Ranjona Banerji: Why I have stopped watching primetime News TV

07 May,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The media has whipped itself into a frenzy over the unsavoury news pouring out of the government every day. It barely knows where to focus, which angle to concentrate on and how to keep up with all the delicious, spicy fare that is being offered to it. A cornucopia of scams and scandals is a rich buffet and it is hardly surprising that in all this the media – especially television – has decided to dive in headfirst to give its viewers and readers all the latest titbits. In all this, if it forgets to provide enough detail or grammar gets even more short shrift than normal, so what eh?

 

The first bit of nonsense, as some have tried to point out, is to slap the suffix “gate” on to every new scam or scandal. The building where the descent of US president Richard Nixon began was called Watergate. The “gate” had no significance as far as a name for a scandal goes. Nixon was not fiddling with water to get re-elected and the gate is as relevant as any ubiquitous entry point. Instead, his plan began with a break-in into the Democratic Party’s National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Office Complex and ended with his impeachment.

 

One can understand the temptation to add a “gate” only because it adds a very convincing tenor to a scam. Plus Coal-gate sounds like it refers to a well-known toothpaste, though it is highly unlikely that the manufacturer is flattered. It is however interesting to imagine what the Indian media would have done if Nixon’s people had broken into the Empire State building or a building coming up near my home called The Amazing or how about Brindaban or Madhu Kunj?

 

There is the other problem that in this breathless attempt to give us a new bit of scandalous wrongdoing every day (or every minute if you’re talking about television), the details and the background of the scandals are getting lost. TV of course has complete disdain for the past, for in-depth coverage or background information but newspapers might do their readers a favour and remind them now and then.

 

This edit for The Economic Times supplies some context to the question of coal allocation and the misdemeanours involved: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/editorial/heres-how-to-properly-read-the-scam-story/articleshow/19922658.cms

 

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On a personal note, I have stopped watching “primetime” debates on news television having decided that my primetime can be put to better use. This decision has helped significantly with my hypertension as well as allowed me to reset my stupidity tolerance meter. News television in India seems to have reached a nadir and while that implies that the only way is up it could mean that it finds itself in a pit too deep with no visible way out or a plateau too large with no end in sight.

 

The first thing TV news needs to do is get rid of those now pointless debates. They serve no purpose and have stopped being amusing any more. Watching the same people yell at each other every night regardless of the subject has lost its novelty factor. Even worse, the big name anchors now appear on weekends as well – talk about overkill!
Take a step back guys and try and assess how little you’re doing in so much time!

 

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