News TV switches off the world. And reduces election coverage to tracking of celebrity candidates.
On Tuesday, the Russian president declared Crimea to be a part of Russia. He thanked India for being “restrained and objective”. The US and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia. Crimea has been, undoubtedly, the biggest and most important news story in the world over the last week, barring the continuing search for the missing MH370 — although if you were to watch CNN International and BBC World, you might believe the trial of Oscar Pistorius in South Africa for the alleged murder of his girlfriend is right up there with the calm takeover of a territory belonging to another country and the mysterious disappearance of an aeroplane full of passengers.
But if you watch Indian Hindi and English news channels, you would think that the electoral fortunes of former army chief V.K. Singh and actress Kirron Kher should be our primary concern. Or whether that man Arvind Kejriwal dares test the waters of the Ganges in Varanasi. Or the meaning of Narendra Modi’s candidature from there. Or who’s got a ticket to ride and who hasn’t (Suresh Kalmadi, that’s who) in the Lok Sabha elections.
All of these received undue speculation on news TV. Watched in vain on Tuesday (prime-time
8 pm, 9 pm) for a cogent, thoughtful discussion on the implications of Russia’s aggressive behaviour and an analysis of India and China’s positions on the crisis. The all-consuming passion for the forthcoming general election dominates the news and may well bring in higher viewership, but should that be the sole yardstick for deciding on news selection?
While Crimea was largely ignored, the Henderson-Brooks report on the 1962 India-China conflict found airtime even if it was the customary war of words. Speaking of war, why is it that the World Twenty20 Championships in Bangladesh are being promoted like a clash of religions? The promo currently on air has a game between India and Pakistan in progress, in which men with beards and skullcaps are seen supporting Pakistan (they may or may not be Pakistanis) while Kapil Dev and clean shaven, bare-headed gentleman root for India. Given the recent incident at a Meerut university with Kashmiri students, this typecasting is an infelicitous choice for a promo, wouldn’t you say?
Varanasi was very much on view Tuesday, as Barkha Dutt sat decorously on a boat on the edge of the holy river and conducted a show devoted to Modi and the city (The Buck Stops Here, NDTV 24×7). It was great to be out of the studio and listen to public opinion, not just politicians and pundits.
NDTV’s opinion poll on verdict 2014 last week was also highly watchable, primarily because we could hear what everyone said/ argued. The participants used microphones and not loudspeakers to broadcast their views, and the analysis of the voting projections were discussed in a low key, thoughtful way.
Meanwhile, NDTV Profit has now become a two-in-one channel with the launch of NDTV Prime post 5 pm on the same channel. This is a mix of entertainment and infotainment with different bands for tech, automobiles, comedy, films, careers and even a reality show, Ticket to Bollywood. At first glance it looks youthful, zestful and pricey (what with Mercedes Benz tootling around).
The only question mark? How will it be different, distinguishable from NDTV Good Times?
On to a completely different subject. We’ve seen
Indian characters in British and American serials before but last week, two serials had their casts dress up in Indian costumes. First, Trophy Wife (Star World Premiere HD) featured all the women in lehenga-choli for some reason that was not precisely clear — perhaps you had to be following the sitcom to know why. Must say, the ladies looked very comfortable swishing about. Then on Neighbors (Star World Premiere HD), the men were dressed up in churidar-kurta-achkan and the ladies in lehengas. They didn’t look entirely at ease but that may have been because they were also required to perform something akin to bhangra and sing “Balle Balle”. From all appearances, they were dressed to attend an Indian wedding, except that when they showed up at the ceremony in all their Indian finery, they discovered that it was an American-Indian wedding.