Crack up at Dawn

News channels have a strange morning vocabulary

Written by Pratik Kanjilal | Published:April 6, 2013 1:23 am

Rahul Gandhi’s Thursday morning address at the CII would have been the natural prey of this week’s column but after the talking heads and the Twitterati declared open season,it felt like a cheap shot. Besides,more PJs at Rahul Gandhi’s expense could have violated the Geneva Conventions.

The CII address was pre-lunch prime time,but what does TV do on other mornings,when no one is watching? Well,not exactly no one – hordes of punters tune into the morning business shows,hoping for that one tip which will hit the jackpot and break Pascal’s laws of gambling. Curiously,the market programmes just before the opening bell in the stock markets reiterate the two-nation theory.

Hindi programmes are refreshingly direct — tips,tips,tips straight from the hips. Zee Business doesn’t pause for breath in a screen crammed with scrip movements. It goes right down to the wire,predicting trends by the hour. In the first hour of trading,that’s a risky business. Even when they go into the gory details,Hindi business channels usually do it accessibly. Nilesh Mishra of Axis Direct goes to first principles on CNBC Awaaz,for instance,but remains entirely lucid and comprehensible.

In contrast,the English business news before the first bell is couched in an obscure pidgin that only business journalists seem to speak. And since businessmen seem to be a bit hesitant about the questions they face,one suspects that they are not native speakers of this language. They did not invent this patter about upsides and hardenings and sentiment and bottomlines. Journalists did.

Here are some samples from CNBC-TV18 this week: “What is risk,from a serious downside point of view?” “Is there hope for equities as an asset class?” And an inspired gem from the usually sober Udayan Mukherjee on CNBC’s Opening Buzz: “Can we take that as a solid bottom,or can it be violated this week?” You know what he means,as does his straight-faced guest,but plain human language would have been so much simpler and cleaner.

This deliberately obscurantist programming is for a select viewership. Everyone else watches endless reruns from the previous night’s news. And they watch channels like India TV which,every morning,prepare you for life in other ways. At 9:45 am on Wednesday,for instance,CNBC was wondering if the market was moving towards recovery on a U-shaped or V-shaped curve. A fine distinction,in a slow,shambolic,pear-shaped economy! At the exact same moment,India TV was helping its readers to secure prosperity in their own way — by suggesting that they nail a Ganesha image to the front door,along with a branch of a mango tree or a babool. Channel the vastu right and the flood of cash will blow down the front door.

It’s Friday,24 hours later. The bell is about to go again,the Hindi tips programmes are still trying to be helpful,the English ones — including Bloomberg UTV this time – are talking that weird technicalese again. And India TV has moved on from generic vastu measures to zodiacal strategising. A bejewelled babaji urges Librans to go out to the street,collect earth from a T-junction,bring it back home and flush it down the toilet. Cancer people must not use deodorant. Sagittarians must bury six lotuses in the earth. Taurus must not travel in a north-easterly direction,not even if it leads to a stockbroker.

The mornings are full of amazing programming,not just Rahul Gandhi’s thoughts on economy and entomology. But his show got the eyeballs and the tsunami of commentary isn’t over yet. This development just isn’t inclusive.

pratik.kanjilal@expressindia.com

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