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Telescope: Prime time gaalis and golis

People’s real problems seldom make it to the evening gladiatorial contests.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Published: August 18, 2017 12:00 am
independence day, narendra modi, ram nath kovind, modi speech, modi independence day speech, new india, arnab goswami, Rajya Sabha TV, karan thappar, Sambit Patra, UP government, CNN news, indian express news, india news, opinion Modi exhorted us to unite India, abjure violence in the name of faith and reminded us that neither rhetoric nor politics, “na gaali”, “na goli” will solve problems in Kashmir, only a warm embrace

A “My dear brothers and sisters”, “beloved countrymen”, “Team India” — President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have promised us a “New India” in the next five years. In his first televised Independence Day address as the president, Kovind asked for a “compassionate” country forging ahead with “nation building”, Modi exhorted us to unite India, abjure violence in the name of faith and reminded us that neither rhetoric nor politics, “na gaali”, “na goli” will solve problems in Kashmir, only a warm embrace. Jai Hind, Vande Mataram.

It’s a pity that some of our brothers and sisters in the media are (wilfully?) hard of hearing. Perhaps because President Kovind spoke in a soft, statesmanlike manner — entirely alien to TV news culture — and PM Modi expressed all the correct sentiments — hey, what’s that?

Modi’s first Independence Day speech in 2014 remains his best TV moment — it was a rousing call to fight social evils. In the last two years, the soaring rhetoric has been weighed down by too many crores in his government’s achievements.

Some TV news channel editors and anchors seem weighed down by their super prime time ultra-nationalism. More “patriotic” than all their competitors — and 1.25 crore compatriots — they show little of the compassion President Kovind spoke or even common civility; they are supersonic loud, impolite, violent with their verbal “golis” — everything the PM advised against.

Last week, Arnab Goswami weighed in against, an “opportunistic” “man called Hamid Ansari” (Republic). That “man” had been the Vice President of India for 10 years. In a Rajya Sabha TV interview with Karan Thapar just before he stepped down as VP — he spoke of “a feeling of unease”, amongst Muslims. “Horrible!”, “Hypocritical”, denounced Goswami, “How can you talk like that?” He attacked Ansari, mocked him, saying he should have “quit” as VP if he felt Muslims were “insecure”, instead of enjoying the “perks” of office. More in the same insulting manner followed during the one-hour show.

Disagree with Mr Ansari until the cows come home (it’s still okay to say that, right?); denigrating him, is to insult not only him but the office he represented, that of the vice president. In Goswami’s words, it was “horrible” and made us not just uneasy, but queasy too.

On to Times Now. Singling out these two channels because they claim be the No.1 news channels. The Newshour topic? Singing Vande Mataram and celebrating, Independence Day in madrasas as directed by the Uttar Pradesh authorities.

Now, you’d think the issue to address was why only madrasas were so directed but no, it was “What’s communal about patriotism?”

Half-way into the scream and shout match, Ghanshyam Tiwari, Samajwadi Party, referred to the death of 30 children at Gorakhpur’s BRD hospital. Anchor-editor Navika Kumar immediately attacked the previous SP government for neglect and told him not to “lecture” them. Senior BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra jumped in where anyone must fear to tread, saying, yes, it was a “sad”, “bad” day, the deaths a “sensitive” matter but Vande Mataram was “equally sensitive” (really?). As Tiwari objected, “It is not, it is not… shame on you…”, Kumar agreed it was a “sad” day, Times Now was following the story, “but let us not beat our chests” as if this did not happen in Akhilesh Yadav’s time — “you are bringing this up because you are running away from the real issue”.

Really? Now what could be more “real” than human life and death?

For Kumar, and more so for the leading spokesman of the ruling BJP at the Centre and in UP, to be so dismissive of the human tragedy, one that involved young children, although not the topic of the debate (since when have they stuck to topics in these debates?), is in”sensitive”, un”real” and surely reflects misplaced priorities?

Many of us have said for a very long time that there is something very wrong with TV news. We rest our case.

