Ranjona Banerji: Yes, sometimes DD, RS TV & LS TV are better with news

23 Nov,2018

By Ranjona Banerji

 

The dissolution of the Jammu and Kashmir assembly, just as a non-BJP coalition was being formed, is one more act of arrogance from the Centre. Then there’s the Prime Minister’s claim that demonetisation was some sort of “bitter medicine” he concocted to rid India of corruption. Then there’s the Union ministry for agriculture report that demonetisation was a huge setback for farmers. Then there’s the whole Central Bureau of Investigation mess. Then there’s the Rafale deal. Then there’s the price of cooking gas. Then there’s the problem with Jet Airways. Then there’s the return to temple politics, minority-bashing (real and figurative) and Hindutva. Then there’s the rupee. Then there are state elections across India where the BJP has much to lose.

And then there’s the media. Still, four-and-a-half years of endless incompetence on display and there’s the Indian media. Standing on the wrong side of history. I can hear the hackles rising. But just think a bit. The right side for the media is to take on the establishment. To question its claims and expose its failures. The Indian establishment created its own PR media network ages ago. It doesn’t need us. Our generation grew up to Films Division documentaries in cinema halls which told us all about opening coal mines and laying foundation stones. But in some strange twist of irony, sometimes Doordarshan and Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha TV do a much better job of reporting the news and questioning the government that private news channels and newspapers don’t.

There is a very credible argument that because big business and industrialists own the media, the journalists are now being restricted and constricted by their owners. This is possibly true, but it is not the only truth. The bigger problem remains that editors are career-driven and cowardly. They are unable to stand up to their owners and thus, they cannot take on the establishment. Let us remember that The Times of India, the Hindustan Times, The Hindu and The Telegraph have had the same owners for decades or since inception.

If you look at the newspapers which have multiple editions, it is clear that editorial cowardice is geographical. Which means that if there is a diktat not everyone follows it or that there are partial diktats or that there are no diktats. Just self-imposed censorship by senior editors who always have one eye on designation and salary slips. What however is evident is that media houses which are Delhi-based are more likely to have pro-establishment editors and journalists (if not owners) than those which are headquartered elsewhere. And that is why television news often seems so sycophantic. Before anyone jumps up in rage, Times Now. Yes, I know that. Also, I am deliberately not including Republic TV because it is a sort of broadcast version of the whiny rightwing Opindia.

Although there are some voices in the mainstream media which are singing different tunes to those which they sang in 2013 and 2014, there are going to enough breathless “news” anchors and reporters covering election rallies who look to cover up political lies, create false equivalences and try and stay on the “right side” even if they are disgraces to the profession.

It is exceptionally amusing to see these great stooges applauding the American media for standing up to Trump. It is not that amusing when you realise how compromised we are.

 

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

 

 

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