Ranjona Banerji: Do news channel panellists know how awful they look and sound?

19 Nov,2013

By Ranjona Banerji


Was the biggest story of last week Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from cricket? Possibly yes. Was it the only story of the week? Definitely not. But for television channels ducking out of covering the expose on snooping charges against the Gujarat government this was the explanation: “Saturday was Sachin’s day”. But these are 24 hour news channels. To fill up 24 hours only with Sachin Tendulkar is not just impossible, it is downright foolish.


The immediate allegations on social media were that the news channels were too frightened of Narendra Modi to cover the Cobrapost.com and Gulail story. (Incidentally, news channels are usually called “paid Congress agents”, an accusation which shows how divided social media is politically.) It certainly was curious that this story was ignored. After all, what Cobrapost.com and Gulail had exposed was that Amit Shah, then home minister of Gujarat, had asked the Gujarat police to tail and record all the activities of a young woman on the instructions of “Saheb”. That “Saheb” was Narendra Modi was confirmed by the woman’s father and BJP president Rajnath Singh. The taped conversations were part of the evidence provided by IPS officer GL Singhal to the CBI, as part of his own defence after being arrested in the Ishrat Jehan case, alleged to have been killed in a controversial “fake” encounter. Cobrapost.com and Gulail said that they could not verify the authenticity of the tapes.


Even so, it makes for a story and every newspaper in the country thought as much. TV woke up a day late – after the story had front-paged practically every newspaper in the country. And of course, they jumped straight into “debate” mode which saves them the cost of newsgathering, once the bulwark on which journalism rested. I have to confess that I did not watch any of these “debates” but I have heard that Anniruddha Bahal of Cobrapost.com did not get a chance to speak in between all the yelling and screaming of the representatives of political parties.


While BJP followers have long claimed that the entire English media is on the payroll of the Congress party, is there now a good case to made that the entire English television media is on the payroll of Narendra Modi and the BJP? While Cobrapost.com and Gulail were announcing their story at a press conference, news channels were showing the world one more speech by Narendra Modi, Gujarat chief minister and prime ministerial hopeful.




Dare one suggest that this primetime screaming contest that we have all got used to in India, looks very unseemly in an international context? The Australian Broadcasting Corporation brought its lively Q&A programme to India this week (I get ABC from my cable operator but this episode was also shown on DD). Panellists included Karan Thapar, Shashi Tharoor, Swapan Dasgupta and Shoma Choudhury. The idea was to increase India-Australia communication and attack stereotypes. Half the panellists demonstrated just how irritatingly self-righteously smug we are in India.


But most unedifying of all were the spats that Swapan Dasgupta got into with panellists over Narendra Modi (sigh, him again). Karan Thapar dealt with him with that razor-sharp firmness he uses on The Last Word. But Shoma Choudhury succumbed and the two, seating next to each other, proceeded to have wonderfully absurd verbal pyrotechnics. Do these people ever watch themselves on reruns? Do they know how awful they look and sound?




After the revelations of Cobrapost.com and Gulail story, many pro-Modi fans brought up the case of Rahul Gandhi being accused of kidnapping and raping a woman called Sukanya Devi as defence of the Gujarat chief minister. As it happens, the case against Rahul Gandhi was first thrown out by the Allahabad High Court as being “malicious” and later by the Supreme Court as well.  But an internet search on the matter leads to the Firstpost.com website which carried a video with the headline: “Rahul Gandhi raped Sukanya Devi”. I do not quite understand the technicalities of the internet, but Firstpost.com perhaps need to look into being associated to this piece of slander.


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: Do news channel panellists know how awful they look and sound?”

  1. Amit Khanna says:

    Ranjona – You are absolutely right.We have the amonst poorest News casts in India.Over dressed and over made up anchors poting awayn and brash,brazen and inarticulate talking heads screaming innanities day after day. Shameful!