Republic and Times Now did go after the UP government on the weekend — along with all news channels. As Aaj Tak asked, “Are only cows safe (in this country)?” and CNN News suggested “we are on a ventilator”. However, fundamental, “real” problems facing people in the country — the outbreak of swine flu, floods, crop distress, poor power supply, transport, infrastructure — subjects the PM addressed at the Red Fort — seldom, if ever, make it to these prime time punch and counter punch shows.

When will TV news get real or is that an unrealistic demand?

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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  1. P
    Parth Garg
    Aug 18, 2017 at 5:27 pm
    It is not only the channels but our leaders too are equally to be blamed for tall talk without substance.
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      rkannan
      Aug 18, 2017 at 11:04 am
      I do not watch Arnab Goswami think his show is pathetic anti national. However, I disagree with Ansari and also question his credentials. He was a non en y picked for the office of the VP only because of his religon. He had no achievements making him worthy to be called a distinguished Indian. The real issue in India has been such symbolism - appointing undistinguished persons to positions of national significance only because of their birth credentials. The Congress Leftists wanted to deny Kalam, easily India's most loved President an eminently distinguished person before he became a President, a second term in office. To compensate for this act against a Muslim, they chose Ansari as VP. Ansari ticked all the boxes that the Congress Leftists care for - born into a political family, resident of Lutyen's Delhi, a career without a single remarkable achievement, a "millionaire socialist" etc. The main grouse against Modi comes from exactly this class.
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        Khan Chacha
        Aug 18, 2017 at 12:25 pm
        He is not distinguished Now because he remotely suggested the insecurity of minorities, especially Muslims as if speaking of concern for minority is a disqualification of Credentials ! How Big one's brain has to be to come to such a conclusion.
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        CCG
        Aug 18, 2017 at 9:59 am
        Main stream media only interested it trivial sensational info to show as breaking breaking news !!!!! They only show BBC news (Bollywood ,business cricket) and apart from politics. Real issues because trivial , trivial become real.. God can save our country. On avg 32 farmer per day (12000 suicide/year in the govt of India's notes to supreme court). Media will NOT report systematic loot of big Agricultural chemical companies Pharma companies. Type of food grain we grow eat (i.e. rice, Wheat, corn etc.) is controlled few big Agricultural chemical companies in the shadow of food security. Farmers commit Suicide due to frequent droughts they cannot realize basic input cost as they forced to grow cash crops water intensive crops which required costly fertilizer, pest/insecticide seeds of Agro-chemical multinationals. On other hand, Modern medicine Doctors are Powerless Pawns of Pharma companies just fool patient in the name of cure. No doctor talk on Prevention.
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          CCG
          Aug 18, 2017 at 9:56 am
          Main stream media only interested it trivial sensational info to show as breaking breaking news !!!!! They only show BBC news (Bollywood,business cricket) and apart from politics. Real issues because trivial , trivial become real.. God can save our country. On avg 32 farmer per day (12000 suicide/year in the govt of India's notes to supreme court). Media will NOT report systematic loot of big Agricultural chemical companies Pharma companies.Type of food grain we grow eat (i.e. rice, Wheat, corn etc.) is controlled few big Agricultural chemical companies in the shadow of food security. Farmers commit Suicide due to frequent droughts they cannot realize basic input cost as they forced to grow cash crops water intensive crops which required costly fertilizer, pest/insecticide seeds of Agro-chemical multinationals.On other hand, Modern medicine Doctors are Powerless Pawns of Pharma companies just fool patient in the name of cure.No doctor talk on Prevention.
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            indian
            Aug 18, 2017 at 9:11 am
            In our country of 125 crore people, how many watch english channels ? Out of that small segment, a fraction watches Arnab, Navika and their daily antics -so why bother ? The days of getting news through TV channels are over - internet is a more convenient channel. So, Arnab and Navika can live in their s .
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            1. V
              VIVEK
              Aug 18, 2017 at 10:25 pm
              TV news channels are doing a fine job of killing themselves.
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