Through the Looking Glass

If there’s anything India is known for today apart from its 1.1 billion population,over 60 per cent of which is below 35 years it’s the corruption and scandals exposed on a daily basis.

Written by Afsha Khan | Published: September 14, 2012 3:45 am

The Outsider with Tim Sebastian

Bloomberg UTV,Saturday,8 pm

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What’s it about?

If there’s anything India is known for today — apart from its 1.1 billion population,over 60 per cent of which is below 35 years — it’s the corruption and scandals exposed on a daily basis. This show with award-winning television journalist,Tim Sebastian,puts the spotlight on different issues. Each show starts with a ‘motion’ — there is no honest business in India; Kashmir is not worth fighting for; politics should no longer be a family business — with four representatives from related fields arguing in favour of and against the motion. The audience comprises young people who are made to vote for the motion at the beginning of the show and at the end,when they’ve heard the representatives argue. They are also allowed to participate in the discussion in the second half of the show,when they get to ask questions and demand answers.

Who’s in it?

Sebastian hosts and moderates the sessions,and plays ‘the Outsider’ picking holes in every representative’s argument. He’s the first host of BBC’s HARDTalk,followed by

The Doha Debates and The Outsider Debates. Joining him in every episode are prominent figures in the fields of business,law,politics and women’s issues. Captain Gopinath,founder of Air Deccan,joins Sebastian in an episode,debating whether there is a single honest business in India. Shabana Azmi sat in to argue for the safety of Indian women. In the episode focussing on whether politics should be a family business,the channel roped in representatives from several parties,including Sitaram Yechury from the Communist Party of India,Rita Bahuguna Joshi from the Indian National Congress and Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo from the Biju Janata Dal.

What’s hot?

The issues in motion are on top of everyone’s mind,and they’re being dissected by Sebastian,an outsider indeed,who has nothing to gain or lose from the results. He brings with him an unbiased view,concentrating only on calling the bluff of those on the panel. It is clear that he is not driven by any need to be in people’s good grace — something many journalists would want to do,considering the profile of the panelists present. His method of questioning is brutal,repetitive and focussed,ensuring that his speakers don’t skirt around the issue or avoid it entirely.

What’s not?

Each speaker gets two minutes to make their case for or against a particular motion before Sebastian grills them on their view,stating facts and figures from his research. He then cuts off,given that he has a time limit to adhere to and moves on to another topic. This happens throughout the show. Granted,it isn’t a talk show where people are being called in to explain themselves or gain favourable publicity,but it would be better if they were allowed more time to finish talking,complete their argument and justify their stance.

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