Mediaah!: #AreYouSeriousTimesNow

20 Dec,2017

 

By Pradyuman Maheshwari

 

I have no special love for Rahul Gandhi or the Indian National Congress. While we have seen some good things happening in the country when the party governed the nation, we have also suffered from years of misrule and corruption. And casteism and votebank politics.

 

I also don’t think too much of Rahul Gandhi. Okay, let me correct myself: I also didn’t think too much of Rahul Gandhi. But since his US trip a few months back, I can see an all-new persona. Perhaps it’s created by the media, perhaps we are looking at things with a different filter. Or perhaps it’s angst against the Narendra Modi-BJP dispensation that has altered my perception.

 

While it’s true that it’s the winner who finally matters, this is not a game of tennis or cricket. The fact is the Congress came a not-too-distant second and with some margins being wafer-thin. So while the BJP retained Gujarat, it wasn’t too bad a loss for the Congress.

 

There have been various attempts by people from across the spectrum – journalists included – to discredit the Congress by saying that only the winner matters.

 

We know that Karnataka, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh go to the polls next year along with a few others and the general elections are scheduled to happen the year after (2019). And the performance of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress in Gujarat will have a significant impact on the entire political landscape.

 

It’s quite likely that the 2019 General Elections will see the return of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. But even the Prime Minister is said to have admitted to aides that a course correction is critical. Like the revision in GST rates helped save the day in urban Gujarat.

 

There have been issues about how serious Rahul Gandhi will be now that he has taken charge as Congress President. Will he take off for longish holidays? This is a question which I heard even being raised by Rahul Kanwal on India Today.

 

In the context of this, Times Now made a “dramatic disclosure” of Gandhi Jr going for a film – Star Wars – on Monday evening, hours after the results were confirmed in both Gujarat and Himachal.

 

Personally, I don’t see any major virtue in anyone being a workaholic. It’s important to chill, take breaks. It keeps you healthy. And it’s critical that the country is governed by people who are health-conscious. Nothing wrong if they take a break or watch a movie or step out for a meal.

 

I didn’t watch Times Now last evening (Dec 19), but my Twitter panel was full of posts damning the channel for a show it aired, hashtagged: #AreYouSeriousRahul. A post on Twitter said:  “6 hours after Gujarat loss, Rahul Gandhi was watching ‘Star Wars’ at a cinema hall in Delhi. #AreYouSeriousRahul Watch @thenewshour with @navikakumar”. There was a good primetime show on it anchored by Times Now editorial head Rahul Shivshankar: http://www.timesnownews.com/india/video/rahul-gandhi-indian-national-congress-gujarat-himachal-pradesh-star-wars-cinema-hall/179827

 

Shivshankar doesn’t scream and shout, and does try to balance things, but why raise an issue when there is none? Why is Times Now trying to discredit Rahul Gandhi when there’s no need to do it. And does his going for a movie mean that he doesn’t care about the country or his party. On the contrary, I think it made him appear cool (spelt kewl?) and would appeal to the large number of young urban voters.

 

It’s ironic (and thankfully so) that The Times of India, the popular English daily from the group is significantly more reasonable than Times Now.

 

One may argue that this is how Times Now has always been and the editorial policy was set by Arnab Goswami when he was President – News and Editor-in-Chief shaping the channel to be a pro-right news entity. But when Goswami left, Times Now had the opportunity to rewire, change things and turn neutral in its political ideology.

 

That didn’t happen, and things only got worse. Result: while Republic TV launched in May this year, Times Now tried to be a me-too and failed miserably. It boasts of high ratings in sliced age groups and not the relevant viewing mass as released by BARC. While the high numbers in the big cities are significantand perhaps 50-plussers don’t matter, at an overall level Republic TV is far ahead of Times Now. (Do read Ranjona Banerji on Times Now at http://www.mxmindia.com/2016/05/ranjona-banerji-has-times-now%e2%80%99s-news-hour-gone-totally-beyond-journalism-as-we-know-it/).

 

This story by Times Now hit a new low in journalism, and I’m shocked at the mindset of the editorial thinktank at the channel.

 

I have spoken with a few people within the channel, and they too aren’t too happy at the stance taken, but then they need the job. And who really cares about their sentiments.

 

Perhaps the folks at Times Now don’t realise it, but stories like these are doing a great disservice to their own brand. And whatever value it still retains.

 

There’s only one person who wouldn’t be complaining. Rahul Gandhi. He now appears to be as the leader of a new India. Young, restless. Works hard. And loves his R&R.

 

The views here are personal

 

 

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