Ranjona Banerji: Much idiocy at primetime (+ Shekhar Gupta exits Express)

03 Jun,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


After 19 years, Shekhar Gupta who is editor-in-chief and has also been CEO of The Indian Express, resigns. His note to his colleagues is long (like his columns), moving and personal. It includes some tips on how to practice good journalism but is more like this: “I so love you all, friends, colleagues, much younger, brighter and with a great future. I am proud of you and cherish the time we spent together. I will be generally in my office until June 15.There is a fair bit of pending writing. So please be forewarned: you will still have to endure the corridor addas on my compulsive breaks from spells of writing, bare feet and all.”


The note does not say where he is going but the buzz says it is to the India Today group in a very senior capacity.


The media world is also waiting for news about where exactly Rajdeep Sardesai and Sagorika Ghose of CNN-IBN are going and whether there will be any other changes in the Network18 group. The gossip is between Naveen Jindal’s TV channel, Hindustan Times which wants to start a TV channel, the Hindu (for one) and a sabbatical to write a book (for one). Thanks to Twitter, we shall probably know as soon as anything happens.




When senior TV journalists start complaining that the media is covering the rape of two minor girls in Badaun, UP, like the satirical film Peepli Live, then you know that the media is in trouble. Journalists from all over have descended on this village and the scene has become like a circus apparently. But it is a bit of a Hobson’s choice for the media: if you don’t go you’re in trouble and if you go you can make it worse.


The media has seen this double rape in a number of ways. For some, it is about the fact that the girls were Dalits so this was one more in a long and shameful list of dehumanising, discriminatory and oppressive tactics. To others it was the fact that the girls were walking to the fields because they had no toilets. Lack of toilets was seen as the reason for the rape. Law and order was another tack.


However to my mind all these are justifications for extreme sexual assault and murder. The lack of toilets provides opportunity to a rapist perhaps but often so does sitting at home, going for a walk, standing at a bus stop and so on.




The death of Union minister and BJP leader Gopinath Munde in a car accident in Delhi is certainly shocking news. And certainly, news channels are at the forefront of bringing such news to the viewing public. However, how would it hurt if producers spent a few minutes off air with the reporters at the scene to find out how much they know instead of making viewers suffer through an inept interrogation process?


Also, for the Times Now morning anchor, what is an “extremely fatal collision”? Fatal (causing death) by itself would perhaps suffice. Even if you suffer from extreme adjectivitis, you need perhaps to choose your victims more carefully.




After a gap, I decided to skim through primetime TV news on Monday night. Times Now had a big fight on the Badaun rape where panellists appeared to be yelling at each other. The others I can’t remember. But Headlines Today bucked the trend and was sitting in Hyderabad to discuss the formation of India’s newest state, Telengana. Excellent as an idea, until you watched the programme.


For some reason, Rahul Kanwal, star anchor and editor of some sort on Headlines Today, decided that attendance at the swearing-in ceremony for Telengana’s new Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao and his Cabinet was the most important point to be made. Seemandhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu (whom he called “Babu” throughout) did not attend. This apparently was the greatest transgression ever. Kanwal went from political party rep to political party rep to harangue them for reasons. First they were polite, then as they were provoked they traded charges and the whole thing descended into childish nonsense. Am not sure how newsworthy this was for the rest of India except perhaps for thinking people to wonder why they vote at all…


When Kanwal started comparing this swearing-in non-attendance to India and Pakistan, I switched off the television. There are limits to how much idiocy anyone can stomach in one night.


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Much idiocy at primetime (+ Shekhar Gupta exits Express)”

  1. Guest says:

    Why on earth would someone wish to start a new TV channel ? That would be about as profitable as starting another airline !