Ranjona Banerji: And the Election Commission website wins this election!

20 Oct,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


I took a break from tradition this time and instead of Lok Sabha TV, Rajya Sabha TV and NDTV, I opted for NewsX and Headlines Today to track the results for the assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana. LSTV and RSTV were too dull even for me (surprising!) and NDTV’s graphics confused me utterly. By the time I figured it out, I was bored and shifted elsewhere.


Times Now seemed like the normal melodrama fest and that was a bit much at 7 am. Also the self-congratulatory, “We are only following the Election Commission unlike those other channels” from Arnab Goswami was jarring and unappetising.  Plus, through the day, there seemed to be no substantial difference between the Times Now figures and the rest.


CNN-IBN was as lacklustre as it appears to have become and even having some friends on the panel was not incentive enough to go there. The channel needs to reinvent itself. Presumably it has enough money to do so. It just has to find the imagination from somewhere – always available for a price.


Headlines Today, fronted by Rajdeep Sardesai in the morning and NewsX by Rahul Shivshanker, were revelations, since neither are my usual anchors or channels of choice. The information was crisp as were the discussions. Although the screens remained divided into too many graphics and images – as so wonderfully lampooned by comedian/news-satirist John Oliver – the info was still negotiable. Unlike the other channels, these two did not waste time with political party spokespersons but concentrated on their analysts.


In fact, you wonder why they bring on the parties so early in the day. Wait for the results to sink in and for the parties to know what’s happening before asking party reps questions they cannot or will not answer. It’s boringly unwatchable. Besides, that’s all we get to see all evening on regular days. Why not give them a break until then?


Of course, there was another problem made clear on the Sunday of October 19, 2014. And the clue came from Arnab Goswami. Why bother to watch all this hoopla if you can just go to the Election Commission website and get the results for yourself? You get the vote share, the trends, the results, constituency-wise break up and more. You also see the by-election results in states that TV did not tell you about – in yesterday’s case these included Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh and UP.


For the rest, there’s Twitter. Instant information and analysis (devoid of sound and manufactured fury) and links to those who want a little more data. TV news has to find a way to work with and around the Internet, more I think than print. Print can and has easily made itself an extension of the internet because words run both. But TV needs a bit more work. While TV anchors have become stars in India, it is unclear how long that will last either. Young people in any case have their own heroes on Youtube. My nephew, in his 20s, has got his news from them for years. He doesn’t care that he misses the nitty-gritties of nightly hysteria on news hours and other hours, if he’s indeed aware that they exist.


Is TV news in danger of becoming the security blanket for the fuddy-duddies while the rest are moving on to something else?




By the way, I also watched some of the Hindi news channels and I love the way their anchors are always so stern and forbidding, rarely sucking up to the politicians on their panels and trying to show us how cosy they are with people in power. Like they know that they really run public opinion in this country. And of course, for all I know, they do!


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views expressed her are her own


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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: And the Election Commission website wins this election!”

  1. Fan-tom says:

    Manufactured fury…that is a an apt expression on what happens in the name of news nowadays!