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TV News Channel debates: Full of sound and fury tales

Representational Image
Representational Image

Doordarshan taught us that ‘News’ is a quick thing that could be completed in 15-20 minutes. People of my age would endorse this statement. They will nostalgically recall ‘Samachar (The News), which used to air at 8.40 PM every day on Doordarshan before the advent of Cable TV. Doordarshan’s professional new readers; who followed an unwritten code of conduct that spelt discipline and decorum, presented the news in such a way that young and old, literate and illiterate glued to the TV sets without fail at the appointed time.

Elders of the family used to finish all their work before 8.40 PM and sit rapt attention in front of the TV set to watch the Samachaar. However, kids including me and my siblings were more interested in TV programmes like Malgudi Days, Ek Kahani, and Nukkad, scheduled just after the Samachaar. So, we had been cooling our heels during ‘Samachar’ to watch our upcoming favourite programmes. Mostly, for kids ‘Samachar’ became a wonderful game they played among themselves, guessing who would be reading the news that day, what colour of dress would the news reader be wearing and so forth. Surprisingly, we never knew how we then won the ‘General Knowledge Inter-School Quiz Competitions’ without any preparations. Perhaps the reason was ‘Doordarshan Samachaar’. Unknowingly, those legendry news readers with their unique voice, diction and delivery fed noteworthy information about the then current affairs to our subconscious that kept us well informed.

Sadly, now we have torrent of TV News Channels airing 24X7, still we find people not well informed but confused. Now I realize that really, News has become a lousy entertainment. One can easily find actors, stooges, ensemble, drummers or comedy, action, drama and games (video) in most of our News Channel programmes and so called ‘debates’.

But why is this so? It would be no exaggeration to say that TV News Channels are bound to stretch 20 minutes news bulletins to 24 hours continuous telecast because of the revenue obligations. It is clear that no News Channel can survive out of only one hour of News Programme. They have to stretch the programme. During this stretching exercise, news telecast acquires the shape and form of cheap entertainment.

Recently, we all witnessed how most of our TV News Channels were reporting the killing of our brave soldiers martyred in Galwan area or late actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic suicide episode. The entire country was in shock post gruesome Galwan tragedy. Across party lines political class / adversaries exercised restraint. But the same cannot be said for our studio warriors on News Channels, where continuously, an unseemly, immature, and fomenting squabble was on display. We know, there are exceptions, but one swallow does not make a summer.

News Channels have an important role to play especially during a crisis, vis-à-vis; to keep people informed, by reeling out accurate and precise information and making sure that rumours are contained. But then most of our News Channels were busy whipping up and stirring public emotions, passions, and fury. I saw a couple of electronic-media journalists reporting from the homes of the bereaved families who had lost their loved ones during recent tensions on India-China border. There, a martyr’s wife was just crying out of the grief and was not in a position to face camera. But Mr. Journalist kept on shoving his mike right into her face continuously for a few minutes. Can we call this – News?

They were also suggesting through their hashtag programmes ‘Hum badla kaise lain, kya kar sakta hai desh agar badla lena hai?’ While sitting in the studio, should we really discuss the avenge options. In this surreal atmosphere we also witnessed news anchors in military-regalia spouting the options. The best way is to let the government and the military do their job.

Eventually, the fiery outbursts of our studio warriors and their reckless behaviour have become a matter of concern among the viewers now. We as citizens, expect TV News Channels to behave more soberly and sincerely. Extreme caution is called- for to ensure that India’s vital national interests are not damaged by unmindful anchors/ News Channels. Self realization and reformatory steps are in their interest only and would help these News Channels to sustain in long term. They don’t realize that they are losing their viewers. Independent media is picking up and audience is slowly shifting towards this alternative.

Actor Randeep Hooda has posted a very apt message on twitter some time back, “If you are Muslim and suddenly start feeling unsafe in a country where you lived for more than thousand years, If you are Dalit and start feeling insulted on every moment of life, If you are Hindu and suddenly start feeling that cows are being slaughtered everywhere, If you are a Jain and suddenly start feeling that your religious piety is being compromised, If you are Punjabi and think all the youth are on drugs; Just do one thing – Don’t watch TV newscasts and stay away tele-debates. Just look around at your friends who belong to different castes, communities, and religions. You will find that you are living in one of the best countries in the world.”

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Riyaz Khan

Written by Riyaz Khan

The author is Director at an engineering and IT services company in Hyderabad and a columnist.

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