Ranjona Banerji: Our Cartoon News Channels?

10 Jul,2018

By Ranjona Banerji


Should one succumb and just slot prime time news debates as entertainment? On NDTV’s We The People on Sunday night, one gentleman informed us that he had proof of an engine that flew a plane in Tulsidas’s version of the Ramayana and also that Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has run its course. Another smiley gentleman was emphatic that we all agreed that ghosts and spirits exist. He also informed us that several Hollywood blockbusters like The Exorcism of Emily Rose and The Exorcist were based on true stories and therefore, presumably, need to be taken as proof.

Between the two, they refused to allow most of the rest of the panel to speak, obviously more vocal against those who dared to disagree with them.

On Monday evening, News18 discussed the absolutely burning issue of the need for Shariat courts in India, an idea mooted by the AIMPLB. Times Now, not to be outdone, was dripping with the milk of human kindness for the plight of Muslim women in India. Luckily NDTV looked at Union minister Jayant Sinha’s garlanding of murder convicts. In some Universes, the Jayant Sinha story would have been the only story. But as we know now ad nauseum, for our “nationalist” news channels, when the Modi government is under attack for bigotry and prejudice, pull out the Muslim/Christian/Maoist card.

The news of the evening on Twitter was the HRD Ministry’s act of generosity for some educational institutions by naming them “Institutes of Eminence”. These included the Jio Institute of the Reliance Foundation, a unique institution which is eminent without even existing. Most news websites picked up on it. TV news was not discussing it yet when I dipped in – since saving the world from Shariat courts was the main focus.

Elsewhere it was rain which is causing havoc all over the place. The state of the economy and foreign affairs, both vital subjects, get more play in the written word. Is it because TV audiences cannot understand these subjects or because news editors/producers in newsrooms cannot understand them? The more TV sensationalises itself, the less the relevant it makes itself in the news sphere. One cannot repeat enough that younger people and much of the western world do not get their news from sitting in front of a TV set watching manels pontificate.


The story of the week however has been the continuing effort to rescue the 12 boys stuck in a cave in Thailand. The world over, people have been watching spellbound as the authorities have pulled out all stops to rescue these boys. Eight of the boys had been freed at the time of writing this. The human story always wins, and this is what live, breaking news is all about.



And finally, I do not think that Our Cartoon President, now showing on Zee Café and created by Stephen Colbert and other is the funniest thing I have ever seen. However this animated satire on Donald Trump and his presidency has to be applauded for its daring and, frankly, its existence.



Would be interesting to see if Zee would carry a similar farce in the Indian context called Our Cartoon Prime Minister?

Don’t hold your breath, though.


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



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