Ranjona Banerji: How not watching news TV has helped reduce my BP

13 Aug,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Any dinner party conversation in a particular part of India somehow veers towards the difficulty of watching TV news. Where it was once a compulsion for English-speaking India to cancel all engagements to watch the nightly “debate” on TV, people now discuss the methods they have for staying away. Some people say they have stopped watching TV altogether and rediscovered books. Others have just switched to entertainment channels. Some stare into space and have a little peaceful navel-gazing. And perhaps some people have even revived that archaic practice of talking to each other between 8.30 and 10.30 pm.

 

Regardless of whether the ratings show this or not, our yelling matches are reaching an end. Their entertainment value is now showing diminished returns and they have little marginal utility. Besides, everyone knows what the usual participants are going to say. The line of argument as far as each channel is concerned is also predictable. Headlines Today and Times Now will be hysterically jingoistic and in a state of quivering outrage. News X will try to be rational but will be hampered by its low star power and the difficulty in deciphering its anchors. NDTV will take a slightly different less hysterical line but will not always succeed. And CNN-IBN will sit on the fence, tending this way and that depending on the issue.

 

Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV both remain civilised and more intelligent but it is unlikely that they make much difference yet. At least until the scourge of tamasha has been scrubbed out of our minds.

 

From a personal point of view, I have avoided primetime news for two months now and my doctor is really happy with my drop in blood pressure. Ill-informed anchors, half-baked stories from reporters, politicians who have their voices set at maximum volume, the same experts telling us about everything from which chocolate biscuit is better to whether we should go to war with Pakistan – how stupid do they think we are? I take that back. We know how stupid we are.

 

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And bring a bunch of old journalists together and you know the story. As tears fall into glasses of Old Monk, they weep about things were better in their days and wish they had a little money to start a newspaper which was not so corporatised, not so rubbish-driven, had more imagination, had more perspective and had greater understanding of news.

 

This is a pipe dream. Or should it be so. Perhaps it shows an even greater lack of imagination that journalists cannot indeed come up with alternatives to what passes for news today. The internet provides an ideal platform and needs to be exploited. What? What are you waiting for? Don’t stand there staring at me!

 

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BBC News carried a well-choreographed discussion on cyber-bullying on their World Have Your Say segment this week. The peg was the suicide of a British teenager who had been attacked on ask.fm. The teenagers in the show – from all over the world – provided interesting perspectives of what passes for “fun” in the adolescent mind. The anchor was intrigued but not condescending. No one had tantrums or talked over the other or screamed when there was disagreement. Incredible. Maybe it was a show from another planet?

 

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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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: How not watching news TV has helped reduce my BP”

  1. saturday says:

    Hi Ranjona,

    Couldn’t agree more with you. When the Pak-India border firing and the killing of 5 jawans was the cynosure of all, I came across this Z News anchor who was discussing the same with some politicians and she being Islamic was so full of accusations that the poor ol (like all indian politicians) man could hardly breathe. The uttarakhand floods- Zee news kept showing the houses being submerged repetitively. Watching news has is a breeding platform for sore eyes but hearing the news anchors – the less said , the better.

    Cheers.

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