Ranjona Banerji: Disappointing and limited political coverage by Eng media

31 Jan,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Remember these words: “You shouldn’t think the media can do everything. It has a limited role.” This is Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar talking to The Economic Times in a straight-talking, candid interview, about the BJP and Narendra Modi’s chances at the general elections. This interview comes just as I was getting bored with The Economic Times! Some food for thought for the media here: it does have a limited role. And the way the English media at least is going, ignoring large swathes of India to focus on the nitty-gritty of the local Delhi government, it is limiting its own role.

 

Kumar mentions in this interview that a senior Delhi journalist had told him in 2012 – after his party the Janata Dal (United) split from the NDA – that four rounds of opinion polls had been planned to promote Modi and BJP as the winners in 2014. The collusion between political parties and Delhi’s journalists is nothing new and we see it in our newspapers and on our TV screens every day.

 

For instance, Mamata Banerjee held a massive rally in Kolkata which saw lakhs of people turn up on January 30. It did not dominate media space the way any of Modi’s tiny little conversations or Arvind Kejriwal’s coughing fits do. I could not find a photograph in any of the national newspapers which I receive at home (four) although they did carry stories. Banerjee also has prime ministerial ambitions and as of now, she has control of Bengal, which sends 42 parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha.

 

Talking about interviews, I only caught the Omar Abdullah interview on the BBC’s Hard Talk series in India. Stephen Sackur asked tough questions but interacted with Abdullah, who stuck to his own and answered those questions. If there is no back and forth in a conversation, the viewer gets distracted or annoyed. This interview managed to grab your attention. But enough flogging the same dead horse because from what I can see, people are still talking about the “interview of the century”!

 

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In a small segue to sports coverage, I am disappointed to see so little about the Davis Cup ties which are about to start today. The Times of India has sidestepped tennis completely, except for a small mention that Roger Federer will play for Switzerland. Mid-Day, surprisingly, has nothing. The Indian Express comes good – with a focus on how both Leander Paes, who has India’s best Davis Cup record, and Mahesh Bhupathi are not playing.

 

But the winner has to be Hindustan Times. On January 30, it carried an excellent interview (here we go again!) with Leander Paes and why he’s not playing this Davis Cup tie, underlying the politics that is strangling tennis in India. In today’s paper, (January 31), the back page is dedicated to tennis.

 

The Times is perhaps like Star Sports India for whom sport is equal to cricket.

 

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In all this media bashing, one has to acknowledge that when it comes to gender issues and violence against women, the media is not letting up. Every day, more and more horror stories are highlighted about just how women are treated in this country. Distressing as all this is to read, wider publicity is one way to tackle the issue if just to highlight what is going wrong. The media’s role may be limited but this is one instance where it can be effective!

 

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: Disappointing and limited political coverage by Eng media”

  1. Guest says:

    Sometimes wonder whether crimes against women have increased dramatically or are now being reported / publicised more widely. In either case, there is a lot of work to do, both on law enforcement and social reform.

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