Ranjona Banerji: Here’s to an entertaining election…

12 Mar,2019

By Ranjona Banerji


The ABP Group is apparently ready for its third session “downsizing”, as the report from News Laundry (link below) suggests. As many as 150 employees face the chop. This is one more disaster for media workers, as more and more jobs are being lost across the board. Much as we outrage about everything else, as usual our own problems and transgressions are ignored.

Ideas like retraining and reorganising are rarely taken into consideration nor do lower level employees get golden handshakes. Much as many of us benefitted from the shift to the contract system, it is also true that we did nothing to create a safety net for the most vulnerable of our colleagues. And as media organisations become corporatised, the human element when it came to tough decisions vanished altogether. There have been terrible consequences to earlier retrenchment, including suicide. We seem to have forgotten all that though.

Kudos to News Laundry for putting this out there.


And while this is going on, and as much as The Telegraph puts up a brave front page almost every day, some of the ABP Group’s news channels sing quite another tune. A graphic put out by the group’s Hindi news channel ABP News, gave the BJP-led NDA 564 seats in the next Lok Sabha elections. There are of course only 543 seats in the Lok Sabha but who cares.

An honest mistake you might argue. But, you know, in these times, there’s no such thing. And if there is, you correct it immediately before anyone can take a screenshot. And your screaming news anchors and behind-the-scenes producers might try and watch what appears on our TV screens. I know you will argue that with such busy TV screens, it is not humanly possible for anyone to keep track. Well then, instead of snatching away people’s livelihoods, why not retrain some as screen monitors? Clearly, you need them.

But what ABP News has done here is just the beginning. From now to May 23, 2019 when election results are announced, we are going to be buried under tonnes of opinion poll debris. As we know from the past and as we will learn between now and counting day, there is no co-relation between these polls and reality. They will swing back and forth from party to party, with each speech and each rally.

However, since they are a form of fun and employment, we must not grudge anyone their chance in the limelight. And since some of us would like to go the American way and elect Donald Trump as President of India, we now have “approval ratings”. That is, one “news” channels (Times Now, so I can’t quite do away with those quotation marks yet) asks 100 people which politician they like more and there you have it, 7 per cent more people are happier with Mr Modi after the Pulwama attack.

If you ask another set of 100 people you might get another response but the right to publish is yours, so all is well in Modiland. And if all else fails, you can always just make up the number of seats in the Lok Sabha and make sure that Modi and the BJP wins all of those and more.

Cue in all our devotional channels which sometimes provide news, and here’s to an entertaining election. Possibly, with no connection to the ground but then how else would it be entertaining???


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


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