Ranjona Banerji: So why doesn’t Arnab Goswami shout and scream at or grill those linked with the BJP?

02 Aug,2016

By Ranjona Banerji

 

A friend, a real dedicated newswatcher, said to me yesterday that she cannot watch TV news nor read newspapers any more. “I just skim through the papers because they only seem to react to an agenda set by TV channels.”

 

That is a strong indictment but it is also true. More and more, it is TV which is setting the agenda and therefore the scrutiny on journalism as practised on television has to be more stringent. And we are, it seems, in the middle of a TV journalism flashpoint.

 

It’s been a week since one of India’s most prominent news anchors accused another prominent news anchor of being a traitor to India and being pro-Pakistani interests. And the reactions are still coming in from observers and commentators, including from this column last week. There is no doubt that television rules the news media stakes. Or that Arnab Goswami and Barkha Dutt are among TV’s most well-known faces. But how far does that power take you?

 

Obviously in Goswami’s case, as far as he likes. No apology had been forthcoming from him on his appalling diatribe. One of his targets was undoubtedly Dutt. But he also targeted all journalists and everyone who does not agree with him. This also includes, as it happens, the Government of India. We are not currently fighting a war with Pakistan, no matter how much Handle Bar Generals scream and yell at their Pakistani counterparts in TV studios.

 

The chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, a state under curfew since July 11, has talked of peace and compassion for the young people of Kashmir, even those who are agitating against Indian authority. Does Mehbooba Mufti qualify as a traitor for Goswami and his studio guests or is she beyond reproach because her party is in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu and Kashmir?

 

Some people have called Goswami a bully, others have said he is tied down by the demands of the advertising which subsidises news, still others have informed us that he is very sweet in real life and something strange happens to him when a TV camera is turned on him. In his early days in the same news channels that Dutt worked in, he seemed to me at least a journalist who did not think it necessary to do his homework. In an interview with former Maharashtra chief minister, the late Manohar Joshi, he casually asked Joshi, “So when were you chief minister?”

 

It’s not that Goswami is the only journalist who does not do his homework. But if one extrapolates that that is his foundation, then he is not really convincing when he waves papers around because we cannot see what they prove. Or when he allows the spokesperson of a party he approves of to air false videos on his channel. Or when he ignores the attack on an Air Force base in India but is very bothered about what a Booker prizewinning author has to say. Or that cow protection squads which are affiliated to the party he approves of beat up and kill people. I can understand that attacking Pakistan proves that Goswami is a good Indian. But does he then consider that Dalits are not Indians?

 

I can only conclude as I did last week that while Goswami ticks his own boxes of patriotism, he does not tick any known boxes on journalism.

 

**

 

I did not quite believe it when people on Twitter claimed that no English news channels covered the massive Dalit rally in Ahmedabad on Sunday. But when I checked I found to my horror that this accusation seemed to be correct. All evening I waited for some report on this rally but as ever had to wait for the next day’s papers. One more downtick in my TV news dossier.

 

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