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Flat like old soda

Since the BJP came to power, news channels have lost their fizz.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published:July 10, 2014 12:29 am
BJP has won the elections, it has withdrawn from the media, its most powerful ally in the last three years, behind the veil and secrecy of government. BJP has won the elections, it has withdrawn from the media, its most powerful ally in the last three years, behind the veil and secrecy of government.

Now that the football World Cup is all but over, we will have to find something else about which to moan and groan, and bemoan. Isn’t that what you did when Brazil left a gaping hole in front of their goal and allowed the Germans to shoot into it seven times? Even German supporters must have felt tears of pity spring to their eyes.

Watching the news doesn’t make you weep. These days, it leaves you cold — yes, even in these oppressively hot and humid weather conditions. Cold and almost yearning for the good old times when the airwaves were overheated with the sound and fury of Narendra Modi, the self-righteous cough of Arvind Kejriwal and the importantly earnest Rahul Gandhi.

From the time Anna Hazare fasted on the Lokpal and Baba Ramdev dressed up in a woman’s clothes right before our disbelieving eyes to evade the police in the summer of 2011, till the general elections in the summer of 2014, TV news has been the most popular daily soap opera on the small screen.

Each day saw a new assault on the hapless and helpless UPA government — be it from Mamata Banerjee, Hazare, Kejriwal or Modi — the latter two throwing everything rotten at the Manmohan Singh government after the winter of 2012, when Kejriwal broke with Hazare to begin the Aam Aadmi Party and Modi won the Gujarat assembly elections. The gangrape of a young woman on December 16, 2012, assaulted our sensibilities and only added to the public outrage against the Central government, captured and capitalised upon by the news channels.

Television news thus became the arena for public disenchantment and political battles, where the Congress was battered and hammered (just like Brazil was on the football field, Tuesday) and each night we watched the spectacle with fascination, delight and sometimes even growing horror. Alongside the BJP, TV anchors led by Arnab Goswami harangued everyone in sight and even out of it — and didn’t we just lap it all up?

But now that the Congress and UPA have been laid so low and a new government has taken charge, TV news seems as flat as a three-day old open soda pop. No matter how hard Arnab G tries to give vent to his anger on TMC MP Tapas Paul for his appalling comments on rape, the fizz is just not there. Rajdeep Sardesai, who was also exercised by all manner of outrageous behaviour, is missing from the box and, while Karan Thapar (Headlines Today) tries to come to the point with razor-sharp questions, his efforts appear blunted.

Or maybe the fault lies in the viewer — that is, if you agree with the comments thus far.  Maybe this is the lull after the storm. Or we are suffering from viewing fatigue. Suddenly, the endless TV debates on news channels, particularly English news channels, seem so pointless. A defeated Congress is in retreat, Kejriwal has retreated from the media — when did you last see an interview with him — and Modi has become prime minister. He no longer has time for the media in the way that he did when he was a candidate for the post.

In fact, since the BJP has won the elections, it has withdrawn from the media, its most powerful ally in the last three years, behind the veil and secrecy of government. So there is little to get excited about, at least on the air — especially when the likes of Smriti Irani, Kejriwal, etc, are missing.

We’re waiting for the good times. And that is bad news TV, which delights in controversies.  News channels tried to train their guns and rail against the rail budget on Tuesday, but all they found were bullet trains and no sops.  Rather than watch the English debating society on English news channels, you might like to watch Hindi news channels instead. They appear to have more news. Channels like India TV, for example, on Monday night gave details of measures that could (and some did) find place in the rail budget.

Doordarshan, meanwhile, has become Modi’s favourite media outlet as it tracks every move he makes at home or abroad. Three years ago they were strange and estranged bedfellows. Hmmm.

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