Sound, fury & graphics on Results TV

23 May,2019

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

One thing one has to say for our beloved news channels is that they do not let us down. You are guaranteed a proper Indian jatra-tamasha when it comes to election results coverage. Your TV screen is covered with colours, faces, numbers, words all competing for attention. Graphics run around everywhere, and they change faster than a pulsar can rotate on its own axis – 17 times in one second, I believe in the case of one.

I have not understood until today where these channels get their figures from because every channel gets different numbers on leads and trends! As you switch from one to the other, the same party can win between 283 and 291 in the space of eight channels and 10 seconds. And the best for me is that none of them tally with the Election Commission’s results website.

Aah, well. Having been forced to run through these channels thanks to this column, I found that surprise surprise, the least scary and most readable graphics were on India Today, although once people started speaking you had to run for cover. The easiest to watch was Mirror Now with Faye D’Souza providing a friendly face and personable presence to viewers. The most “sound and fury”, as expected, was on Times Now, with strong competition between Rahul Shivshankar and Navika Kumar as to who could outshout the other (the guests had to try really hard here).

CNNNews18 was less obnoxious than I thought it would be. NewsX was more watchable than I had assumed, although there were too many faces on the screen. Wion was boring by comparison but less frenetic. Tiranga TV was all right. The most amusing was Republic TV because from what I could understand, Arnab Goswami speaks mainly in Hindi now. NDTV remains the most reliable and generally un-screechy. I missed Dorab Sopariwala, usually a regular with Dr Prannoy Roy, but perhaps I watched at the wrong times?

Most news channels of course, true to type, were overjoyed at the projected massive mandate for Narendra Modi and the BJP. (How close the exit polls, otherwise known as pre-voting surveys, were to the actual results, we shall discuss in another column.) So therefore, no chance of expecting much journalism from the usual suspects into the next five years.

The twin concepts of showing truth to power, of holding a government accountable for its policies and actions, will once again fall to a smattering of newspapers and news sites and a couple of news channels. I sincerely hope that I am wrong. But, judging from the last five years and the looks of utter triumphant joy on the faces of anchors like Rahul Shivshankar, Navika Kumar, Rahul Kanwal at a BJP win, to name just three of the usual suspects, we have to be prepared for more of the same.

For the rest, the battle is on. We must be prepared for a rise in bigotry and notwithstanding the Sensex and Nifty rises of May 23, India’s economic situation remains precarious. For India’s future to be robust, India’ democratic institutions which includes the media has to be even more robust. Here’s our test. I can guarantee now, unless a huge reckoning happens, we are going to fail again.

 

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

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