Ranjona Banerji: How disagreement with Arnab is a crime

06 Dec,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The death of Nelson Mandela, the most recognised icon of freedom and equality in the second half of the 20th century, not unnaturally consumed news television on Friday morning. The anti-apartheid fighter-politician, who led South Africa to freedom from racist rule, was perhaps the most famous follower of Mahatma Gandhi in today’s world.

 

Al Jazeera ran a very moving short film on Mandela’s life, CNN played US president Barack Obama’s reaction. The BBC showed live scenes in South Africa, where people celebrated “Madiba’s” life. Indeed most news channels concentrated on Mandela on Friday morning, with the best Mandela coverage from Headlines Today. The other Indian news channels (English) interspersed stories about Mandela’s death with other news of the day.

 

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Every journalist and every newsroom yearns for a juicy story, something that you can really get your teeth into. But Indian news television often behaves like a pack of wild hunting dogs (or hyenas?) sensing their prey is getting away and going into frenzied attack mode. Watching the exit poll results being played out on TV seemed like that anyway. Not that the guests behaved any differently. There were charges and counter charges made at full volume – and not even from the much-blamed uncontrollable spokespersons for political parties. These were journalists, commentators, academics slugging it out.

 

Times Now led the pack and as is now well-known amongst TV news watchers, no one can beat Arnab Goswami in full flow. He has effectively defeated all his rivals and is India’s prime anchor by a long shot. On Tuesday, he scampered and thundered all over his studio as the exit poll results were discussed, diagnosed and dissected down to the nth degree but of course as shallowly as possible, keeping the limits of TV in mind.

 

Arnab-watching is now a separate spectator sport. Having returned to this arena after a six month hiatus (barring a few relapses here and there), it is evident that Goswami has only grown. Now, it is almost impossible for anyone on his guest list to have an opinion that is not the same as his. This is a crime almost punishable in the court of popular opinion if not under the Indian Penal Code.

 

If this was the level of high-pitched excitement on the day of the exit polls, one can only imagine what is going to happen on Sunday, December 8 when the actual results are revealed. I think that it is time that jugglers, clowns and fireworks are made part of TV news discussions because they will add wonderfully to the carnival atmosphere. Indian news television has scaled new heights which even the most prescient and incisive 1975 film Network could not have foreseen.

 

I cannot forecast whether the exit polls are right or wrong or somewhere in the middle or who’s winning and who’s losing but I can tell you that we’re in for a real tamasha treat on Sunday. Cancel those plans to hit the malls guys!

 

For those who want some clarity into the exit polls before all is revealed on Sundays, these two opinion pieces may be of some help. Dileep Padgaonkar points to the “winds of change” blowing through the nation on The Times of India’e edit page http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/talking- terms/entry/congress_battered_bjp_upbeat_but_regional_ parties_will_be_game_changers_in_the_general_elections.

 

And Seema Chishti provides an analytical breakdown of the significance of these elections in The Indian Express: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/signs-and-wonders/1203806/.

 

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Clarification: Since there has been a tiny bit of confusion here, I would like to make it clear that this is an opinion piece and has been an opinion piece since I started writing it for mxmindia.com more than two years ago. Just thought I’d put that down in case anyone doesn’t get it.

 

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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4 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: How disagreement with Arnab is a crime”

  1. Guest says:

    Rajdeep Sardesai is a pleasure to watch, allows people to speak, lets different points of view emerge. The real travesty, of course, is that debates are taking place on the prime slots meant for the day’s news.

    • Chor says:

      Sure Rajdeep allows everyone to say something. But deviously steers the discourse towards what he wants. Questions issues he wants, cuts off questions he does not. I remember clearly an episode where someone brought out the matter of journalists receiving government largesse in the form of flats and more, the fellow was cut off by Rajdeep saying “point taken”, never to return to the point again. He is as opinionated and political agenda driven as the NDTV lot. Arnab on the other hand has an opinion, but rarely an agenda. He takes everyone to task irrespective of their political roots, unlike Rajdeep and the NDTV gang. That is one of the reasons people like him so much.

  2. RSK says:

    Please do not call Nelson Mandela a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, if you do not know enough of Mandela’s background and past.

  3. RSK says:

    Banerji, you say about Arnab Goswami, “…it is almost impossible for anyone on his guest list to have an opinion that is not the same as his.” But isn’t that the trait of all liberal journalists, you included?