculous hysteria over a photograph of Indian captain MS Dhoni’s wife next to Vindoo Dara Singh who has been accused of knowing bookies. The connections here are tenuous – if they exist at all – and this is nothing but sensationalising.


The police are quite happy to focus on bookies and try and point in the direction of Dawood Ibrahim which means that their job is over since there’s nothing they can do. Spot-fixing – which is extremely serious and needs to be taken seriously – has been buried under parties, bookies, escort girls, clothes from Diesel, pictures of models in email inboxes and Blackberry phones. I would conjecture that it is possible to never go to parties and still be a cheat.


If the media did not get distracted, it could play a vital role in the unravelling of this menace – as indeed Outlook and Tehelka attempted in the past through the efforts of Annirudha Bahal and others. Instead, the media seems to have jumped on to some improbable moralistic crusade and left the real crisis behind.


Meanwhile, preparations for the Champions League are on…




The bizarre and brutal attack on a British soldier in mufti in Woolwich by two men ostensibly in the name of Islam has badly shaken up the Western world. Glenn Greenwald asks some difficult questions and raises some interesting points about terrorism in this opinion piece in the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/23/woolwich-attack-terrorism-blowback




Why have the riots in Sweden, on for five days now, not caught international media attention?




And, Roger Federer finally joins twitter: @rogerfederer.

(I’m @ranjona by the way!)


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