Ranjona Banerji: Rajya Sabha TV is the channel to watch

08 Apr,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Should news channels have broadcast the BJP’s election manifesto as it was revealed on Monday? Unless the Election Commission issues a written embargo to all news publications or had banned the BJP from releasing its manifesto once voting was underway, this whole exercise becomes a little pointless. The media has to share news as it gets it unless it is illegal to do so and even then there are some grey areas. As we have seen so dramatically played out in the Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden cases. If the Election Commission wants its diktats to be heeded then it has to be stricter in the way it goes about it.

 

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Meanwhile as the elections approach, it is time to start choosing which channel you are going to track the results on. Those looking for excitement and high drama must of course go to Times Now and watch Arnab Goswami run around like the Duracell bunny. Or if you want platitudes and placidity, you can watch CNN-IBN. If you are youth-obsessed, there’s Headlines Today. If you are confused, there’s NewsX. And if you are nostalgic by nature, there’s the Prannoy Roy-Dorab Sopariwalla double act on NDTV.

 

As for me, through trial and error, I have found my haven in Rajya Sabha TV. It is to the point, the results are up-to-date and the anchors and panellists are not given to high drama, hi jinks or spouting meaningless hi-falutin hogwash.

 

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While on the BJP manifesto, media reactions have been mixed. Some have applauded good economic sense and the focus on job-building and the “neo-middle class”, others have been struck by the manifesto’s mentions of the Ram Temple, Uniform Civil Code and Article 370 and there are those who are amused by the similarity to the Congress manifesto. The Times of India’s edit calls it “lacklustre” and perhaps that is closest to the truth.

 

In fact, everything that has happened around the BJP manifesto brings up the question of whether a manifesto really matters to voters any more.

 

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The big issue for the media remains the polarisation of society and opinion over Narendra Modi. The venerable Economist, the publication that looks like a magazine but calls itself a newspaper, decided against Modi in spite of the economic development he may bring to India as prime minister. Those who applauded the Economist for calling Manmohan Singh ineffectual were very upset with this leader: http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21600106-he-will-probably-become-indias-next-prime-minister-does-not-mean-he-should-be-can-anyone

 

Which only proves once more that you can never trust any media organisation, ever.

 

And The Guardian has not helped with this comment about whether Narendra Modi’s anointment as prime minister will be good for gender issues: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/04/narendra-modi-as-prime-minister-womens-rights-india

 

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I was quite surprised to learn that Meenakshi Lekhi, now a BJP Lok Sabha candidate from Delhi and once a formidable BJP TV spokesperson, was allowed back on Times Now even after she accused star anchor Arnab Goswami of taking money during a discussion on LGBT rights. I really thought that she would never ever ever never ever never ever appear on Times Now again after that.

 

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And if, like me, you find most Indian news channels very distressing, there is hope: Comedy Central India have brought back their anchors Ornob Musambi and Rajbeep Sardesai. You might never ever never ever ever want to watch anyone else again!

 

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