Ranjona Banerji: CNN-IBN is feeling the pinch post Rajdeep Sardesai

08 Jul,2014

By Ranjona Banerji

 

This week, Pradyuman Maheshwari’s inestimable Mediaah! column looked at whether and how CNN-IBN will survive the exit of Rajdeep Sardesai, one of Indian television’s most familiar faces, the cult following of Arnab Goswami notwithstanding. Sardesai quit – or had to quit – a channel he started after the Reliance takeover of Network18, for those who have spent the last few months in hibernation.

 

The rumour mill suggested that both Arnab Goswami (Times Now) and Barkha Dutt (NDTV) – all products of the Prannoy Roy School of Television Journalism – were approached by Reliance and Dutt is the most likely replacement. Goswami, the gossips feel, is waiting for Rupert Murdoch’s re-entry into TV news in India and the launch of the Fox channels (via India TV) for which Goswami is seen as the best fit. A segue from the blondes who overrun Fox in the US, but we in India have our own preferences. All this is still pie in the sky (or is that Sky?) stuff.

 

For now, however, CNN-IBN is feeling the pinch. The whole idea of primetime TV news in India is star anchors punching each other’s guts out across the airwaves and across channels. Take the debates on the Supreme Court judgment making fatwas from Sharia courts illegal on Monday night. Nidhi Razdan on NDTV had her usual well-controlled show with intelligent analyses of the issue. Just after that finished, CNN-IBN took on the subject just after at 9 pm, a Sardesai slot. Bhupendra Chaubey now anchors the show. However, whether his guests were badly chosen (half were the same as NDTV’s) or whether he himself was trying to squeeze water out of rock, he could not manage to create a controversy. All his guests agreed with the Supreme Court while he tried to twist every argument around to no avail.

 

The next debate was going to be on the increasing number of people below the poverty line in India. CNN-IBN coined the term “An Indian poor”, which ran at the bottom of the screens and then Chaubey himself said it. I did not watch the debate but I hope they had both Indian “poors” and Indian “richs” on it. I have a feeling this line was a direct translation from Hindi and my guess also is that with the changes going on at the channel even the bare minimum quality control that TV uses has vanished.

 

Sardesai meanwhile in his farewell letter hoped that the new management would put journalism first. Indeed. Those old enough may want to remember the Reliance experiment with the Observer. Those young enough can believe what they want.

 

A quick run through TV however shows that they remain confused about how to treat the new government. The kid gloves are still on more or less and the desperation to search for other issues to debate is evident.

 

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Meanwhile, here’s a worthwhile subject to debate not just on TV but in society as well: The problems relating to section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and the way it is misused against men http://www.livemint.com/Politics/V1SIYdZu2IJzHgxRiLNpEJ/The-problem-with-section-498A.html

 

Plus, here’s the India the Great and all those boring things editors would rather bury under mounds of newsprint while re-examining the Preity Zinta Ness Wadia fight: http://m.thehindu.com/news/national/poverty-child-maternal-deaths-high-in-india-un-report/article6188227.ece/

 

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And for proof that journalists really are powerful you only have to look at the internet wars that broke out after a journalist asked tennis star Maria Sharapova whether she knew who Sachin Tendulkar was…

 

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