Ranjona Banerji: Our news channels remain largely without courage

04 Aug,2017

By Ranjona Banerji

 

It’s been an almost complete black out of Indian news channels for me. The truth is that I am bored. And as long as they do not change the way the present the news, I think I am happier where I am. The first problem is the old problem: news passes them by, unless they over-dramatise it. The second problem is that they can rarely see beyond the political. Every event has to be one party versus another party, or it has no meaning.

The result is that anything worthwhile – like the Supreme Court hearings over the right to privacy, the problems with Aadhaar, several CAG reports indicting government over-spending or people affected by floods across India or the price of tomatoes – gets little or no traction.

One anchor rushes off the “killing fields of Kerala” because it’s a fight between the RSS and the CPM, others remain obsessed with the Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, anti-nationals are found under every stone and bush, another anchor is only bothered about trying to indict a politician in a murder case…

The fact that cow terrorists have entered Bihar almost immediately after chief minister Nitish Kumar dramatically re-entered the embrace of the BJP is not as important as any other BJP-Opposition fight that can be concocted, preferably tilted towards the BJP.

One aspect remains clear – most news channels continue to avoid any story that can be seen as criticism of the ruling party and government at the Centre. Perhaps, the treatment being meted out to NDTV is the reason for their cowardice. However the Delhi High Court only recently pulled up the Income Tax department for its haste in slapping a Rs 400 tax notice on the news channel and also observed that the case favours NDTV. Do we think some news channels will now find some courage?

Excuse me for a moment while I laugh.

Meanwhile, I remain enthralled by this incredible story of apparent mass hysteria across Gurugram and the National Capital Region for the past few days, where women claim that their braided hair is being chopped off in their sleep or when they faint! If you missed this – and how could you? – here are a couple of links, from Hindustan and the BBC:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/gurgaon/boogeyman-or-conspiracy-women-s-hair-being-mysteriously-chopped-off-across-haryana-ncr/story-0ISn38IjejK7puKfHrMxyJ.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40749640

 

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The US media meanwhile is relentless in its pursuit of the lies told by US President Donald Trump and his family and the daily dramatics and exits from the White House. Allegations that the president’s supporters and Fox News colluded to concoct a fake story about the killing of a Democratic National Committee aide Seth Rich has roiled the American media once again. No fears of presidential reprisal here, in spite of Trump being the most powerful man in the world!

http://www.npr.org/2017/08/01/540783715/lawsuit-alleges-fox-news-and-trump-supporter-created-fake-news-story

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I have also read, amazed, the amount of anger with Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk, on the evacuation of Allied Forces from the beaches of France and Belgium. According to various commentators, Nolan should have single-handedly taken on the responsibility to acknowledge the role of soldiers from the ‘Raj”, especially India at Dunkirk and in the Second World War in general. I have also read complaints that there were no Arabs and that it was a very “male” film.

My recommendation and observation: Watch the film and sometimes my fellow commentators get too upset for nothing.

 

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