In the beginning was the word. But for the Indian TV news channels, in the beginning is the spoken word, in the middle is the spoken word and in the end is only the spoken word.
What that means is that our TV channels do not report news. They do not report events. They do not investigate. They do not analyse. They just report what is said by someone in public. Period. Flick any news channels and you will be bombarded with sound bites of each and every kind.
The bulletin is stopped and Breaking News declared the moment any Tom, Dick and Harry announces a Press Conference about any Tom, Dick and Harry. The PC may make no sense. The PC may be saying nothing new. But it has to be covered live anyway for the simple fact that people are speaking in the first place.
That’s the simple reason why PCs are mushrooming in India by the dime and dozen. The political parties have realized it. The political activists have realized it. The film stars have realized it. Just speak trash in a PC and get your 24 hours of fame for the same thing will be put in a loop all day.
If the nation is facing a pressing issue, then forget what the finer details of the issue are. Just show on the screen what people are saying about it. If they are speaking utter trash, who cares? Haven’t you noticed how all those brash and rude spokespersons have become much sought after celebrities?
Extra points for being bizarre… Just ask Mr Digvijay Singh.
Do your viewers want an analysis? Simple solution! Just round up the usual suspects… spokespersons of political parties, journalists affiliated to these parties and the same ole celebrities and activists. You want a greater analysis? Great, get 8 people and split the screen into 8 parts.
Fight. Argue. Cut each other short and call each other names. Talk pure unadulterated trash. Everything goes…. Day in and day out… Day in and day out…
Some time back writer Pico Iyer had declared that he had completed one million flying miles. Well in India, the automatic quote generator for every occasion Suhel Seth must have already clocked one million minutes on prime time TV.
Do you want to interview a top political leader? Then don’t do your homework. Don’t ask pertinent questions. Don’t be balanced in your arguments. Be rude to your host, bully him, badger him and bombard him with inane questions. Indian citizens hate their politicians and will appreciate your style more than your substance. (Of course unless the politician happens to be your source for stories or can cut off advertisements. Wear your loyalties on your sleeve.)
Also, our anchors love to hear their own spoken word too. How many times do our anchors speak more than the participants and the interviewer blab more than the interviewee? It doesn’t matter as long as the words fill the airwaves continuously.
Why didn’t the TV channels cover the Robert Vadra affair when it was broken in a newspaper last year?
Do I hear you say that it’s because of their affiliations and political pressure? Balderash! The simple truth is that no-one said anything about it at that time. No-one discussed it and no-one bothered, so how can the TV channels report or investigate it, after all they only cover the spoken word. It’s the BJP’s fault. Their silence did it in!
So errr… why are they covering it “now”? Simply because “now” that wise TV savvy future politician Arvind Kejriwal gave a press conference and spoke about it in detail. If you look at the coverage carefully, then Kejriwal was covered and not Vadra. That Kejriwal spoke so much about Vadra gave the illusion that the media was covering Vadra.
Did you notice how the Maharashtra irrigation scam was brushed under the carpet? No, Sharad Pawar did not pay off anyone. He simply didn’t have to. Suddenly everyone started talking about a rift between chacha Pawar and bhateeja Ajit. So obviously that became the lead story! No-one’s talking about irrigation. Everyone’s talking about the Pawars. Elementary, my dear Watson!
But it was covered. Didn’t you notice how the TV channels went after the Nitin Gadkari allegations? Well that’s because Gadkari gave them so many sound bites. He threatened to sue, he threatened to go to court, he denied vehemently and in the end he went around giving TV interviews to argue his case. So the channels stretched it. Had he kept his mouth shut, then the issue would have died.
That’s also another reason why they are so soft on the triumvirate of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, heir apparent Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They hardly speak! And if they do, then they hardly speak ill of others! Sweet fellows, why don’t we just leave them alone?
Not like those BJP leaders Narendra Modi, LK Advani and Gadkari who keep speaking and speaking and speaking ill of these poor silent types. They are the ones that have to be exposed!
Ah! It’s so easy to launch a TV channel in India. No investigation. No analysis. No strategy. No vision. No nothing. All you need is a mike and camera and have to go around recording people speak. That’s about it.
Now that a plan is in place, the only thing I need is the money to launch a news channel of my own.
If only I had been married into a political family!
More by this author:
Sonia Gandhi: Silent leadership from behind