Shailesh Kapoor: Salman Verdict: If GECs won’t entertain you, News Channels will

08 May,2015

By Shailesh Kapoor


Wednesday was a day of high drama for news television. It was the day of verdict in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case. Thirteen long years after the incident in question happened, it was finally the Judgement Day.


No news channel worth its weight in the business was going to squander this delicious opportunity. Most promoted their plans of a day-long, non-stop coverage. It was much like Election Results Day – those rare occasions when a news channel actually knows well in advance that a particular day is going to be a day of big news.


As the day unfolded, channels realised they were getting even more than what they bargained for. First the conviction, then the sentence and then the bail, it all happened within six activity-packed hours. As I write this on Friday morning, another chapter in this dramatic book could be written later today.


Our news channels have mastered the art of ‘non-stop’ coverage even when there is no content to speak of, in real terms. Cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom, so all reporting was based on accounts of those inside. There were sizeable time gaps during the day, when nothing much happened, but news channels kept themselves busy by showing the ‘excitement’ outside Galaxy Apartments, trailing Salman’s car and speaking to anyone who cared to come on record. And then of course, there were tweets to fill in the time that was still left.


By the nature of it, this story has essentially no inherent longevity. It could be forgotten in less than a week. Its importance lies in the moment in which the story is unfolding, and news channels are savvy enough to know that. Not to say that print and online media is too far behind. I have received almost a dozen calls over the last two days requesting for a quote on the impact of the verdict on the film business. Most such calls start with roughly the same sentence (no pun intended): Everything that could be written has already been written, but I still have to do a story on it.


In a fortnight in which it came under attack for its conduct in Nepal, the Indian media proved (yet again) that it does not care much about its reputation. And certainly not when it is out to further its business interests (read viewership or readership).


And why blame the media for it? After all, there is no such entity as “the Indian media”. It is a mere collection of individual businesses, engaged in cut-throat competition, often taking jibes at each other, through promos and readership claims and counter-claim ads.


I, for one, am not complaining. We are in an era where weekdays entertainment television is increasingly failing to offer any real entertainment value at all. If news channels have to pitch in to fill the gap, so be it.


PS: I’d doubt if Salman Khan would host this year’s Bigg Boss, even if he’s out on bail, in the event of the hearing on his appeal dragging over the next couple of years. That, to me, will be the most significant impact of this verdict on mass entertainment.


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