Ranjona Banerji: Jab Anchor Bhi Kabhi Journalist Thi & other soaps our “news” channels can run

08 Jun,2018

By Ranjona Banerji

The Reserve Bank of India’s latest consumer confidence survey finds that 48 per cent of respondents in six Indian cities feel that the economic situation in the country has worsened compared to a year ago.

However, it is more than likely that this information is interesting to no one who controls the news cycle. There’s Anand Narasimhan of Times Now claiming that Prakash Ambedkar of all people has threatened him. This threat includes, apparently, a statement by Ambedkar that the Modi government has only another six months to go, which is in some sense a real threat to the anchors of “news channels” like Times Now.

On the other side, well-known TV anchor Barkha Dutt says she and her family have received death threats. Will Times Now be doing a whole evening’s show in support of Dutt?

The biggest problem for India is of course that former president Pranab Mukherjee addressed some RSS convocation. Actually, that is not the biggest problem but it must be the biggest perceivable problem. We will undoubtedly hear and see lots of comment on this. The connection between the RSS’s Hindutva agenda and the murder of Gauri Lankesh by Hindu supremacists will be made in a tenuous manner while there will be much handwringing about Mukherjee’s speech, should he have gone there, should he have made it, blaming liberals, and of course, the usual lies that will emerge from rightwing troll accounts.

Vedanta, Thoothkudi, the arrest of Dalits in the Bhima-Koregaon case, the collapsing economy… all will be forgotten. Because, as a side dish, we have some masturbation scene in a Hindi film which denotes the end of India’s cultural superiority as we see it or some such nonsense.

But all this is wisdom from far away. Am on holiday in Great Britain where media obsessions and trends are quite different. Not always any better perhaps, but different. For all of last week, the BBC has been obsessed with the reopening of the Jeremy Thorpe case. A charismatic politician accused of hiring a hitman to kill his homosexual lover Norman Scott in 1975. The unfortunate casualty was Scott’s dog Rinka, who was shot but Scott was saved because the hitman’s gun jammed. Thorpe stood trial but was acquitted. He died in 2014. The case was closed in 2017. Now evidence emerges that the suspect, thought to be dead, maybe alive.

However, after watching the ceaseless coverage of the case past and present, you began to wonder whether the news was about the case and Thorpe or about the BBC itself. Because at the end of every news bit, there would be a reminder to viewers to watch the BBC Four drama, Thorpe: A Very English Drama, starring Hugh Grant. So was the news just an advertisement for the drama series or was the drama series an innocent off-shoot of the news?

Is there an opportunity here for our intrepid “news” channels and their endless drama on prime time “debates”? Akshay Kumar stars as Anand Narasimhan in the Times Now soap, “Are Liberals Trying to Finish Times Now”? Suneil Shetty plays Rahul Shivshankar in the drama, “Hard Fact: There is No More News on this Channel. And, will Smriti Irani come out of ministerhood to star as Navika Kumar in the special series, “Jab Anchor Bhi Kabhi Journalist Thi”?

Meanwhile, in Republic TV Land, Rajnikanth in and as “Arnab Goswami Ab Tak Sab Se Gussa”?

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And in one wonderful moment of news excitement winning over news fact, the BBC informed us last week that the weather was so bad, that one woman had to be rescued when her car stalled in a puddle! Nostalgia fans will find this scene replayed now as the monsoon hits Mumbai badly and news channels will run to Milan Subway to film the puddles there. For those who came in late, Milan Subway 1) Has a flyover above it 2) Is below road level so will flood if a cup of coffee spills.

On that note, coffee time, see you next week!

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are personal

 

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