Anil Thakraney: Need fresh gas on TV

10 Jul,2013

By Anil Thakraney


All the Indian news channels have turned into clones of each other. It’s a pat formula on primetime: Run a quick snippet on a story with a reporter, this lasts for only a few minutes. Cut to the anchor who takes a clear, biased position on the subject. This follows a marathon session involving a ‘debate’ with many faces (always the same set), and the anchor’s key result area is to create friction and sit back and enjoy the gas blast. And hope for a pay rise.


Why and when did news television become so moronically formulaic? And why are they all doing the same thing? Lack of imagination? Competitive pressures? I suspect it’s both, and also lack of respect for good journalism. I was talking to BBC’s Nick Gowing (for GQ), this is what he said: “Whenever I am invited to participate in a discussion on an Indian news channel, I make it clear that I will not shout at anybody. I think there’s a tendency to jump to a polarized view on air, as opposed to finding a more nuanced middle ground. And I find it interesting how opinionated the presenters can be. I wonder how long that may last. They do certain things which I wouldn’t and can’t do.”


Mind you, Gowing, being a pucca gentleman that he is, presented a nuanced opinion. Am sure secretly he must be appalled at the way we are going about things. So is there any chance that sanity will happen on our news programmes any time soon? I seriously doubt it. This is because the ‘star’ anchors have grabbed the slots, and they will be reluctant to make way for new blood. There’s too much power and pelf being a TV anchor in India, not easy to delegate. So then what is the least they should do within the existing system? The answer is: Always invite fresh faces in the debates. We must get to hear new voices, and this should be easy, India is a vast country bustling with argumentative people. News production teams have to cut their sloth and find ways to inject new energies into the studios. And I use the word sloth because this is what typically happens: ‘Guys, we need to discuss the depreciating rupee, who can we quickly get as an expert?’ ‘Prahlad Kakar is available, should I call him? Also, Shobhaa De is free.’


Point being, if we have to be stuck in a gas chamber each evening, can we at least be subjected to fresh gas?


PS: Haha. So much for all those comments by ‘judges’ on reality shows. I can imagine Lata auditioning for ‘Aye mere watan ke logon’ and receiving this sort of feedback: ‘Energy level thoda kam tha.’ ‘Jyada mushy ho gaya, you need to tone down the emotion’. ‘Rocking performance! Lekin beech mein sur miss ho gaya, aap nervous ho gayeein.’


Anil Thakraney is a senior journalist and commentator. He is also Editor-at-Large, MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own. He can be reached via Twitter at @anilthakraney


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