Ranjona Banerji: TV’s protectionism of the BJP and is the Nine O’Clock News back in fashion?

14 Feb,2017

By Ranjona Banerji


February 10 had a story about 11 people arrested in Madhya Pradesh with suspected links to Pakistan’s dreaded Inter-Services Intelligence. One of those 11 arrested by the Anti-Terrorist Squad apparently has links to a BJP politician in MP. Another is supposed to have been part of the BJP’s IT cell in Madhya Pradesh


So, here’s my question to you: How many TV debates have you seen on this subject on our English news channels? And, how many stories, editorials or columns have you read about this in our newspapers and magazines? Is this not a wee bit strange? After all, a political party is accused of having links to Indians who are spies for Pakistan. And not just any political party but the ruling party in both Madhya Pradesh and the Centre, as it happens; a ruling party which has been harping on sending anyone who disagrees with it, to “Pakistan”.


But umm, a deafening silence falls around us. The DB Post headlined the article and India Today and Indiatimes have covered this on their websites. And yet, the group’s news channel which has the most patriotic news anchors ever, has not gone ballistic over it. Is it because the men arrested are Hindus? One has to ask this unsavoury question if only because of the BJP’s inherent hatred of religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians?



Our news channels will hold a debate over any trivial subject that occurs to them at breakfast. And yet, members of the BJP being accused of having links to Pakistan’s spy agency? Never to be discussed apparently.


Here’s a link to prove I haven’t made this up:




Drastic job cuts have been seen in the media, especially in the Hindustan Times and the ABP group. Demonetisation has a clear role to play here with many newspaper managements warning that their businesses cannot handle both demonetisation and the requirements of the wage board. As ever, doings within the media are largely ignored, brushed aside or given scant attention.




The departure of NDTV’s star anchor Barkha Dutt has led to some interesting changes in the news channel’s evening line-up. And both are welcome. For one, Nidhi Razdan’s Left Right and Centre has moved back to its 8 pm slot. And more significantly, NDTV is now experimenting with a traditional 9 pm news broadcast. This is a rarity for Indian new channels at prime time. But what a relief! No yelling guests, no hysterical anchors, no absurd subjects – just the news of the day like a proper news channel. Am not holding my breath about how long this will last though…




Meanwhile, we wandered into Times Now by mistake on Sunday night. Someone from the DMK was asking why the BJP was not being questioned about the governor’s role in the ongoing political confusion in Tamil Nadu. It was very funny to see the anchor quickly stop this man from speaking and from questioning the BJP (blasphemy!). As the gentleman from DMK carried on, she tried to switch responsibility to the Congress and then moved superfast to another guest. I wonder what happens to these anchors when they watch Jon Oliver and Trevor Noah or Melissa McCarthy doing Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. Do they laugh or do they stop watching in disgust?


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