Ranjona Banerji: No tough questions to Modi

06 May,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


A few months ago Rahul Gandhi was interviewed by Arnab Goswami of Times Now. It was a tough interview and the editor-in-chief pulled no punches. Gandhi dimpled and fumbled and different people drew different conclusions from the exercise. Since then, we have had a glut of interviews of Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial hopeful of the Bharatiya Janata Party, in both print and on television.


However, no one has asked Modi tough questions or watched him fumble and then ask some tougher questions. In fact, he dimpled away, deflected most questions to a diatribe against the Congress and continued with his acronym-filled and alliterative solutions to all India’s problems. On TV, his interviewers simpered and gazed with adoration – I include Madhu Kishwar, Rajat Sharma and the Aaj Tak people here – I balk at calling them “journalists”. Tuesday’s Times of India also carries a massive interview with Modi with nary a searching question or any follow up questions based on his answers… which leads one to several not so salutary assumptions.


Meanwhile, Arnab Goswami, arguably the most influential person on English television, decided to interview Raj Thackeray once again, although most political watchers will tell you that Raj Thackeray’s role in this election is likely to be less important than it was the last time around.


It would have been perfect for Goswami to interview Modi this election. We might have got the measure of Goswami’s skill as an interview and perhaps found a middle ground between the raging tiger who spoke to Gandhi and the kitty-cat who spoke to Thackeray. Alas. The nation did not get to know.


That leaves Karan Thapar still holding the toughest interviewer award.




I had an interesting discussion on Twitter on how the English media in India thinks too much of itself and is contemptuous of the language media. I have no doubt that there are some English language journalists who are snobbish about either their chosen language or their vehicles. However such English language journalists whoever they are, are idiots if they did not respect their colleagues, regardless of which language they worked in.


I have some observations on the subject, having worked with newspaper groups with publications in various languages – English, Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Urdu to name only some. The very reach of language media in India is what is keeping the newspaper industry alive and it is tremendous. No one can deny that. Those of us who have had some experience of being carried in both English and language publications have been overwhelmed by the reaction from readers of other languages compared to the trickle you get from English readers in India.


There are many big names in language journalism across India. In Maharashtra, for instance, the most respected editors are those who headed language publications. Ironically, many of them are hated by Marathi journalists and lauded by English language journalists. Language publications have also stepped out of their domains and now own English language papers. Some groups always had publications in various languages as do many TV houses.


Unfortunately, many owners of language publications did not respect their own journalists and not only paid them very badly – compared to English – but also did not upgrade their newspapers or magazines thereby also cheating the reader. Journalists were often used as marketing people and to do the owners’ dirty work. Many young, enthusiastic, idealistic journalists were appalled at the sort of work they were expected to do.


Some of that has changed and journalists in language publications are paid better and the publications themselves now look and feel better. They have also changed their business models and professionalised their marketing and sales efforts. Often these changes were because of association with the English media. Sadly, however, the infection of “paid news”, where managements sell editorial space to political parties or corporates is now rampant in all media, regardless of language.


It is also true that language journalists do have a chip on their shoulder because they feel looked down upon by some of those snobbish English language journalists. This now is a human feeling which it is very hard to fix. I can venture to suggest to both those categories that what they are both exhibiting are enormous inferiority complexes. The real world where the rest of us live is quite another place.




How does television subscription and supply work in India? It seems unfathomable. We have multiple options it seems as customers but we are still subject to the tyranny of channels and service providers. Many customers fail at the first hurdle – which is the call centre of course.


The most recent problem that is coming up for tennis fans is transmission of the French Open. Tata Sky HD subscribers will find that they will not be able to watch the second Grand Slam of the year on television because they do not Neo Sports and Neo Prime.


I have sent several tweets to both Tata Sky and Neo but have got no response.  Luckily for me, I am not a fancy Tata Sky customer but rely instead on my local cable operator who offers just about every channel there is!


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: No tough questions to Modi”

  1. Ronika says:

    I hate tata sky for denying me the French Open…

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