Ranjona Banerji: E-NDTV?!

02 Dec,2022

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Ranjona BanerjiThe resignations of the Roys from NDTV followed by that of Ravish Kumar, the Hindi channel’s prime and very popular anchor, dominated social media for two days.

Many viewers were terribly upset and mourned the death of journalism in India forever. Others, including some TV journalists and personalities, wrote obituaries and tributes of NDTV, journalism, newsrooms and so on.

The pain is understandable. NDTV is the first of the TV “news” channels which expanded to dominate much of India’s news space. I use the present tense deliberately. NDTV has not shut down. It has been taken over by the Adani Group and its founders and one editor – so far – have quit.

As for the end of journalism in India?

Well, that’s another story.

How about asking this question: how much journalism exists in television “news”? In the early days of private television, there were several excursions into various aspects of journalism. But even then, not enough deep investigations, and somewhat suspect ground reporting. And then all too soon, TV reporters, anchors got caught up in the breathless excitement of being on-air.

TV and this includes NDTV, also reiterated its own cliches and set patterns. For instance, every monsoon in Mumbai, one or more anchors would stand in the rain at a below-road-level subway to describe how much water had collected. But if you have to do a Mumbai monsoon story, you need to go a little, well, deeper, than that. Standing in a low-lying area is just laziness, and going for visual effect over substance.

But what NDTV and everyone that followed did do was create generations of news-watchers. The CNN 24-hour pattern that they all followed showed up the problems fast enough – news does not follow a pattern of constant news breaks. To capture and retain viewer interest, the debates followed.

And thus within a decade, TV wrote its own decline as far as journalism goes.

Why am I being so unfair, do you ask?

Or am I?

Regular readers will know that I often state that journalists are scum. Our business is to dig into areas which are uncomfortable and this makes our business intrusive. It’s just that a print cycle means that this intrusion happens once a day. TV news made that intrusion 24 hours. And amplified all the problems with the medium.

I dismiss the nostalgic reminiscenses of former staffers as being irrelevant to what I am writing here because newsrooms are not unique to NDTV and existed long before TV hit India. I would find the inference that NDTV invented newsrooms insulting if it were not so amusing.

The huge love showed for NDTV as it was however is heartening for the media as a whole. NDTV still exists. What form it will take under Adani and without the Roys is unknown but most viewers evidently believe that it will collapse. Apart from Ravish Kumar, there have been no big exits as I write this. Many earlier fans of NDTV complain that the channel had already succumbed to government pressure before the Adani buyout – maybe not as much as its competitors but certainly more than before.

Kumar has a huge burden to bear. To many, he is the one TV journalist who still exists, the lone flag-bearer of that profession. It may be annoying to some of us who work in other mediums that he is being called the “only journalist” but we should not begrudge his fans their immense pain.

The link below is Kumar’s message to his fans and followers. He is scathing of the media as it exists, as he has been for some years now. The rare TV journalist with courage and convictions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9K9vpGTofo&t=1001s

For non-media readers however, I would urge you to think beyond TV as a news source. There are a few journalists out there – real journalists – doing actual work.

Just not on TV.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal.

 

Post a Comment 

Comments are closed.

Today's Top Stories
Videos