Ranjona Banerji: Who cares about the Maoists’ attack & the PM in Japan?

31 May,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


There is a feeling that the media is spending too much time on the IPL scandal and trying to sack BCCI president N Srinivasan and thus ignoring other news. The prime minister has increased ties with Japan which has economic and geopolitical implications. Maoists have launched a brutal attack against a Congress convoy and more importantly against the Indian state in Chhattisgarh. Drought and a heat wave have killed thousands and killed many. Life is not all about cricket, say some.


That may well be true but this criticism is also only partly true. Newspapers have been carrying articles and opinions on all these other subjects – and more. The PM in Japan has been first or second lead on most front pages this week. But news TV is severely hampered by its nature. Focusing on ties with Japan will make TV news sound like those old Films Division documentaries of yore (all right, all those born after 1977, you can wake up now). Further, TV journalism is not equipped to handle geopolitics in India yet – neither the editors nor the reporters have the depth of knowledge or understanding to tackle it. Better to give it a wide berth.


Then you reach the Maoist problem. TV journalism has crafted for itself a character where everything is seen through the nationalistic/ patriotic/ jingoistic prism. Therefore any issue with nuance is impossible for it to handle. There is a background to the issue of this insurgency against the state and without comprehension of that background you cannot provide clarity to the viewer. Many news channels did try to tackle the Maoist issue but it is too complicated for most reporters and the standard of debate on Indian news television has become so low that the importance of the subject was lost in the now expected yelling and screaming.


It might be advisable on subjects like this to stick to interviews with experts one at a time. This gives the viewer the chance to assimilate the facts and assess varying opinions for themselves. Watching Chandan Mitra and Nandini Sundar trading charges no longer makes for entertaining television.


That leaves the BCCI. This story is by far more exciting as far as the nature of TV goes. There is drama, intrigue and the requisite touches of sleaze. You can chase the BCCI president and his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan across the country. You can look for bookies and the “honey traps” they provide for susceptible cricketers. You have people surviving on the edge of the glamour industry providing a bit of cheap tinsel. You have competing police forces. You can thrown in gratuitous references to Dawood Ibrahim (if you work hard enough at this you can write a book and Anurag Kashyap may make a film about it). You have India’s cricket captain and the captain of the Chennai Super Kings MS Dhoni refusing to speak to the media (the temerity of the man!).


Simply put: the cricket scandal was made for television. It allows TV’s best minds to work together and give you reporting, investigating abilities and editorialising all in one go. No print journalist can match it. Print can stick to ties with Japan, Maoists and all the rest of it!


Footnote: For a perspective on the cricket crisis, here’s Ayaz Memon on The Times of India edit page: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-05-30/edit- page/39602856_1_indian-premier-league-ipl-indian-cricket


And for the Maoist issue, here’s Ramachandra Guha in The Hindu: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-continuing-tragedy-of-the-adivasis/article4756954.ece


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views here are her own


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