All talk,all the time

TV news offers solutions to all problems,from rape to the India-China border dispute

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: April 25, 2013 12:10 am

TV news offers solutions to all problems,from rape to the India-China border dispute

Major General G.D. Bakshi (Retd) was so very angry,his military moustache stiffened in combat readiness. He took aim and fired: “civilian defence analysts talk of appeasement”,when the need of the hour on the India-China border is action — “military steps”,he yelled,ready for battle. They think,he added,grinding his teeth,that “jaw,jaw,jaw” would solve all our problems (Headlines Today).

Unwittingly,Maj Gen Bakshi had identified a great truth about TV news. Everyone goes “jaw,jaw,jaw”,all the time,offering solutions to rape,to the coal scam,to 2G and the India-China border dispute. Alternatively,they try to make things happen according to their thought for the day. So,on Tuesday,after the evening talkathon,you’d have gone to bed convinced India should be at war with China. According to the TV script,“Delhi’s timidity” (Rahul Shivshankar,Headlines Today) was costing India its territorial integrity as China laid claim to the Depsang area,saying,“this is our land” (Arnab Goswami,Times Now).

You’d have also believed that by Wednesday morning,Manmohan Singh would have,should have,resigned as PM,either over the 2G or coal scandals. From Hindi news channels like NDTV India to their English counterparts like CNN-IBN,the question was: should the PM resign?

As for rape,the majority on TV clamoured for the death penalty in child rape cases. Even the wife of Manoj,accused of raping a five-year old girl in Delhi said,“Usko phaansi milni chahiye (he should be hanged),” if he was guilty (Zee News,Saturday). Later,she would retract but she reflected the mood of the country on television,if not the country as a whole. The doctor who first treated “gudiya”,after clinically detailing her condition (Zee News warned that his views might be shocking),said that the rapist should be given the death sentence. Tuesday’s discussion on Face the Nation (CNN-IBN) was somewhat more thoughtful,although no less shocking,with horrific statistics on child abuse. But the panellists reminded us that there was no comfort in the arrest of Manoj or his accomplice: most child abuse occurs within the family or is committed by friends and acquaintances.

Kiran Bedi (NDTV 24×7) argued that Delhi’s police commissioner was at fault for the increase in crimes against women and the police brutality that we saw in video clips of a policeman slapping a young woman who had been protesting against police inaction. This,along with clips of the police beating women in Ludhiana,played on all news channels during the weekend. Bedi said Neeraj Kumar needed to go out amongst his men and sensitise them.

Just a thought: why don’t our popular sports and film personalities launch a media campaign on such issues? We saw moving tweets by Amitabh Bachchan and co but they do advertisements,don’t they,so how about some public service advertising? And why don’t TV channels put out regular advisories on police helplines,on how to file complaints in such cases and spell out the law? If we must “jaw,jaw,jaw” ,why not in a worthwhile cause?

Away from all this heartburn,saw some good interviews: Neeraj Kumar was interviewed by most news channels and came across as highly insensitive and stubborn. Sushilkumar Shinde on Aap Ki Adalat (India TV) came across as weak and fumbling when Rajat Sharma cross-questioned him on measures taken to protect women post the December gangrape. He was insouciant,complimenting Sharma on his success and lovely TV studio. Then there was Hard Talk with the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde (BBC News) and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Bloomberg TV,manfully trying to defend the UPA’s governance record: we can have better governance,he admitted,but in general the Central government gives good governance.

Finally,the BBC aired its controversial Panorama episode on North Korea,where John Sweeney had sneaked into the country under false pretences. We saw a Pyongyang that looked sterile and militarised with troops everywhere. Also,the metro,which made Delhi’s metro look 5-star. Shots of the city were interspersed with interviews with North Koreans who had defected or managed to escape: a gulag survivor,a doctor,a man whose family members had starved to death. When it was over,you thought,this is no country for old men,or anybody else for that matter.

A fair portrait? We won’t know until the North Koreans let in the media.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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