Ranjona Banerji: Endless political coverage on TV can be tedious

04 Mar,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Rather than reporting on the news and commenting on outcomes, our TV news channels have opted for a paparazzi predatory mode. They’re all out to get someone – anyone – and then turn the screws on them. Headlines Today is watching every sneeze and wheeze made by Arvind Kejriwal in case they signify that he is making tall promises he cannot possibly keep. Times Now is looking under every pebble for a new UPA scam: don’t be surprised if you hear Arnab Goswami thundering about whether Sonia Gandhi knew that the gardener at 10 Janpath had requisitioned for 10 rose bushes and planted only eight.

 

CNN-IBN continues to waffle between supporting Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party, attacking the Congress and other parties as well as keeping up the pretence of objectivity. And NDTV, although it is often seen as a Congress voice, is attempting to sidestep this game completely.

 

It was foolish of me to have expected more TV play on the sting operation on opinion poll companies by the Hindi channel News Express. But how could they, since most new channels pump up excitement by commissioning endless opinion polls on electoral results? You could find out, said one channel breathlessly, how Maharashtra would vote if the elections were held this minute. Needless to say, if Maharashtra voted in another minute, another result would be possible.

 

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While political rallies are important, endless coverage can be tedious and lead to viewer fatigue. News television might think about having special two hour shows dedicated to political rallies and leave the rest of the time to real news like whether Koffee with Karan should have pushed itself back to 11 pm last Sunday because of its “steamy” content. Or whatever else they see fit.

 

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Twitter just saw another ridiculous battle between Madhu Kishwar, still Narendra Modi’s most tireless cheerleader and Sagarika Ghose of CNN-IBN. Kishwar tweeted to Ghose: “CNN\IBN coverage of Gujarat & hype ard AAP likely 2b be used in journalism schools as example of devious,unethical journalism”

 

I am not sure what “ard AAP” means but Ghose responded about “differing brands of journalism”. Upon which Kishwar said that she was fond of Ghose personally but they were far apart. Amusing as these little insights into people you don’t know are, there is also the fact that as Caravan reported and observers (including me) have pointed out TV18 which owns CNN-IBN has gone very clearly rightwing and pro-Modi. But obviously that is not enough for Kishwar. Perhaps total obeisance is the correct response.

 

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Narendra Modi, who wants to be prime minister of India, was scheduled to appear on a live show organised by Facebook, Newslaundry and NDTV. Modi cancelled at the last minute – promos were running for days on FB and NDTV – and according to a Hindustan Times story, he did not want to share the platform with Arvind Kejriwal and others. Hindustan Times quotes NitiCentral, the pro-BJP website on this. I am unaware if Modi’s other unofficial mouthpiece, firstpost.com, had any explanation on this withdrawal. Madhu Trehan of Newslaundry’s tweets suggested that anyone has the right to change their mind. Indeed.

 

However, as far as one can tell, Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee and Lalu Yadav were not appearing at the same time as Modi but on other days. Whatever the reasons, speculation that Modi is unwilling to answer questions that may show him in a bad light continues. Propaganda is easier to manage when you are the one in control.

 

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