Friday, September 26, 2014

The Idiot Box, the ‘Idiots’ and poor ''print medium'' cousins

The kind of stuff being telecast in Indian news channels often make one skeptic to the level that one thinks, each story can end up with a ‘warning’: Viewing our programs is often harmful to intellectual health or so!
Just a few years can do different things to life; more to the life about journalism perhaps.
Not long ago, most print journalists shared a joke that only the TELEVISION SET in the sitting room is not an IDIOT BOX – but even those working for television news channels are failed products from print medium or just the ‘idiots’ themselves. But no longer! This is perhaps a decade old phenomenon now. Fat salary packet and overnight celebrity status despite intellectual hollowness have made the TV journalism one of the most sought after jobs.

As a result while there is mushrooming of institutes offering all qualities of TV journalism course; of course in lieu of huge payment; simple acceptability by viewers shooting up TRP rates have created all kinds of hype about launching of new news channels, owners changing hands and management shifting political royalties.
There is a beeline to cater to an estimated 140 million households of which 110 million have access to cable TV. But what has lately happened with the television news channels in terms of providing coverage on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US trip is unprecedented. All kinds of characters from television industry have been flown into the United States and as a result and deservedly so, all kinds of stories are coming in.
Many of my colleagues – of course from poor cousin of television news channels — the print – wonder at the quality of coverage and worse, what is actually being dished out.
Speculation is an innocuous childlike simplicity in an era where television news channels have allowed sensationalism, what was described as ‘yellow journalism’ in old text books, to dominate. Thus, we had sex, violence, anti social behavior and mostly stupidity ruling the roost. There is no exception to these factors even during Narendra Modi’s US sojourn coverage.
But these have not happened again over night and viewers have played their role. Therefore, no wonder most noisy man in the country is the best TV anchor or at least believed to be so!!
It is not about individuals alone but a system or rather a decaying system that has come to stay with TV journalism. One need not be expert nor a cynic to observe that television current affairs program or news telecast are immensely repetitive and obviously revolving around four metro cities.
There came a time when celebrity status justified everything. A popular female news anchor got away from the possible charge of SEDITION, when she did not hesitate to share with her viewers: India is going to attack Tiger Hill tomorrow. Army rule book probably says such announcers could have been shot dead as you narrating out the war strategy. 
Then the Hindi news telecast especially brought in ‘state-of-the-art’ (sic) lingo usage. As the self aggrandizement, ‘sabse tez channel’ claim caught the imagination of middle class, phrases like ‘Pradhan mantra ko fatkaya’, ‘cricket team ko jhatka’ became order of the day.
Only the other day as Scotland referendum results came in, the discussions on BBC was so pleasant and educative. Each guests and anchors had their say, mostly ventilating diametrically opposite views but all went on so responsibly; no case of spewing the venom. 

Broadly and in the ultimate analysis, thus I presume, there pervades two or more principal charges against today’s journalists and more the television journos: they hardly tell the whole truth, often guided by studio directions they deliberately mislead viewers and possibly, they do not report news of interest to common people.

The positive message from these is, as messenger becomes more important than the message in television screens, the print medium, that is the newspapers and the websites have their role to play. The emphasis should shift to more rural and localized coverage.
The newspaper owners should also give up Lalagiri and not consider their esteemed readers as ‘news consumers’ for a while.

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