Ranjona Banerji: WION – Less breathless so far

02 Sep,2016

By Ranjona Banerji


Thanks to satellite television (or is it just mainly Tata Sky?), anyone tired of the nightly fisticuffs on primetime news, can switch to the tranquil and focused “foreign” news channels now available, many of which may be government PR machines but are still soothing. NHK World from Japan will give you local news as well as informative wildlife documentaries and snippets about Japanese culture (also a lot of Shinzo Abe). France 24 and TVMonde (wonderful to see it again after a hiatus) mix news with features and, especially TVMonde, with serials. DW from Germany has a strong focus on world news. And so on. Sometimes they can be a bit like Doordarshan of the old days but more stylish.


None of them are full of the sensationalist anger of that marks our main news channels in any language. The exception seems to be the World is One Network (WION), started by the Zee network. WION has so far eschewed the usual TV news route and concentrated on news itself. It shows focuses more on one-on-one interviews rather than 20-member panel discussions. The “world” part is evident in the attention given to world news and the varied accents of its anchors. Most of the news seems to be from agency feeds. However, it is also easy to watch and less breathless and senseless than many of its kin.


Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TV of course remain the grown-up person’s news channels and therefore it is largely unsurprising that the nightly escapades of Arnab Goswami and his band of merry “open debaters” rule the ratings. We know that the inner child throwing a tantrum is the best role model for news television in our times. On Thursday night, news anchors were breathing fire about some Aam Aadmi Party MLA having sex or some such – I must confess I could not conjure up enough interest in this matter. The discussion on Rajya Sabha TV anchored by Arfa Khanum on the implications of the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Tatas and the Singur land acquisition was far more interesting and perhaps significant than politicians having sex. At any rate, land acquisition is likely to have more impact and affect more people. You can tell that I am really old.




Is it worth questioning whether too much attention is being given to the Aam Aadmi Party and its government in Delhi? Its everyday problems cannot be of great significance to the whole of India, surely. The Delhi-centric view of life, especially when it comes to its municipal problems, is not really that entertaining or informative. And since distance has been reduced by communication, it is unfair to saddle the whole of India with the doings or travails of one city government.




Most of the media – and in this I count myself as well – was enraged by marathon runner OP Jaisha’s accusations against the athletic federation and her own coach that not enough water was provided to her during the Olympics. The most noisy debate was of course on Times Now where Goswami and his chosen guests went to town, attacking the athletics federation and coming up with proof that the runner had been badly treated.


Sadly, it now turns out that the poor runner had overstated the case and that there was enough water provided by the organisers along the whole route. No apologies will be forthcoming of course but for those interested, the Indian Express has done an excellent series on how some athletes could not even match their qualification times when they competed in Rio.


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