Ranjona Banerji: Gobbledygook on our business news channels

25 Aug,2015

By Ranjona Banerji


If ever you want to treat yourself to some fine gobbledygook then you must tune into business news channels when some stock market event happens. Of course, I call them business news channels but what I mean is “stockmarket channels”. This is their forte. (I think.) So when the Sensex and the NIFTY plunged on Monday and the rupee took another beating against the dollar (every other day), these channels were in their element.


Or rather, some looked as if the world had ended.


Fortunately for them, the world has ended many times and recovered and ended once again thanks to human greed and stupidity. For those of us who understand nothing of this, we crave the excitement of crowing about extreme human fallibility. Like the fun money explosions of the past – tulips, North Sea bubbles and such.


There are the tragic ones of the past. Although wit played its role there too. So who was it who said after the 1929 Wall Street crash that it’s time to get out of the market when the shoeshine boy starts giving you stock advice? Here in India, those of us alive and adult at the time were all taken in by the Giant Harshad Mehta Good Times Game. And almost everyone lost money in the end.


To get back to our business channels, you have to get past their remarkable screens before you can even concentrate on what the voices are saying. There are more things happening in a second than happen on regular news TV screens on election days. There could be six running scrolls, five pop-up boxes, some channels have colour schemes like white and light blue, others experiment with every shade in the Pantone Color Guide, often there are several talking heads and information moving both vertically and horizontally…


After you get past that, you try and zone in on the voices. Or in my case, you get stuck.


I listened to an important mutual fund manager talk in a constant monotone for 10 minutes but my fickle mind kept thinking about why I ate that popcorn yesterday and whether it was going to rain. Then the anchor thanked him and translated what he said: buy when prices are down. Yeah, I thought that was basic stuff but as has been established, what do I know?


Like what does “being overweight on PSU banks mean”? I am overweight all the time, as it happens. It is fabulous metaphors like this that make this jargon fascinating. Like getting a haircut is a bad thing although many people I know spend vast amounts of money to get their hair cut properly.


I was happy to see one growth manager on Bloomberg say that no one had a clue as to what was going on. This was remarkable honesty when you consider how much people were talking and explaining on the other channels. I needed no more. If even experts admit no one has a clue what’s going on, why watch any more?




Twitter was far more fun since it was full of jokes co-relating crashing markets with rising onion prices and promises of better days.


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